Complete Guide of the 28 Best Japanese Teas
Want to become more knowledgeable about Japanese Teas? You’re at the right place! In this article, we are going to cover some of the more common types of teas in Japan, how they’re made and what they taste like. These are teas we’ve discovered during our travels around japan, as we meet with tea farmers and search for the best green teas for nioteas.com. Let’s jump into our ranking of the 28 Best Types of Japanese Teas.
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Japanese Tea Complete Guide Video
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What are the different types of Japanese tea?
We ranked the 28 different Japanese teas right bellow 👇
Japanese Tea #1 - Matcha tea
Matcha tea is perhaps one of the best known Japanese teas around the world, and it is mostly thanks to its use in the tea ceremony. This powdered tea is made from tea plants that have been shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest to boost their sweet and savory flavors.
Then the top leaves are selected, they have their stems removed and they are ground into a fine powder. Unlike leaf teas which are prepared in a teapot, matcha tea requires a few special japanese tea utensils to prepare such as the chasen matcha whisk, the chawan matcha bowl, the chashaku matcha spoon and many others. The preparation of matcha tea in this way is one of the most celebrated Japanese traditions.
If you want to initiate yourself to the art of Matcha, we advice you to checkout our Matcha Tea Samplers! With these boxes, you'll be able to test the finest Matcha selected from reputable Japanese farmers.
Japanese Tea #2 - Sencha
While matcha tea may be one of the best known types of japanese teas around the world, sencha is the most popular, making up to 70% of all the tea consumed in Japan. Sencha is of course a broad category, and you can find many different flavor profiles within it. Sencha basically refers to a tea that has been steamed after harvest and then later rolled and dried to lock in the flavor until it is ready to be prepared in water.
Japanese Tea #3 - Gyokuro
Gyokuro is considered by many tea connoisseurs to be the best Japanese tea, because it so perfectly captures the flavor profile that Japanese teas are known for. This combination of sweet and savory flavors are perfected during the long shading process and the levels of chlorophyll, theanine and caffeine are raised.
Gyokuro is typically prepared with a smaller amount of cooler water, more leaves and a longer brewing time to concentrate the flavor even further. Gyokuro is the most expensive leaf tea in Japan, because of its labor intensive production process. You may encounter this tea at a high end tea room or tea house japan.
Japanese Tea #4 - Hojicha
Hojicha refers to a roasted green tea usually made from the older leaves and stems of the tea plant. Hojicha was once used as a way to get the most out of the tea harvest, and use the parts of the tea plant that would otherwise be thrown away. Now Hojicha is loved all over the world for its unique flavor, combining warmer notes of coffee, caramel and chocolate. Although it looks like a black tea, hojicha is actually a green tea because the leaves are heated after harvest and it is not allowed to oxidize fully.
Japanese Tea #5 - GenmaichaGenmaicha is another one of those japanese teas that has increased in popularity in recent years. Genmaicha is made by combining green tea leaves with roasted rice, which give the tea warm and sweet notes of cereal and roasted nuts that can be quite soothing. Genmaicha is very low in caffeine so it makes for a great tea to enjoy in the evening time.
Genmaicha started as a way to conserve tea leaves during times of economic hardship. To make the tea last longer, people would add grains of roasted rice to stretch the supply. Soon, people began to take notice of the excellent flavor combination and this japanese tea became a huge hit! Now it is the most common type of blended tea in Japan, and you will definitely see it being served in restaurants and tea houses around the country.
Japanese Tea #6 - Hoji Genmaicha
Hoji genmaicha is a combination of genmaicha and hojicha. Because its made with the combination of hojicha leaves which have lower levels of caffeine, and roasted rice which has no caffeine, this tea is suitable to drink even late into the night.
Japanese Tea #7 - Kamairicha
Kamairicha is a tea that is somewhere in between a hojicha and a sencha. It is a partially roasted tea, turned in a hot pan in a similar fashion to a Chinese green tea. This gives kamairicha a slightly warmer flavor profile, with notes of almonds and cashews, but it still maintains some of its steamed vegetable flavors.
