While the Chinese have lots of different ways to fix their teas – using woks, wood fires, charcoal, hot air, steam or some combination, each creating distinct flavours – the Japanese only use hot/wet heat. The leaves are placed in large bamboo baskets suspended above steam baths. This traditional process enables the leaf to retain its green colour and makes its flavour quite particular and very different from the Chinese green Tea.
It can be said that Japanese Green Tea taste more like vegetal, grassy flavour or even of steamed spinach. Usually the leaves are rolled into a shape of a pine needle with a dark green glossy look. Rolling, pressing and kneading are the different stages leading to this result.
Green tea is everywhere in Japan that it is normally known simply as “tea” or even as “Japanese tea”. Types of tea are commonly graded depending on the quality and the parts of the plant used as well as how they are processed. There is a large variety of these Teas in both price and quality within these many categories. Today I chose three Japanese Green Teas for you:
- Sencha– This Tea grows in the sun and it is one of the most common green Teas in Japan. This Tea is steam fixed, rolled in several stages and dried in an oven. It has a quite robust and strong flavour.
- Gyokuro – This kind of Tea differs from Sencha, as it grows under the shade rather than the full sun. This Tea is processed in the same way as Sencha. It has a vegetal flavour with gentle roasted notes.
- Tencha – Like Gyokuro, it is cultivated in shade. Like the Sencha and Gyokuro, Tencha is steam fixed to preserve its green colour. However, unlike Sencha and Gyokuro, the leaves are not rolled during drying. The leaves are, in fact, chopped up and blown with hot air. This Tea is rarely drunk in Japan, as the leaves are usually ground into powder, making Matcha. However, Tencha can make a very enjoyable cup of Tea. Tencha has a clean vegetal flavour and it is very light and refreshing.