The Best Types of Japanese Green Tea

What is green tea?

Green tea comes from the tea plant, camellia sinensis, the very same plant that black, oolong and white tea comes from. What makes green tea different from these other varieties is how much oxidation the fresh tea leaves go through.

Oxidation is a natural chemical reaction that takes place in the tea leaves causing them to turn brown. Green tea is unoxidized. Japanese green tea, in particular, is steamed to prevent oxidation.

This wet heat of steaming does not alter the colour of the leaves, which is why Japanese loose leaf green tea is that vibrant grass green.

What about hojicha? Hojicha is a green tea from Japan, but it’s brown! There’s always exceptions. Hojicha green tea is slow roasted in small batches, resulting in dark brown leaves and a rich, roasted flavour. More on that soon.

Rolling tea fields in Japan

What are the different types of green tea?

Some familiar types of green tea include sencha, bancha, gyokuro (all green tea from Japan) and dragon well, bi luo chun and gunpowder (all green tea from China).

Japan and China are the two countries that are traditionally known for their high quality green teas. For simplicity, we’ll focus on these two countries to explain what the different types of green teas are.

As we already mentioned, Japanese green teas are steamed (wet heat). Chinese green teas, on the other hand, are pan fired (dry heat). The dry heating causes Chinese green teas to appear more green-yellow and have more cooked vegetable notes. Japanese green teas have more marine and grassy notes.

The shape of Japanese green teas are like pine needles with a dark green and slightly glossy look. Chinese green teas can be many different shapes - twisted, pearl shaped, flat and long, or even formed into balls with flowers inside.

At Amoda, we specialize in organic Japanese green tea, so we’re going to introduce you to 5 of the best green tea varieties.

  1. Sencha Green Tea
  2. Matcha Green Tea Powder
  3. Gyokuro Green Tea
  4. Genmaicha Green Tea
  5. Hojicha Roasted Green Tea and Powder

 

1. Japanese Sencha Green Tea

Japanese sencha green tea leaves

Sencha is Japan's most popular and most loved tea. Sencha can be steamed briefly for a Amoda’s sencha has beautiful dark green slender leaves. The aroma is enticingly buttery and nutty. It steeps a flavourful, refreshing, and crisp cup with pleasant fresh vegetal notes. This is a classic sencha flavour profile.

  • cultivation: grown in the sunlight
  • appearance: pine-needle shaped leaves
  • flavour: varies, but can be marine (seaweedy), vegetal, grassy, refreshing
  • steep it: for casual steeping, try 1 tsp in 1 cup of hot water. The temperature matters! 170ºF/76.5ºC (boiling is 212ºC) for 1 minute. You can lower the temperature and steep for longer if you like a more mellow cup.
  • pair it with: sushi, seafood, grilled saltwater fish

We recommend:

shop organic sencha green tea

Amoda Sencha Green Tea

The aroma of our sencha is enticingly buttery and nutty. It steeps a flavourful, refreshing, and crisp cup with pleasant fresh vegetal notes.

Caffeine level: Low
Origin: Kagoshima, Japan

shop authentic Japanese sencha

 

2. Matcha Green Tea Powder

matcha green tea powder

If you know Amoda well, you know matcha is our bread and butter. We source our matcha directly from our tea partners in Uji, Japan. Matcha is green tea ground into a very fine powder. You whisk the green tea powder in hot water to prepare it for drinking, thereby consuming the whole leaf and a ton more nutrients when compared to steeped green tea.

Matcha undergoes a special production process. The tea plants are shade grown for 2-6 weeks before harvest, which forces the plants to work overtime boosting the nutrients and amino acids. This also results in a subtle natural sweetness at the finish of each sip.

Matcha powder whisks into a vibrant green tea with a beautiful froth. There are many grades of matcha with different taste profiles, but in general, matcha is has a creamy mouthfeel and a vegetal or grassy taste. The best matcha has an umami flavour.

