21 Types of Japanese Tea | Guide To Japanese Tea

by Erika Shinomoto
types of japanese tea

Here’s everything you need to know about types of Japanese tea and its health benefits! 

Tea in Japan is a beverage that is drunk both cold and hot and has variants available. It is known for its health benefits and amazing taste. With a history of more than 1000 years, it has now become one of the topmost drinks of Japan. When in Japan, you will always be welcomed with a cup whenever you visit any Japanese house.

Japan is also one of the countries that produce the most tea in the world. One of the most popular tea variants available in Japan is its green tea. However, that is not the only types of Japanese tea that is produced in the country. 

Green tea, however, is the most popular variant and it accounts for almost 90 percent of the total tea production.  

Other favorites in the country are oolong tea and black tea. For a tea connoisseur, the land of Japan has so many different types of Japanese tea that you will surely be delighted. I hope you enjoy knowing about all these variants. 

Types Of Japanese Tea

Sencha

Sencha is the most popular and widely consumed tea in Japan. It is made from young tea leaves, which are steamed to halt oxidation and then rolled and dried. The leaves are characterized by their vibrant green color and needle-like shape. 

Sencha offers a refreshing and invigorating taste with grassy and vegetal notes. The aroma is often described as fresh and oceanic, reminiscent of seaweed and spring meadows. 

sencha japanese tea

This tea can be enjoyed both hot and cold and is often brewed with water at temperatures around 70-80°C (158-176°F).

Gyokuro

Gyokuro is a premium shaded tea and considered one of the highest quality Japanese teas available. It is grown in the shade for several weeks before harvesting, which enhances its flavor and deepens its green color. 

The leaves are carefully hand-picked and processed to retain their unique characteristics. Gyokuro has a sweet, rich, and mellow taste with a hint of umami, offering a truly luxurious tea-drinking experience. 

The aroma is complex and often described as sweet, vegetal, and seaweed-like, evoking images of a lush forest. 

Due to its delicate nature, Gyokuro is brewed at lower temperatures (around 50-60°C or 122-140°F) for a shorter duration to fully extract its flavors.

Matcha

Matcha is a powdered green tea that has gained worldwide popularity. It is made from shade-grown tea leaves, which are carefully stone-ground into a vibrant green powder. 

Matcha

Matcha is known for its distinct preparation method and ceremonial significance in Japanese culture. It is traditionally prepared by whisking the powder with hot water using a bamboo whisk, creating a frothy and velvety beverage. 

Matcha has a unique flavor profile, combining vegetal and grassy notes with a pleasant bitterness. 

Its taste is often described as creamy and savory, with a lingering sweetness. Matcha is cherished for its high concentration of antioxidants and is used in traditional tea ceremonies in Japan.

Hojicha

Hojicha is a roasted green tea with a unique flavor profile distinct from other Japanese teas. The tea leaves used for Hojicha are typically roasted at high temperatures, resulting in a distinct reddish-brown color and a rich, toasty aroma. 

The roasting process reduces the tea’s caffeine content, making it a popular choice for those seeking a milder tea option. Hojicha has a smooth, nutty, and slightly caramel-like taste, with subtle hints of roasted grains. 

Its aroma is warm and inviting, reminiscent of toasted chestnuts. Hojicha can be enjoyed hot or cold and is often brewed with boiling water.

Genmaicha

Genmaicha is a delightful blend of green tea and roasted brown rice. This tea has a distinct appearance, with toasted rice grains mixed in with the tea leaves. 

GenmaiCha

The roasted rice gives Genmaicha a nutty and slightly popcorn-like flavor, while the green tea provides a grassy and refreshing taste. 

Genmaicha is often enjoyed as a comforting and flavorful everyday tea. Its aroma is reminiscent of roasted grains and adds a unique twist to the traditional green tea experience.

Shincha

Shincha, also known as “new tea” or “first flush tea,” refers to the first harvest of green tea leaves in spring. This tea is highly anticipated by tea enthusiasts for its vibrant flavor and aroma. 