Japanese Tea #8 - KukichaKukicha is made from the stems and leaves of the tea plant. While the stems are usually carefully removed in teas like sencha and gyokuro, they are celebrated in kukicha. The stems give the kukicha a milder flavor, with notes of hay or summer grass and a hint of minerals. The addition of the stems also lowers the caffeine content of kukicha.
In a similar fashion to Genmaicha, this tea was developed as a way to get the most out of the tea that farmers had available. Because the tea farmers primary income source was the tea leaves that they sold, they often weren’t able to afford to spare any for their own enjoyment. A few farmers discovered that they could actually make a delicious tea out of the stems of the tea plant, and soon this secret became known by everyone. Now kukicha or twig tea is a well-loved Japanese green tea in its own right, and farmers all around Japan are producing it for their loving customers.
Japanese Tea #9 - KariganeKarigane is very similar to kukicha, but it refers to a stem tea made from shaded tea plants, like those used to make gyokuro, matcha tea and kabusecha. Because the tea includes some shaded leaves, karigane is sweeter and slightly higher in caffeine than its unshaded counterpart.
We have found that karigane works very well as a cold brewed tea. While Gyokuro may be a bit powerful for people that are new to tea, karigane has a much more mild taste profile, while still containing a lot of the sweetness. When it is prepared as a cold brew, the tea takes on this beautiful combination of cool cucumber and sweet cantaloupe melon taste profiles that are particularly good in the summer time.
Japanese Tea #10 - Kuki Hojicha
Kuki hojicha is another type of stem tea but it is made from roasted tea stems. The stems and leaves of the tea plant actually roast differently, so this tea takes on a different flavor profile compared to a normal hojicha. The kuki hojicha made by Mr. Issin inherits these much darker taste profiles of black coffee and dark chocolate. It’s actually one of our lowest caffeine teas, making it a great coffee substitute for those trying to cut back on the caffeine.
Japanese Tea #11 - BanchaBancha refers to a tea made from the more mature leaves of the tea plant. These leaves are excluded from more premium japanese green teas, but they are used in less expensive teas like bancha. These leaves produce more earthy and wooden flavor profiles, more minerals and less caffeine.
Bancha is commonly consumed after meals for a few different reasons. First, the tea is low in caffeine so it can be great later on in the day or even in the evening. The tea is also believed to help with digestion, making a great choice for an after dinner treat!
Japanese Tea #12 - Shincha or IchibanchaShincha refers to the first tea harvested in the early spring time. It can also be referred to as ichibancha and it is well sought after for its incredible taste. The tea plant stores up nutrients from the soil throughout the winter and releases it into the first flush of tea buds in the early spring, making the teas made from this part of the plant even more delicious.
Before the widespread use of refrigeration, many customers would wait around all year for the shincha harvest, as they new this would be the freshest tasting tea. Now modern preservation methods are so good, there is not quite as much of a difference between last years harvest and this years harvest, so this shincha hype is beginning to die down slightly.
Japanese Tea #13 - Nibancha
Nibancha refers to the second harvest of the tea plant. After the first round of sprouts are picked, the tea plant will soon grow more. While these still can be used to produce good tasting teas, the level of nutrients and flavor will be lower as the plant does not have much time to replenish them.
Japanese Tea #14 - Sanbancha
Sanbancha is made from the third harvest and is only used to make lower quality teas like those found in teabags and bottled teas. Here the nutrients in the tea plant have been even further diminished and the flavor is more flat, with less of the complexity you see in premium teas.
Japanese Tea #15 - Akibancha
Some farms actually have a “fall harvest” or akibancha. This usually takes place in october on Japanese tea farms and because it is the fourth harvest, it can also be called Yonbancha. This harvest is less common because the yield is very low quality.
Japanese Tea #16 - Kyobancha
Kyobancha is one of the Japanese traditions that is unfortunately becoming more and more rare in modern times. This is a specialty of the area around kyoto, where bancha leaves are roasted in a large pan. The leaves are roasted quite thoroughly and they almost appear to be burnt. The flavor of this tea can even drift into the smoky direction because of the heavy roasting.
