When you think of tea you more than likely think of India or China. While both of those countries are the biggest producers of tea there is tea to be found all over the globe and Japan is no different. Japan has a very unique tea culture in that it’s steeped in tradition. Tea also is more than just a refreshing warm drink. It can be drunk cold and often is served as part of a meal with many different flavors accenting dishes perfectly. Tea is also healthy and the scent or aroma is as big a part of the tea drinking experience just as much as the taste is. Japanese cuisine relies heavily on the health benefits and tea is no exception to that rule. With many different flavors as well, the tea drinking experience is tied very closely to that of dining, the right or wrong tea with a meal can make or break the overall enjoyment of it. But, get that perfect combination and you will find it difficult not to have a brilliant almost transcendental tea drinking experience.
Sencha is one of the most popular teas in the whole of Japan. It is brewed often as whole leaves rather than a ground tea powder. It is a green tea that is hugely popular all over the world as well in Japan and is recognizable for its rich green earthy color. For people in the west, Sencha is often seen as the quintessential Japanese tea or the national tea of Japan much in the same way as breakfast tea is for the United Kingdom.
Hōjicha is another famous Japanese green tea. Its distinctive color makes it stand out from the rest. It has a sunburned orange color. The tea differs from most as the tea itself is toasted in porcelain pots over charcoal. This gives the tea a unique flavor and is vastly different from the traditional Japanese teas that primarily are steamed as opposed to roasted. This sunset colored tea first became popular in the wonderful city of Kyoto before spreading right across Japan and even into other countries the world over. This tea is often served with dinner and is loved by the elderly especially.
Genmaicha, now popular the world over, is a green tea that is mixed with roasted brown rice. This is often called popcorn tea because the roasted rice grains pop like popcorn when roasted. This was originally a drink for the poorer people of Japan because the rice filled you up for longer and brought down the price of the tea. It is now drunk by everyone in society and it is said to have a relieving effect on upset stomachs. This tea is often used as the drink of choice for those that are fasting and will go long periods of time between meals.
Bancha, another green tea, is probably the most common and wildly versatile of all the Japanese teas. Whilst it isn’t the best quality it does perform well as a base for a lot of other teas or infusions that people create in their own homes by themselves. It’s one of the lowest grades of tea but also one of the cheapest making it fly off the shelves in Japan. It has a strong organic straw flavor making it unique and a perfect accompaniment for a myriad of food stuffs from breakfast to lunch to dinner.
Kukicha is perhaps more commonly known by its other name twig tea. It is another green tea but doesn’t use tea leaves. It is unique in that it uses stems and stalks and also twigs from the tea plant. This is something that rarely happens in tea making but this gives this tea a big quality and allows it to stand out from the rest with great gusto. The flavor though is surprisingly fresh and creamy as opposed to a dark and earthy flavor which one would have thought with it being made from the stems and stalks of the tea plant.
Kamairicha is another green tea that instead of being steamed is toasted off in a pan quite early on in its production. This tea has a slight smoked flavor and hails from mainly the western regions of Japan. Due to its early roasting in a pan it develops a lovely yet mild sweet tones as opposed to bitter ones which you would expect from most teas. This allows it to stand out and is a perfect drink to have on its own any time of the day from breakfast to right before bed. Its calming roasted flavor allows one to relax.
Tamaryokucha is a very, very fine green tea from Japan and is one of the healthiest in the whole world. This green tea is full of vitamins, antioxidants and enzymes which make it a powerful medicine as well as a delicious hot drink. It has a berry style taste to it with aromas of citrus and grass that coat the senses beautifully. This is a tea that often is steamed in Japan but one could also pan fry the leaves for a earthier vegetable flavor if you required a more robust tea. This method is mainly used in China but sometimes this method creeps over into Japanese tea culture also.
So, there you have it, some of Japans most famous teas. The tea culture is not just restrained to China and India. The Japanese have had their own culture of tea for many centuries now and rightly so. They are, to most tea experts, the best in the world at green teas. You can have countless flavors, aromas and methods to making Japanese tea and there are so many that you could possibly have a different tea every day and not taste the same thing more than once. Any tea lovers out there consider making Japan your next tea drinking adventure location, you will not be disappointed.
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