Your cheat sheet with 40 different types of Japanese tea
Welcome to this comprehensive guide on different types of tea in Japan.
In this article, I’ll take you through most names of Japanese teas you’ll probably ever find.
So, whether you’re a seasoned tea connoisseur or just starting to explore the world of Japanese tea, I’ve got you covered.
Get ready to discover the wonders of the teas of Japan!
The Origins and Significance of Tea in Japanese Culture
Tea was introduced to Japan in the 8th century by Japanese priests and envoys who visited China to learn about its culture.
The Buddhist monks Kukai and Saicho may have been the first to bring tea seeds to Japan in the 12th century [source].
Tea became popular among the religious classes and was used in Buddhist rituals.
Over time, tea drinking became a part of daily life in Japan.
The more formal Japanese tea ceremony (sadō) has evolved into a time-honored tradition rooted in Zen Buddhism and is considered a symbol of Japanese hospitality and culture.
Japanese Teas List
This Japanese tea list includes (almost) all the types of Japanese tea you may come across, organised alphabetically within each category.
You’ll find traditional teas like matcha, as well as newcomers like sunrouge.
If you’re looking for a specific type of tea, feel free to search for it in the table of contents at the top of this post.
Overwhelmed by so many types?
Don’t worry: to give you a better idea of what you’re likely to find, I’ve also added a short recap of the most common types of Japanese tea at the end of the article.
Japanese green tea types
Green tea in Japanese is called ryokucha (緑茶).
In contrast to Chinese green tea, where the tea leaves go through a process of firing or baking to stop their oxidation, the tea leaves in Japanese green tea get steamed.
For this reason, Japanese green tea has a fresh taste and greener color than Chinese green tea.
These are names you may across when looking for Japanese green tea:
Aracha (荒茶) means “unrefined” tea. Since the tea leaves are raw and “unfinished”, it has a bold, earthy flavor.
It is often used to make other types of tea, such as sencha or gyokuro.
Asamushi (浅蒸し) isn’t actually a tea type, but a very common way of processing it.
Asamushi means that tea is lightly steamed, only for an around 20-40 seconds.
The resulting tea usually has a mild flavor with a light astringency.
Bancha (番茶) comes from tea leaves from the second flush, that is, harvested between sommer and autumn.
It has a mild, earthy flavor.
It is often served with meals and is considered an everyday tea in Japan.
Benifuuki is a relatively newly developed tea plant species with the highest catechin content.
Usually it has a stronger taste with some astringency.
Fukamushi (深蒸し) is the term used when green tea is steamed for longer time, in opposition to Asamushi (light steamed tea).
The result is a rich taste with less astringency.
GABA teas are naturally enriched with GABA, an amino acid that can reduce stress.
People (including myself) love GABA tea not only for its health benefits but also for its smooth, buttery taste.
Genmaicha (玄米茶) is a blend that combines green tea with roasted brown rice.
The roasted grains provide a mild flavor with popcorn-like aroma, making it a very beloved tea.
Gyokuro (玉露) is high-quality green tea that is covered around 20 days before harvesting.
Shading the tea leaves allow them to develop umami.
Gyokuro is considered high-end, high in caffeine content and it’s usually pricey.
Hojicha (ほうじ茶) is roasted green tea. The roasting process provides a nutty and smoky flavor and a very pleasant toasty scent.
It has a lower caffeine content than regular green.
Kabusecha (かぶせちゃ) is a semi-shaded green tea: the leaves are covered with a semi-porous material for 10-14 days.
It share the umami and sweetness of Gyokuro with the mild bitterness of Sencha.
While most Japanese green teas are steamed, Kamairicha (釜炒り茶) is an exception: it is pan-fired.
This step gives tea tea a unique flavor similar to that of Chinese green tea. Kamairicha has a naturally sweet and nuanced taste.
Karigane (雁ヶ音) indicates that the tea is made from the stems and leaves of the tea plant.
This gives tea a mellow character.
Karigane tea can become the ingredient to make many types of tea, such as gyokuro or sencha.
Konacha (粉茶) literally means “powder tea”.
As the name hints, it’s made from the leftover tea particles from the production of other teas, such as sencha or gyokuro.
Kukicha (茎茶) can be translated as twig tea and as the name suggest, it’s made with the stems and twigs of the tea plant.
Any type of Japanese tea made with twigs of the tea plant can be categorised as kukicha.
Kukicha has a mellow flavor and a lower caffeine content that tea that’s made with tea leaves.
Matcha (抹茶) is a high-grade green tea ground into powdered form.
Matcha gets its signature vivid green color due to the fact that the tea leaves are grown shaded.
This iconic green tea powder is whisked into hot water, instead of steeped.
Matcha-iri (抹茶入り) is green tea that has been enriched with matcha powder.
Me-cha (芽茶) is made from the youngest leaves of the tea plant.
It has a sweet and delicate flavor and it’s often used to make other types of tea, such as matcha or sencha.
Mizudashi (水出し) means cold brewed tea.
Most Japanese tea types can be cold brewed.
Sayaka-cha (狭山茶) is cultivated in Japan’s Sayama region, where the cool climate has caused the tea plant to adapt.
Developing thicker leaves that can tolerate colder temperatures boasts the distinctive sweet and rich flavor of this tea.
Also, it’s packed with some of the highest levels of antioxidants.