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Shincha offers a fresh and lively taste, with a balanced combination of grassy, vegetal, and sweet notes. It embodies the essence of spring and is cherished for its fleeting availability. Shincha is typically enjoyed as a seasonal treat, and its limited production makes it highly sought after.

Kukicha

Kukicha, or “twig tea,” is a unique Japanese tea made from the stems, stalks, and twigs of the tea plant. It is crafted from the parts of the plant that are usually discarded during the production of other teas. 

Kukicha has a distinct flavor profile, characterized by its mild, nutty, and slightly sweet taste. It is often described as smooth and refreshing. Kukicha is naturally low in caffeine and is appreciated for its gentle and soothing qualities.

Bancha

Bancha is a type of green tea that is harvested later in the year, typically during summer or autumn. 

It is made from mature tea leaves and is known for its robust and earthy flavor. Bancha has a lower caffeine content compared to other green teas, making it a popular choice for those seeking a milder tea option. 

The taste of Bancha can vary depending on the specific region and processing methods, but it generally offers a well-rounded and satisfying tea experience.

Mecha

Mecha is a term used to refer to tea leaves that are smaller in size and broken during processing. It is often made from the tender buds and leaves of the tea plant. Mecha is valued for its affordability and versatility. 

It can be enjoyed as a standalone tea or used as a component in tea blends. Mecha offers a fresh, grassy flavor with a touch of astringency. It is commonly consumed in Japanese households on a daily basis.

Wakocha

Wakocha, also known as Japanese black tea, is a lesser-known type of tea in Japan but is gaining popularity. It is made from fully oxidized tea leaves, resulting in a dark, reddish-brown liquor. 

Wakocha has a robust and malty flavor with subtle floral and fruity undertones. It is often compared to black teas from other regions but has its own unique character. 

Wakocha is a versatile tea that can be enjoyed with or without milk and sugar, making it a great choice for tea enthusiasts who prefer stronger flavors.

Hōjicha

Hōjicha is a roasted green tea, but unlike other Japanese teas, it is made from roasted stems and leaves instead of the fresh leaves. The roasting process gives Hōjicha a distinct reddish-brown color and a rich, toasty flavor. 

Hojicha

The tea has a mild and gentle taste with nutty and caramel notes. Hōjicha is known for its low caffeine content and smooth character, making it a popular choice for evening relaxation. 

It can be enjoyed hot or cold, and the roasting process gives it a comforting aroma that evokes warmth and relaxation.

Yamecha

Yamecha refers to tea produced in the Yame region of Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan. Yame is known for its fertile soil and ideal climate, which contribute to the production of high-quality teas. 

Yamecha is predominantly a type of Sencha, but it is often considered superior in taste and aroma due to the region’s specific terroir. The tea offers a well-balanced flavor profile with grassy, sweet, and umami notes. 

Yamecha is highly regarded among tea connoisseurs for its exceptional quality and is often considered a representation of the finest Japanese green teas.

Kamairicha

Kamairicha is a pan-fired green tea that differs from other Japanese teas in its production method. While most Japanese teas are steamed to halt oxidation, Kamairicha is pan-fired, similar to the process used for Chinese teas. 

This unique method gives Kamairicha a distinct flavor profile. The tea has a floral and slightly smoky taste with a gentle sweetness. 

Kamairicha is often described as having a more rounded and complex flavor compared to steamed green teas. It is a regional specialty in areas such as Kyushu and has its own loyal following.

Karigane

Karigane, also known as “Kukicha Karigane” or “Gyokuro Karigane,” is a unique type of tea made from the stems and veins of high-quality Gyokuro or Sencha leaves. 

During the production process, the stems and veins are separated and used to create Karigane. This tea has a mild and slightly sweet flavor with a hint of umami. It offers a smooth and refreshing taste, often described as light and delicate. 

Karigane is appreciated for its pleasant aroma and the balance it strikes between the flavors of Gyokuro or Sencha and the unique character of the stems and veins.

