Japanese green tea refers to the specific Japanese style of processing of the Camellia Sinensis bush. Tea produced in Japan is mainly Green most notably Sencha, Gyokuro, Matcha, Hojicha, and Genmaicha. These types of tea are produced all over Japan and encompass many regional styles with unique characteristics.
The key factor that makes Japanese green tea unique is the steaming process. Japanese green tea is steamed after harvest creating a bright and fragrant brew with a rich taste that is both sweet and savory.
Japanese green tea is prized for its rich sweetness and lasting Umami. At the heart of this flavor is the chemical L-Theanine. The tea is uniquely high in this flavorful amino acid due to careful cultivar selection, garden management and gentle processing. Due to elevated levels of L-Theanine, Japanese green teas offers remarkable texture on the palate with a pleasing depth that easily pairs with both sweet and savory foods. Whether brewed hot or cold, the tea can enhance and inspire “the table experience” by adding a level of unexpected depth while either contrasting or complementing a dish in the same way wine can. Since Japanese green tea has a variety of kinds and flavors which taste unique to each other, each can be paired with diverse types of food based on the flavors.
Japanese green tea is very valuable and exclusive because it is processed very carefully. The tea today is processed with hands-on craftsmanship. From tilling the land to fertilizing, harvesting, and manufacturing, the keen eye and deep understanding of the natural rhythms of the tea plant is of the utmost importance.
Sencha is the most prevalent style of Japanese green tea and encompasses many varieties and styles. Sencha can range in flavor from light and mineral, sweet and grassy, or even quite rich and unctuous. Sencha contains moderate caffeine, higher levels of catechin, a powerful antioxidant, and vitamin C. High-grade Sencha contains higher amino acid, which leads to the taste of rich umami.
Tasting note: Fresh grass, Vegetal, Softly sweet, Bright, Savory, Sweet
Major Crafted in: All over Japan (most well known-Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Miyazaki, Fukuoka, Mie, Saitama (Sayama))
Producing Gyokuro requires a high degree of care and expertise. The tea bushes are unpruned and allowed to grow upright before shade coverings are built around the bushes. The tea are shaded for approximately 20-30 days and then hand harvested. Gyokuro has extremely high levels of L-Theanine, Glutamate and Arginine - imbuing it with an intense sweetness and focused, savory umami.
Tasting note: Oceanic, Protein-like, Floral Rich, Umami, Savory, Sweet, Oceanic salinity, Unctuous
Major Crafted in: Mie, Kyoto (Uji), Fukuoka (Yame)
Matcha is made from shaded tea leaves which is a similar grown process to Gyokuro. The leaves are shaded for 20-30 days and then processed in a special Tencha factory. After being steamed and dried, the leaves are gently milled in a stone mill. The powdered tea is then called Matcha. Matcha is unique to Japan and offers a refined and intense green tea experience.
Tasting note: Fresh greens, Spinach, Seaweed, Rice cracker, Buttered asparagus, Creamy, Toasted nori, Dried flowers
Major Crafted in: Kagoshima, Kyoto (Uji), Fukuoka (Yame), Aichi (Nishio)
Hojicha can be found in every corner of Japan and is the “table wine” of Japanese green tea. It is roasted and caramelized, lowering the caffeine content and adding a unique toasty aroma. It pairs very well with sweet and savory dishes and is a great choice for serving to guests when they arrive.
Tasting note: Caramelized sweetness, Toasty, Roasted, Nutty, Toasted grain, Spun sugar
Major Crafted in: All over Japan
Genmaicha is an easy drinking and flavorful tea. Sometimes called “popcorn tea”, Genmaicha actually contains roasted brown rice that resembles popcorn. The tea has its roots in rural Japan and is the perfect accompaniment to food. It is often served alongside sushi or other savory Japanese dishes.
Tasting note: Fresh, Toasted rice, Aromatic, Refreshing, Grassy, Nutty, Toasted
Major Crafted in: All over Japan
Mr. Akio Matsumoto from Torien introduces the approaches of food pairing with Japanese green tea.
Synergistic effect of roasting aroma Hojicha has less bitterness and astringency due to fewer catechins and tannins. The best approach is to combine both roasting aromas from Hojicha and food to create a synergistic effect. At Torien, I paired the sauce-grilled chicken thigh skewers.