Basic variety of Japanese green tea
The Japanese love for green tea has led to the development of a wide variety of green tea in its history.
The most common green tea in Japan is called Sencha (煎茶). The fresh tea leaves are steamed, rolled, and dried into beautifully thin needle-like shapes.
Gyokuro (玉露) and Kabusecha (かぶせ茶) also belong to this Sencha variety. These two are grown in the shade over a period of time during cultivation to generate a unique seaweed-like aroma, sweet taste, and blue-green color. With several rolling stages, Gyokuro and Kabusecha are shaped as thin as needles like Sencha. However, another Sencha variety is Tamaryokucha (玉緑茶), whose leaves are formed resembling a shape like magatama (a comma-shaped Japanese ancient bead) with a revolving drum dryer in order to create curled leaves.
Tencha (碾茶), the raw ingredient of Matcha (抹茶), is planted and produced in a totally different manner from Sencha. The plant is shaded like Gyokuro in the field, and after steaming, the leaves are dried and cut, and the veins and stems are removed without any rolling. Then the leaves are ground into a very fine powder to obtain Matcha. The bright green color and aromatic sweet taste of Matcha are extremely vulnerable to light, heat, and humidity, so grinding is done with delicate temperature control (sometimes with a stone mill), and the finished product is packed and conserved with special care until it is sold to consumers.
Hojicha (ほうじ茶) means “roasted tea”. But it is not a tea roasted when its leaves are fresh to stop oxidation. It is a roasted Sencha type tea after the drying and refining process. It has a unique nutty flavor from the roasting. Genmaicha (玄米茶) is a Sencha mixed with roasted rice.
In addition to the varieties above, there are some green tea products born from its production. Japanese tea is made through several refining processes (sifting and roasting) from Aracha (荒茶, barely steamed and dried raw material) to Shiagecha (仕上げ茶, refined tea). The by-products sifted out from these processes, including the powder (kona 粉), stems (kuki 茎), and twigs (bou 棒), are also used as products called Demono (出物, byproduct) and consumed in various forms.