Aracha

Aracha, which means “rough tea” in Japanese, refers to a type of tea that is minimally processed and closer to its natural form. It contains a mix of tea leaves, stems, and twigs, and often retains a higher level of moisture compared to fully processed teas. 

Aracha

Aracha is often used as a base for various tea types and undergoes further processing before becoming Sencha, Gyokuro, or other refined teas. It has a robust and slightly astringent taste, with grassy and earthy notes.

 Aracha is primarily used by tea producers and experienced tea artisans to create unique blends and flavors.

Shincha

Shincha, meaning “new tea,” refers to the first harvest of Sencha leaves in the spring. It is highly anticipated by tea enthusiasts for its fresh and vibrant characteristics. 

Shincha represents the essence of the new season and offers a delicate and nuanced flavor profile. It is often described as having a gentle sweetness, a rich aroma, and a smooth texture. 

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Shincha is known for its high levels of amino acids and antioxidants, which contribute to its unique taste and health benefits. The limited availability of Shincha makes it a prized and sought-after tea.

Tencha

Tencha is a tea used in the production of Matcha. It is made from shade-grown tea leaves, similar to Gyokuro. After harvesting, the leaves are steamed and dried without rolling or shaping, preserving their flat and needle-like appearance. Tencha has a unique flavor profile, characterized by its umami-rich and subtly sweet taste. 

It possesses a deep and mellow flavor that serves as the foundation for Matcha. Tencha is typically stone-ground into a fine powder to create the vibrant green and concentrated beverage known as Matcha.

Fukamushi Sencha

Fukamushi Sencha, also known as “deep-steamed Sencha,” is a variety of Sencha that undergoes an extended steaming process. The steaming time for Fukamushi Sencha is longer compared to regular Sencha, resulting in smaller and broken tea leaves. 

This tea has a vibrant green color and a unique flavor profile. Fukamushi Sencha offers a rich, full-bodied taste with a slightly more pronounced astringency compared to regular Sencha. 

The extended steaming process also gives it a unique texture, creating a thick and velvety mouthfeel. This tea is highly prized by tea enthusiasts who appreciate its bold and robust characteristics.

Yanagi Bancha

Yanagi Bancha is a type of Bancha tea that is specifically produced in the Yanagi region of Kyoto, Japan. It is made from mature tea leaves that are harvested during late summer or early autumn. 

Yanagi Bancha is known for its unique processing method, which involves fermenting the tea leaves for a short period before drying them. This fermentation process imparts a distinctive flavor profile to the tea. 

It has a smooth and mellow taste with a hint of earthiness and a touch of sweetness. The fermentation also contributes to its dark brown color and its rich and captivating aroma.

Gyokuro Kukicha

Gyokuro Kukicha, also known as “Gyokuro Twig Tea,” is a blend of Gyokuro tea leaves and stems. It is made using the same shade-grown tea leaves used to produce Gyokuro. 

The tea leaves are carefully processed, and the stems and twigs are separated and blended to create Gyokuro Kukicha. 

This tea offers a unique combination of flavors. It has the characteristic umami-rich taste of Gyokuro combined with the slightly nutty and refreshing qualities of Kukicha. 

The resulting brew is smooth, well-balanced, and has a delicate sweetness. Gyokuro Kukicha provides a captivating tea experience that highlights the best of both Gyokuro and Kukicha.

Kabusecha

Kabusecha is a partially shaded green tea that falls between Sencha and Gyokuro in terms of shading duration. The tea plants used for Kabusecha are shaded for a shorter period compared to Gyokuro, usually around one to two weeks before harvesting. 

This shading process enhances the sweetness and umami flavors of the tea while retaining some of the bright and refreshing qualities of Sencha. 

Kabusecha has a smooth and well-rounded taste with a pleasant balance of vegetal notes, gentle astringency, and a subtle sweetness. It offers a delightful compromise for those who appreciate the depth of Gyokuro but also enjoy the vibrant character of Sencha.

Difference Between Japanese Teas And Other Teas

There are so many differences that you can find between Japanese teas and all other kinds of teas from around the world.