Japanese Tea #17 - Kabuse SenchaKabuse sencha is somewhere in between a normal sencha and a gyokuro. To be considered a Gyokuro, it has to be shaded for 21 days or more and to be considered a kabuse sencha it needs to be shaded for 10 days or more. This means that anything shaded between 10-21 days would likely be called a kabuse sencha or kabusecha.
Kabuse sencha gets it’s name from the netting used to cut the tea plant off from sunlight called “kabuse”. They used to use a straw mat to cover the tea plant, but now a more modern nylon netting is used to cover the plants.
Japanese Tea #18 - Konacha
Konacha is a very low quality green tea made from lower quality leaves ground into smaller pieces. This tea is commonly served in restaurants because the bitter flavor can be a decent palate cleanser.
Japanese Tea #19 - Tencha
Tencha is rarely consumed in its leaf form. It refers to the leaves that are ground up to make matcha tea. This means they need to be shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest and they need to have their stems removed to be considered tencha.
Japanese Tea #20 - Asamushi Sencha
Japanese Tea #21 - Fukamushi SenchaFukamushi sencha is on the other end of the steaming spectrum. Here the leaves are steamed for 80-200 seconds, which breaks down the leaf and allows more of it to flow into the cup. This creates a darker green color and a more intense steamed vegetable flavor profile. Fukamushi sencha can also work great as a cold brewed japanese tea, and the cooler water really brings out some of the fruitier taste profiles.
Japanese Tea #22 - Chumushi Sencha
Chumushi sencha lies in between Asamushi and Fukamushi and it is steamed for the standard 40-80 seconds. This makes the taste of this middle steamed tea somewhere in between these milder tasting notes and this intense steamed vegetable flavor you might find in a fukamushi sencha.
Japanese Tea #23 - Aracha
Aracha refers to a raw tea that has been through some of the steps of the tea production process but not all. This is not meant for consumers, but rather tea businesses that seek to finish the tea in their own facility. This is where tea producers have the opportunity to use some of their unique methods and machines to capture a specific taste profile. The reason this Aracha is valuable is because the enzymes in the leaves have been deactivated, so it will retain its green color and flavor while it is waiting for the final production. These leaves can be stored inside a production facility for a longer time while they are waiting to be processed, while fresh tea leaves will oxidize within a few hours.
Japanese Tea #24 - Yamecha
Yamecha simply refers to a tea that is produced in Yame, a small area in Fukuoka that has built up quite a reputation, particularly for shaded teas like Gyokuro and Kabuse sencha. Yame is a small area in terms of total production, but is considered one of the notable tea producing regions because of its exceptional quality.
Japanese Tea #25 - Ujicha
Similar to Yame, Uji also prides itself in its production of japanese green tea. Uji is where green tea production in Japan really began to take off and still today it is known for producing top notch teas. Ujicha just refers to tea that has been produced in the area of Uji, nearby kyoto.
Japanese Tea #26 - Tamaryokucha
Tamaryokucha is very similar to sencha but the leaves are rolled into a curled shape. This is a tea we learned a lot about when we visited Mr. Fujisako in Kumamoto and got to try out his Tamaryokucha bessaku for the first time.
A tamaryokucha shiraore like the one pictured above can also include additional stems. You can see there is a combination of curled tea leaves and straight yellow stems. These additional stems bring down the caffeine content of the tea and add additional minerals as well.
Japanese Tea #27 - Mecha
Mecha refers to a tea made from the buds of the tea plant, harvested in early spring. In terms of grading, it is somewhere in between gyokuro and sencha.
Japanese Tea #28 - Sakuracha
Sakuracha is a specialty during cherry blossom season. It is made by mixing cherry blossom “sakura” petals and tea leaves. These petals are mostly for looks as they do not contribute that much flavor to the tea.
Where can I try Japanese teas?
