The Nomenclature of Japanese Teas
In Japan, the concept of terroir is much less prominent than in China. The names given to teas relate more to the production and transformation methods of leaves. Discover the eight main types of Japanese tea: Sencha, Bancha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, Tamaryokucha, Gyokuro, Kabusecha and Matcha.
By definition, Sencha means "infused tea". It is the most common of Japanese teas as it accounts for about 80% of the country's total production. The quality of the Sencha teas varies as some are intended for everyday consumption, while others are much more high- end, rare, complex and subtle.
Bancha is usually made from leaves and stems from late summer or autumn harvests. However, the best quality of Bancha is produced from June harvests.
The Hojicha is a Bancha whose leaves have been roasted for a few minutes at a temperature of about 200 ºC. While this method may remove many of their properties, it does gives them a honey taste with hazelnut notes.
Made with a green tea base mixed with grilled brown rice grains and puffed rice, Genmaicha are ideal for an everyday tea. There is however, a higher quality of Genmaicha, depending on the tea base used. You can also find a third variety to which Matcha has been added.
There are two types of Tamaryokucha. The first, the Mushi Sei Tamaryokucha (or Guricha) undergoes a steam desiccation. Produced in the country as a whole, but mainly in Shizuoka, this tea tries to duplicate the appearance and taste of various Chinese green leaf teas. The other type of Tamaryokucha is called Kamairi Sei Tamaryokucha (or Kamairicha). Its desiccation is made in vats and its production is concentrated on the Kyushu Island. Although most of the production is now automated, there are still a few factories that produce hand-made batches.
By definition, Gyokuro means "precious dew" and is known to be the highest grade of tea in Japan. Its production is limited to a single harvest per year, towards the end of May or the beginning of June. The aim of the Gyokuro culture is to develop the rich flavour of this tea, which is one of the tastiest in the world.
In order to obtain a Kabusecha, a covered crop is also required albeit of a shorter duration. While some growers hang synthetic blankets over the tea plants, others place it directly on the plants for about 12 days.
Introduced by Buddhist monks at the end of the first millennium, Matcha is the first type of tea to have been drunk in Japan. Originally, the dried leaves were cut into small pieces and crushed using a stone mill. Today, the plants are often covered to produce the best Matcha.
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