  • It is very easy to classify Japanese tea
  • You can also quite easily classify tea cultivars
  • Instead of pan-fired, Japanese tea is steamed
  • There are some Japanese tea that is shaded

Japanese Loose Leaf vs Tea Powder

There are many Japanese teas that are available in powdered form. These powdered teas are not the same as matcha powdered tea. Powdered teas are mostly not shaded and they also include stalks, stems, and veins too. 

Matcha powdered tea is quite frothy and smooth. Powdered tea, on the other hand, gives you a cup of murky tea. I love the high-quality powdered teas because they have such a delicious and smooth taste. If you try it once, I am sure you will get addicted to the flavor.

Which Japanese tea should you choose?

  • Shaded teas: kabusecha, gyokuro, tencha, matcha
  • Nutty flavor: hojicha, kamairicha, bancha, genmaicha, muhicha
  • Intense flavor: gyokuro, matcha, fukamushi sencha, konacha
  • Least caffeine: kukicha, hojicha, genmaicha
  • By-products: kukicha, kokeicha, konacha, mecha
  • Fresh flavor: kabusecha, sencha, kokeich
  • Sweet flavor: gyokuro, tencha, matcha
  • Umami flavor: gyokuro, high grade sencha, konbucha
  • For the most catechins: gyokuro, middle grade sencha, matcha
  • Powdered tea: hojicha, sencha, matcha
  • Roasted tea: hojicha, some bancha, mugicha, genmaicha

What type of tea is popular in Japan?

Sencha Japanese tea is the most popular tea in Japan. Even more so than matcha. Sencha tea leaves are harvested from tea plants grown in full sun. Sencha tea is much darker than other teas and has a stringer astringent flavor.

How many types of tea are there in Japan?

There are close to 100 types of tea in Japan including Sencha, Gyokuro, Matcha, Hojicha, Genmaicha, Shincha, and Kukicha.

What is the most popular Japanese tea?

Sencha is the most popular and widely consumed Japanese tea. It accounts for a significant portion of tea consumption in Japan and is appreciated for its refreshing taste, vibrant green color, and versatility. Sencha is enjoyed both hot and cold, making it a popular choice throughout the year. 

It offers a balance of grassy notes, a mild astringency, and a hint of sweetness, making it appealing to a wide range of tea enthusiasts. Its availability and familiarity contribute to its status as the most popular Japanese tea.

What kind of tea is used in Japanese tea ceremony?

The Japanese tea ceremony, known as Chanoyu or Sado, centers around the preparation and consumption of Matcha, a powdered green tea. Matcha is carefully cultivated, shade-grown, and stone-ground into a fine powder. During the ceremony, the powdered tea is whisked with hot water using a bamboo whisk until it froths, resulting in a rich, velvety beverage. 

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Matcha’s vibrant green color, distinct umami flavor, and smooth texture make it the perfect tea for the meditative and ritualistic aspects of the tea ceremony, symbolizing harmony, respect, and tranquility in Japanese culture.

What tea do Japanese drink at night?

One popular tea choice for the evening in Japan is Hojicha. Hojicha is a roasted green tea made by roasting the leaves, stems, and twigs of the tea plant. The roasting process gives Hojicha a unique flavor profile with warm, toasty notes and a gentle, soothing character.

 It has a lower caffeine content compared to other green teas, making it a suitable option for enjoying in the evening without interfering with sleep. The comforting aroma and mellow taste of Hojicha make it a favored choice for relaxation and unwinding after a long day.

What Japanese tea is most expensive?

One of the most expensive Japanese teas is Gyokuro. Gyokuro is a shade-grown green tea that undergoes a meticulous cultivation process. The tea leaves are covered with shade for several weeks before harvesting, which enhances their sweetness and umami flavor. The shading process requires careful attention and results in a limited yield, making Gyokuro relatively rare and expensive compared to other teas. 

The high level of craftsmanship, labor, and the specific growing conditions contribute to its elevated price. Gyokuro is highly regarded for its delicate flavor, vibrant green color, and the unique tea experience it offers.

