Ippodo Tea Co.
It's Different from Black Tea and Oolong Tea
Tea comes in many varieties, but there are three main types that differ in how they're made: green tea, black tea, and oolong tea. Green tea includes Japanese tea, which is characterized by its rich green color.
One thing that makes Japanese tea distinctive is that the leaves are steamed right after they're picked. Another kind of green tea, Chinese green tea, is made by a process that includes oven drying, but whether the tea is steamed or dried, the heat deactivates the enzymes that cause oxidation, and so the leaves remain unfermented and keep their green color.
Black and oolong teas are produced without heating the leaves. This allows them to ferment and gives them their brown color.
The black teas that undergo thorough fermentation are known as "oxidized teas," while the partially fermented oolongs are called "semi-oxidized teas" and the green varieties "unoxidized teas."
The History and Culture of Japanese Tea
Japanese tea is held to have originated around 1191, when a Buddhist priest returned from Song Dynasty China with seeds and the knowledge of how to manufacture and drink tea. At the time, tea was prepared for drinking by grinding it to powder by mortar and pestle and adding hot water, much as matcha is prepared today, but over the centuries, innovations in the methods of making and drinking gave rise to a variety of different types of Japanese tea.
Tea cups, pots, and other utensils also appeared as the popularity of Japanese tea grew, and are now an instantly recognizable part of the culture of Japan. Selecting favorite utensils adds greatly to the enjoyment of Japanese tea.
Japanese Tea Is Great for Your Health
Japanese tea is a healthful beverage rich in tannins, caffeine, potassium, vitamin C, theanine, and many other active compounds, and matcha, popular even overseas for its particularly magnificent green color, is a tasty source of these substances.
Green tea is now receiving growing attention around the world as a healthy beverage, and its popularity remains high in Japan, where people long understood and enjoyed its benefits first hand.
The source of tea's astringency, these compounds include catechins, natural antioxidants that are also associated with reduced cholesterol and other health benefits.
This bitter alkaloid is a stimulant that has been shown to boost mood and cognitive performance in a synergistic manner with the amino acid theanine.
This element helps alleviate rises in blood pressure due to sodium, and also improves muscle performance.
The only water-soluble vitamin, vitamin C helps keep skin healthy and beautiful, and also plays a role in neutralizing alcohol, nicotine, and other toxins.
This gives tea its umami flavor, and has been linked to regulating brain and nerve functioning and inhibiting rises in blood pressure. Matcha and gyokuro are especially high in theanine.
Types of Japanese Tea
Japanese tea can be grouped into four distinctive types: matcha, gyokuro, sencha, and varieties of bancha (such as hojicha, gemmaicha, and yanagi). Their unique characteristics arise from the differences in the fields where they grow and in the processes they undergo after steaming.
Matcha is made by grinding dried tea leaves into a powder using a stone mill. It offers a rich, full-bodied flavor and contains plenty of health-beneficial compounds.
Gyokuro contains large amounts of theanine, an amino acid that imparts a savory umami flavor, and features a mellow sweetness.
Sencha is grown in abundant sunlight, making it rich in vitamin C. Its flavor is a well-balanced blend of astringency and sweetness, with an exceptionally fine aftertaste.
Bancha is made by roasting tea leaves and stalks at high temperatures, imparting a wonderfully fragrant aroma.
It's low in caffeine, making it an excellent choice for young and elderly tea drinkers.