Sannenbancha (三年番茶) is a rare type of green tea that is known for its subtle sweetness.
This unique flavor is a result of the tea’s high polysaccharide content.
There are two methods to produce it: stored for three years (jukusei) or aged for three years (koba).
Sannenbancha is also an excellent choice for those who are sensitive to caffeine, as it has a low caffeine content.
Sencha (煎茶) is the most popular Japanese green tea.
It has a refreshing taste and is made from the top leaves of the tea plant. Sencha can be enjoyed hot or cold.
Shincha (新茶) is the first harvest Sencha, picked at the beginning of the green tea season in the Spring.
Shincha has a fresh flavor and is highly sought-after among tea connoisseurs due to its revitalising properties and noble taste profile.
This premium green tea was once exclusively reserved for the Emperor and nobility.
Sunrouge (サンルージュ) is a tea variety specially developed to have a high antioxidant content, including anthocyanins and catechins.
As a result, it has astringent qualities and a hue.
Sunrouge tea’s pink color intensifies when you add some drops of an acidic liquid like lemon juice or vinegar.
Tamaryokucha (玉緑茶) or guricha (also known as curled tea) is a rare tea in which the tea leaves get twisted after steaming.
The taste is similar to that of Sencha, with a rich and gentle aroma.
Tencha is a type of shade-grown Japanese green tea that is primarily used to make matcha powder.
Its leaves are carefully cultivated in the shade to produce a unique flavor and vibrant green color.
After harvesting, the leaves are processed and de-veined.
The result are very soft tea leave that can be ground into fine matcha powder. But it can also be steeped.
Yame-cha (八女茶) is the tea grown in this Japanese region (Fukuoka).
Tea from this southern region is known for its rich and full-bodied flavor.
It is considered a high-quality tea in Japan and often used to make gyokuro.
Ujicha (宇治茶) is grown in the Uji region of Japan (Kyoto).
Tea from Uji is known for its high quality and rich flavor.
It enjoys a good name in Japan and is often used to make matcha.
Japanese black tea
Green tea remains the more popular option in Japan, but black tea is also enjoyed.
Black tea in japanese is called Kocha (紅茶), which literally means “red tea”. Usually, it’s imported and the base for the beloved Royal milk tea.
Wakocha (和紅茶) is the black tea that is grown in Japan.
It has a very pleasant delicate flavour which aromatic floral and fruity notes.
Japanese fermented tea
Fermented teas from Japan, Hakkōcha (発酵茶) are a rarity, and even within Japan quite unknown for most people.
Still, there is a fermented tea that has re-gained recognition recently, as it got officially designated an Intangible Cultural Property of Japan:
Goishicha (碁石茶) is a post fermented tea from Japan, made in the prefecture of Kochi.
It has a clear aroma with decent acid structure that some people compare to red wine.
Goishicha get pressed into small dark pieces that remind of the black stones of the board game “go”, hence its name.
Herbal teas from Japan
Japan is known for its green tea, but there are also many varieties of traditional herbal tea.
These caffeine-free infusions offer unique flavors and health benefits and they are also an important part of Japan’s tea culture:
Azuki-cha (あずき茶 or 小豆茶) is made from roasted azuki (adzuki) beans. These reddish brown small beans are quite beloved in Japanese cuisine.
The infusion made from adzuki is caffeine-free and has a mild flavor.
Dokudami-cha (ドクダミ茶) is a blend of herbal tea that contains the leaves of the dokudami plant.
It has a herbal, slightly bitter taste and is often used in traditional Japanese medicine.
Gobo-cha ( ごぼう茶) is made from the roots of the burdock plant.
It has a slightly sweet, earthy flavor.
Japanese Konbu-cha (昆布茶), also known as “kelp tea” or “kelp broth” in English, is a type of tea made from dried kelp (konbu).
It can consumed as a simple and healthy beverage or used as a base for soups.
Kuro-mame-cha (黒豆茶) is made from roasted black soybeans and has a slightly sweet, nutty flavor.
Mugicha (麦茶) is by far the most popular infusion in Japan.
It’s made with roasted barley and it can be enjoyed both warm and cold.
Mulberry tea (マルベリーティー) is made from the leaves of the mulberry plant.
It has been appreciated in Asia for centuries due to its health benefits, including reducing blood sugar levels and improving digestion.
In recent years, mulberry tea has been gaining popularity in Japan as a caffeine-free alternative to green tea. This is because it has a similar taste and aroma to green tea, but without the caffeine content.
Mulberry tea is often consumed hot or cold and can be also enjoyed in blends in combination with other teas.
Sobacha (そば茶) is made from roasted buckwheat.
It has a nutty taste and you can eat the Sobacha after steeping.
Yomogi-cha (蓬茶) is made from the leaves of the mugwort plant.
It has a slightly bitter taste and is often used in traditional Japanese medicine.
This beverage is made from the yuzu fruit, which is a type of citrus fruit that is native to Japan.
It has a tart taste and is often drunk to boost the immune system.
Most popular teas in Japan
The most common tea sorts in japan are:
- sencha and bancha on a daily basis
- matcha and gyokuro for more special occasions
- hojicha in the evenings
These are all green teas.
The most popular caffeine-free infusion in Japan by far is mugicha.
However gobocha, azukicha and kuromamecha are starting to gain popularity.
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