What tea do Japanese drink for longevity?

The tea that is often associated with longevity and health benefits in Japan is called “Bancha.” Bancha is a type of green tea made from mature tea leaves harvested later in the season. It has a milder flavor and lower caffeine content compared to other green teas like Sencha or Gyokuro.

Bancha is known for its abundance of catechins, antioxidants that are believed to have various health benefits. These antioxidants may help to reduce the risk of certain diseases and support overall well-being. Bancha is also said to aid in digestion and promote relaxation.

What is Japanese tea?

Japanese tea refers to various types of tea that are cultivated and produced in Japan. It includes a wide range of green teas and some specialty teas unique to Japan.

What are the main types of Japanese tea?

The main types of Japanese tea include Sencha, Matcha, Gyokuro, Hojicha, Genmaicha, and Kukicha.

What is Sencha tea?

Sencha is the most popular Japanese green tea variety. It is made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant and is known for its bright green color and grassy flavor.

What is Matcha tea?

Matcha is a powdered green tea made from shade-grown tea leaves. It is often used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies and has a rich, umami flavor.

What is Gyokuro tea?

Gyokuro is a high-quality, shaded green tea known for its sweet, vegetal taste. It’s grown in the shade for several weeks before harvesting.

What is Hojicha tea?

Hojicha is a roasted green tea made from Bancha or Sencha leaves. It has a unique smoky flavor and is low in caffeine.

What is Genmaicha tea?

Genmaicha is a blend of green tea and roasted brown rice. It has a nutty, toasted flavor and is sometimes called “popcorn tea.”

What is Kukicha tea?

Kukicha, also known as “twig tea,” is made from the stems and twigs of the tea plant. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste.

Are there any health benefits associated with Japanese tea?

Yes, Japanese tea is known for its health benefits, which include antioxidants, vitamins, and potential benefits for weight management and relaxation.

How is Japanese tea different from Chinese tea?

Japanese tea and Chinese tea both come from the same tea plant (Camellia sinensis), but they differ in terms of processing methods, flavor profiles, and cultural significance.

Can I buy Japanese tea outside of Japan?

Yes, Japanese tea is widely available in many countries through specialty tea shops, online retailers, and some grocery stores.

How should I store Japanese tea to keep it fresh?

To keep Japanese tea fresh, store it in an airtight container away from light, heat, and strong odors. It’s best to use it within a few months to enjoy its full flavor.

Are there any specific brewing techniques for Japanese tea?

Yes, different types of Japanese tea require different brewing techniques in terms of water temperature and steeping time. Proper brewing enhances the flavor of the tea.

What is the history of Japanese tea culture?

Japanese tea culture has a rich history dating back centuries, with influences from China. It includes various rituals and traditions, such as the Japanese tea ceremony (chanoyu).

Are there any regional variations in Japanese tea production?

Yes, Japan has several tea-producing regions, each with its own unique characteristics and tea varieties. Some of the most famous tea regions include Uji, Shizuoka, and Kagoshima.

Can I visit tea farms in Japan and experience tea production firsthand?

Yes, many tea farms in Japan offer tours and tea tasting experiences, allowing visitors to learn about the tea-making process and enjoy freshly brewed Japanese tea.

What are some common tea utensils used in Japanese tea ceremonies?

Common tea utensils used in Japanese tea ceremonies include the chawan (tea bowl), chasen (tea whisk), chashaku (tea scoop), and yuzamashi (water cooler).

Tea lovers’ paradise!

Japan is truly a paradise for tea lovers. The wide variety of teas available in the country will surely make you go giddy with joy and excitement. I went crazy with happiness when I found out I do not have to satisfy myself with only one type of tea. 

The various types ensure that I get to choose a tea based on my mood. Apart from regular green tea and matcha tea, there are so many other options to choose from. If you love tea like me, I am sure you will find this guide extremely helpful. 

So, what are you waiting for? Get your hands on these types today and enjoy showcasing your tea shelf. 

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