Bancha vs sencha is a comparison that is often made, as these are the two most common types of green tea in Japan. In this article, we are going to be comparing these two teas, seeing what makes them similar and what makes them different.
What are bancha vs sencha?
Let’s briefly define what these teas are, before we start talking about how they are similar or different.
Sencha tea is the most common type of green tea in Japan, but it also is the broadest category. In general, it refers to tea leaves that have been steamed, rolled and dried.
Bancha tea is a more inexpensive tea and it is the second most popular type of green tea in Japan. It’s made from the older leaves and stems of the tea plant.
Picking of Bancha vs Sencha
The biggest difference between these two teas comes down to how they are picked. A big factor in the final taste of a tea is which parts of the tea plant are used to make it.
Sencha is made from the young sprouts on the top of the tea plant. These are the most nutrient rich, and the sweetest in flavor. The tea plant rests all winter long, storing up nutrients from the soil and then releases these nutrients into these light green sprouts. These are the most desirable parts of the tea plant and they are used for sencha, gyokuro, matcha and so on.
Bancha is made from the lower leaves of the tea plant. These leaves are much tougher and they are not quite as flavorful. For this reason they are often used to make more inexpensive teas like bancha, hojicha and genmaicha.
Later harvests of bancha
Bancha can also be made from later harvests. An example of this would be “Aki Bancha” or the fall harvest. Japanese tea is typically picked up to 4 times per year, with the first harvest in early spring fetching the highest price and the later harvests being sold significantly cheaper. The last harvest of the year, which contains the lowest amount of nutrients, can be turned into Aki Bancha, which is the cheapest harvest of bancha tea. If you're interested to learn more about the cheapest teas from Japan, we invite you to read our article 👉 List of the Best Cheap Loose Leaf Green Teas. Of course, bancha is part of the list!
The processing of bancha vs sencha is very similar. Both of these teas are green teas, which means they are unoxidized. Once the leaves are picked, the enzyme oxidase will begin to convert the catechins into theaflavins and thearubigins, and eventually turn the tea into a black tea.
In order to maintain the fresher, more citrusy flavors, heat needs to be applied to the leaves directly after harvest. For Japanese teas like bancha and sencha, this is done by putting the leaves through a steam bath. Afterwards, the tea leaves are taken through a controlled drying process to bring the moisture content down from70% to between 4-7%. This makes it so that the leaves can lock in their flavor and release it all at once when they are infused into hot water.
There are very different brewing parameters for bancha vs sencha. Because bancha is made from older, tougher tea leaves, it can stand up to hotter temperatures. The younger green teas like sencha and gyokuro tend to be quite sensitive to hot water and they can get quite bitter if you brew them too hot.
For sencha, we recommend you use a temperature between 60-70 degrees Celsius and a brewing time of 1 minute. The best leaf to water ratio is 5 grams of leaves and 150ml of water.
For bancha, you can use a temperature of between 70-80 degrees celsius and a brewing time of 1 minute. You can use the same leaf to water ratio as you would with sencha. You will find that sencha will lose its flavor after infusing the leaves 3 times, whereas bancha can be infused 4 or 5 times.
Caffeine in Bancha vs Sencha
Caffeine is produced by the tea plant as a defense mechanism against insects to prevent its leaves from being eaten. The younger, more tender tea leaves of the tea plant are more vulnerable, so they tend to have more caffeine. The older, more mature leaves and stems of the tea plant are much tougher and less likely to be eaten. This is why teas made from older leaves and stems like kukicha, bancha, genmaicha and hojicha, tend to be the lower caffeine teas.
You can expect a cup of sencha to have between 40-60mg of caffeine per cup, whereas a cup of bancha tea can have half that amount. This makes bancha a much better choice for the afternoon and evening, while sencha is a great tea for that morning cup.
Do you know what are the teas with the lowest caffeine? Discover the answer in our article 👉 8 Lowest Caffeine Tea: from Lowest to Highest
Flavor of Bancha vs Sencha
The flavor of the two teas is very different. Although sencha is a diverse category of teas, it tends to lean more on these steamed vegetable, slightly grassy and citrusy notes. Certain sencha teas, particularly those that have been shaded, can be quite sweet, while others can have a drier astringency.
Bancha on the other hand plays much more on these mild, earthy notes like wood, cereal but also a tiny hint of caramel and popcorn. The older leaves of the tea plant tend to contain more minerals, which you can feel as a tingling sensation on the palate.
Price of bancha vs sencha
One difference that you will notice before you even try either of the teas is their price. Different parts of the tea plant command different prices, with younger leaves commanding the highest price and older leaves and stems commanding the lowest. Bancha tea will be about half the price of sencha, but some people actually prefer its more mild flavor.
If you are interested in trying Japanese green tea, but the more expensive sencha and gyokuro teas are not in your budget, you may want to give the bancha tea a try. If you reinfuse the leaves 4-5 times, the price comes down to just a few cents a cup which is very affordable, particularly for a whole tea experience.
Final thoughts on bancha vs sencha
In the broader scope, bancha and sencha are more similar than they are different. They are both delicious Japanese green teas with plenty of great benefits and they are prepared the same way. If you're interested in the bancha benefits, we wrote a detail article in which we cover all the Bancha Tea Benefits. This comparison is a great demonstration of how subtle differences in the production or harvesting process can yield completely different tasting teas.
If you are interested in trying either bancha or sencha, you can find them on our website nioteas.com. When you buy tea from us, you are not only supporting our channel, but also helping us to support the dozens of talented farmers that we work with. Another great way to support the channel is by leaving a like or subscribing so you can see more videos like this in the future. If you have any questions about green tea, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Until then, we’ll see you next time.