If you would like to learn more about the different types of japanese green teas, we put together a few different tea samplers that allow you to try all the different types of teas and see which ones you like best. These samplers span across different tea types, different growing regions, different farmers and different cultivars. With some of the samplers, you also get different types of japanese tea utensils like the kyusu teapot, chasen matcha whisk, chawan matcha bowl and chashaku matcha spoon. If you want to get all the teaware and try 43 different types of Japanese green tea, we recommend you go for the Giga Sampler, by far our most complete Japanese tea sampler.
What kind of tea is most popular in Japan?
Most Popular Japanese Tea #1 - Sencha
Sencha is the most popular type of tea in Japan, but it is also the broadest category. It simply refers to a tea that has been steamed after harvest and then rolled and dried. This tea is prepared by infusing the leaves into warm water and then separating them out as you pour in a kyusu teapot. The tea has a strong and sweet flavor to it, with notes of steamed vegetables and a hint of citrusy astringency in the aftertaste.
Most Popular Japanese Tea #2 - Matcha
Matcha tea is also very popular in Japan, but you will almost never see it in its pure form outside of the Japanese tea ceremony. Because this is a powdered tea, it can be easily combined to all sorts of desserts, pastries and of course the matcha green tea latte. For this, they use a lower quality matcha or latte matcha. The latte matcha can still be a good tea, but certain steps in the production process are skipped in order to make it less expensive. The flavor is also much stronger, which is actually a good thing so you can taste the matcha tea flavor through all the cream and sugar.
Ceremonial matcha is the kind that is designed to be consumed plain. This you will find in Japan but it is relegated to tea houses and the tea ceremony, as it is much more prized. This matcha powder is made using all the steps we mentioned early, including the long shading of the plants, the careful selection of the leaves, the removal of the stems and the grinding of the leaves in a large granite mill. This ceremonial matcha has a natural sweetness to it and it is good enough to drink without milk or sugar.
Is Japanese tea good for you?
There are many health benefits of Japanese teas. While almost all teas should be considered healthy compared to other drinks, Japanese teas have additional benefits. First, they tend to be made from the younger sprouts of the tea plant, meaning they are higher in nutrients. Second, they are often shaded, which boosts the levels of chlorophyll and l-theanine. The l-theanine in green tea is what gives you a sense of calm, alert energy that can last throughout the day.
Which Japanese tea is healthiest?
When it comes to assessing the health benefits of green tea, there are a few different factors you might be looking for. The first is the antioxidants, such as EGCG. In this case, you should actually go for an unshaded tea because the teas that are exposed to sunlight produce more catechins as protection against the UV light. If you are looking for more of the relaxed focus that comes from theanine, you will want to go for a long shaded tea like gyokuro. If you are looking for a combination of everything, you can’t go wrong with matcha tea. Because this tea is powdered, you are able to consume the entire leaf, giving you a higher concentration of all nutrients and minerals.
Which Japanese green tea is best?
The question of the best japanese green tea depends on what you are looking for. If you are looking for a high caffeine morning tea, you can choose something like Gyokuro or matcha. If you are looking for a soothing evening tea, you can go for bancha or genmaicha. If you want a nice warming tea to enjoy in the winter time, we suggest a roasted tea like hojicha and if you are looking for a cool refreshment in the summer, you should definitely try out a cold brewed fukamushi sencha!
Where to buy Japanese tea
While you can easily buy Japanese tea in many different grocery stores, these tend to be lower quality, mass produced teas. These larger tea brands tell you very little about where the tea was produced and who it was produced by. If you really want to get important information about a tea before you buy it, you really need to know what farm produced the tea.
A reliable Japanese tea website would be, Nio Teas! We buy our tea from the farmers directly and even meet with them in person to tour the fields, facilities and drink the tea with the people who have worked hard to produce it. When you browse our website, you can not only learn about how the teas are made, but also who they were made by. With full transparency, you can really get a sense of the tea before you buy it.
How to brew japanese tea?
When it comes to brewing Japanese tea, it depends on the type of tea you are brewing. Here is a short guide to keep in mind when preparing different types of Japanese teas 👇