We recommend:

 ceremonial matcha green tea

Amoda Organic Matcha Ceremonial

Our highest grade of organic matcha, shade-grown and stone-ground in Japan. A light, but flavourful cup, with notes of baby vegetables and unique umami.

Caffeine level: Low - approx. 35mg per serving (1/2 tsp)
Origin: Uji, Japan

shop organic matcha green tea

We recommend for lattes:

matcha latte

Amoda Organic Japanese Matcha

The perfect organic matcha for your lattes, smoothies and culinary creations. Creamy and full-bodied with vegetal notes and mellow umami.

Caffeine level: Medium - 70mg per serving (1 tsp)
Origin: Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan. Manufactured in Uji, Japan.

shop organic matcha green tea

 

3. Gyokuro Green Tea

gyokuro tea leaves

Gyokuro is one of Japan’s most premium and prized teas. Gyokuro tea bushes are shaded from the sun for 20 to 30 days before harvest. This differs from sencha, which is grown in full sunlight. The shading helps reduce bitterness and concentrates nutrients in the leaves.

The resulting flavour is mild with nori seaweed, unique umami and a natural sweetness. The steeped tea is a beautiful bright green colour and has an amazingly creamy mouthfeel.

    • cultivation: grown in the shade
    • appearance: green-blue needle-shaped leaves
    • flavour: marine, seaweed, umami, sweet finish
  • steep it: Gyokuro is a premium tea and needs some extra care when steeping. T 1 tbsp in 1 cup of hot water. The temperature matters! 140ºF/60ºC for 2-4 minutes. You can resteep the leaves.
  • pair it with: sushi, seafood, mochi

 

4. Genmaicha Green Tea

genmaicha green tea leaves

Genmaicha is a traditional Japanese blend of dark green slender sencha tea leaves mixed with roasted brown rice. Some Genmaicha is made with bancha instead of sencha. You may recognize the nutty green tea flavour as the tea served at many Japanese restaurants in North America.

Genmaicha is an easy drinking, rich and flavourful green tea. The nutty notes from the puffed rice blend perfectly with the fresh flavours of the sencha.

  • cultivation: grown in the sunlight
  • appearance: pine-needle shaped leaves with brown roasted rice.
  • flavour: varies, but can be marine (seaweedy), vegetal with toasty, roasted grain, nutty notes.
  • steep it: for casual steeping, try 1 tsp in 1 cup of hot water. The temperature matters! 170ºF/76.5ºC (boiling is 212ºC) for 1 minute. You can lower the temperature and steep for longer if you like a more mellow cup.
  • pair it with: sushi, grilled food, brunch foods like bacon and eggs

We recommend:

shop Japanese genmaicha green tea

Amoda Organic Genmaicha

This is an easy drinking tea with crisp vegetal notes and a gentle sweetness.

Caffeine level: low
Origin: Kagoshima, Kyushu, Japan

 shop genmaicha tea

 

5. Hojicha Roasted Green Tea

hojicha green tea leaves

Hojicha is another special Japanese green tea. To make Hojicha, bancha tea leaves are roasted to create a nutty flavour with a cedar woodiness and caramelized undertones.

Typically, hojicha is made by roasting over charcoal, but the length of the roasting process varies. Roasting (instead of steaming) removes some of the caffeine and softens the taste, resulting in a smooth tea with no bitterness that is very low in caffeine.

  • cultivation: grown in the sunlight
  • appearance: dark brown slender leaves and sometimes stems of the tea plant.
  • flavour: nutty, roasted, cedar woodiness, caramelized, soft vanilla.
  • steep it: for casual steeping, try 1 tsp in 1 cup of hot water. The temperature matters! 175ºF/80ºC (for reference, boiling is 212ºC) for 1-3 minutes.
  • pair it with: sushi, brunch, oily food, vanilla ice cream

We recommend:

shop hojicha green tea

Shop Amoda Organic Hojicha Roasted Green Tea

Amoda hojicha is slow roasted in small batches, resulting in a rich, roasted flavour that's incredibly smooth and lightly sweet with caramel undertones.

