Knowing This Will Make It Taste Better! The Allure of Japanese Tea
One of the things that are essential in the lives of the Japanese people is “nihoncha” (Japanese tea). With its refreshing taste and great health benefits, this tea has been drawing a lot of attention all over the world today, too. Please learn the true charms of Japanese tea!
There are this many types?! The different kinds of Japanese tea
When people talk about Japanese tea that is produced in Japan, more often than not, they refer to “ryokucha” (green tea). Green tea is the general term for “fuhakkocha” (unfermented tea), wherein the fermentation process right after the tea leaves are plucked, and there are many different types of green tea available. The wide array of teas in Japan has names and tastes that vary depending on such factors as the cultivation process and harvest time.
Sencha is the representative Japanese tea as it is the one that is most consumed in the country. It is made by steaming the sprouts of tea leaves and then drying them while rolling them, creating a distinct refreshing aroma and just-right level of bitterness.
This tea is made through a longer steaming time than the usual sencha. It is characterized by its robust taste.
With gyokuro, the tea leaves are covered to shield them from the sun, thereby drawing out their richness and sweetness. The process thereafter is similar to sencha, wherein the sprouts are steamed and then dried while being rolled. This tea has a low level of astringency and a rich, delicious taste.
Matcha is the tea that is commonly used in tea ceremonies. It is made by grinding “tencha” (tea that is made by steaming the sprouts and then drying them, without rolling them) into powder using a stone mill.
Genmaicha is the kind of tea that blends roasted rice with sencha and other teas. It has a sweet fragrance.
Hojicha is a tea that is made by roasting sencha and other tea leaves over high fire until they turn brown in color. It is characterized by its sweet aroma and light, mild taste.
The taste of tea also varies depending on where it is produced
In Japan, tea leaves are grown in different areas. Of all the areas and regions inside Japan, though, it is Shizuoka that is known as the premier tea producing region in the country as its output accounts for about 40% of all the tea leaves grown and harvested in Japan. Aside from Shizuoka, the provinces of Kagoshima and Kyoto are also famous for their teas. While they have their own distinct characteristics based on the time and region of tea picking, the following are still the main characteristics of teas produced in these regions.
Shizuoka: This area mainly produces sencha and fukamushi-sencha, with its teas characterized by their robust flavor and aroma
Kagoshima: This area mainly grows fukamushi-sencha, with the teas produced here known for their rich taste and faint smell
Kyoto: This area produces high-class teas, centering on sencha. Its teas are characterized by their golden color that seems to sparkle and their refreshing and refined taste.
Components of green tea that are good for the health
It is said that green tea contains a lot of ingredients that benefit health. The most famous healthy component of green tea is catechin, a type of polyphenol. Responsible for the astringent taste in green tea, this ingredient is known for its great health benefits such as controlling the rise in cholesterol level and slowing down the absorption of fats. It is also known to give antioxidant and antibacterial effects. Aside from catechin, green tea is also filled with caffeine, amino acids (theanine) and vitamins.
“Sado” (tea ceremony) is considered to be the traditional culture that best represents Japan. Done based on the spirit of Zen Buddhism, this ceremony is a traditional “omotenashi” (hospitality) ceremony wherein the host invites guests and makes matcha for them. At the same time, this ceremony also helps in culturing the mind and mastering the etiquette, as the making of the tea needs to follow various rituals.
There are places that hold interactive tea ceremony programs for visiting tourists, and you can taste matcha in temples and shrines in the Kyoto region, so try it at least once.
How to make good tea
The trick in making good Japanese tea is knowledge about the water and temperature that best fit the tea leaves used. First of all, it would be best to use slightly acidic soft water for the tea. As for the temperature, it is recommended to use hot water with temperature of 70-80 degrees for sencha, about 50 degrees for gyokuro, and 100 degrees for genmaicha and hojicha. If there is hot water left from the first brew, the second brew will become bitter, so it is important to finish a brew up to the last drop.
Heaving a sigh of relief and drawing a breath while drinking Japanese tea is such a moment of bliss. So, if you happen to visit Japan, please enjoy relaxing over tea.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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