Caffeine level: very low
Origin: Kagoshima, Kyushu and Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan.

shop hojicha green tea from japan

We recommend for lattes: 

Shop Amoda Organic Hojicha Powder

Hojicha green tea also makes an amazing low caffeine latte! Using our slow roasted hojicha, the tea leaves are grown to a fine powder, similar to matcha. You can whisk the powder into hot water, add steamed milk and enjoy an incredibly delicious roasted green tea latte.

Caffeine level: very low
Origin: Kagoshima, Kyushu and Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan.

shop hojicha green tea from japan 

Green tea vs. black tea

Both green tea and black tea are made from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. The difference is in the processing of the leaves after harvest. As we mentioned earlier, green tea is not oxidized at all. It is heated to prevent oxidation. As a result, the leaves retain their green colour and their fresh vegetal flavour.

Black tea, on the other hand, is fully oxidized. After harvest, the tea leaves are withered to reduce their moisture level. They are then rolled, which creates small tears that expose the enzymes in the tea leaves to the air (oxygen), thereby allowing oxidation to occur. The leaves turn a brown-red colour and the leaves are heated to stop the oxidation process.

Depending on what area the black tea is made, the flavour can vary from bold and malty to chocolatey and spicy to subtle fruit and tobacco.

How to choose the best Japanese green tea

There are definitely tips to choosing high quality Japanese green tea, but ultimately, the best green tea is going to be the one you enjoy the most! If you’re a newbie green tea drinker, go for a medium quality green tea. This will ensure you don’t end up disliking it due to it being poor quality, but means you don’t have to break the bank.

  • don’t start with the typical grocery store tea bags. For the most part, these are super low quality, broken leaves that steep very quickly and often end up tasting bitter. Depending on where you shop, the tea aisle may have a selection of smaller brands offering a pyramid tea bag with higher quality tea inside or loose tea. Typically a quick google search of the company’s About Us section can tell you how committed to quality they are. Of course, price point can give you a clue as well.

  • When purchasing pure Japanese green teas online, order from a company is either based in Japan and ships internationally, or from a local company that gets their tea directly from the source. If they direct-source, they’ll say so! This means fresher, more consistent quality.

A quick note on flavoured green teas. It’s less likely a small brand making their own flavoured green tea blends will directly source their tea from Japan. In fact, most flavoured green tea is not made with Japanese tea. But just a note that direct sourcing isn’t as necessary when you’re looking at flavoured green teas.
  • If given the choice, purchase organic loose leaf green tea. Some, but not all, companies use lower quality tea in tea bags. Typically, a small traditional paper tea bag is a sign of lower quality tea or leftover tea pieces. The taste of the tea bag will actually impact your cup when a bleached, heavily processed tea bag is used. You can find good quality tea bags if you look though.

    In general, loose leaf tea usually means more flavour. The leaves are given much more space allowing water to move around the tea leaves and absorb water and expand.

 

sencha green tea

How to prepare Japanese green tea

Not sure how to make the best green tea? We’ve included steeping guidelines with our recommended loose leaf green teas above, but there are some general tips to keep in mind when stepping any Japanese green tea.

  • Use filtered water to remove minerals. Minerals in hard water can alter the taste of Japanese green teas.
  • Let boiling water cool down. Aim for 170ºF/76.5ºC water. If you’re a big tea drinker or have plans to be, it’s worth investing in a kettle with different temperature settings. If you don’t have one, you can pour boiling water back and forth between two cups to quickly lower the temperature.
  • Cover your tea when you steep it. This helps maintain the optimal heat through the whole steeping process.
  • Set a timer for the desired steep time. Over-steeping your leaves can cause unpleasant bitterness. Try steeping for 1 minute to start.
  • You can re-steep your tea leaves more than once! Increase the steep time on the second steep.

Hopefully this post has answered a lot of your questions about green tea and introduced you to the amazing world of Japanese green teas. There are so many teas to explore. Have fun with the process, getting to know your tastes and finding out which teas are your faves and which just aren't your cup of tea. 

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