Different types of Japanese green tea leaves

Different types of Japanese green tea leaves

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You can buy green tea leaves in a variety of shapes and colors, which makes the number of choices way too overwhelming. So let me try to clear things up for you.

What leaves are used for green tea?

All green tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant. It’s a vibrant green bush that grows best in high, moist areas. The low mountain ranges in Japan and China are perfect for this.

From this magical plant we get a variety of teas.

Green Tea Plants in Shizuoka, JapanGreen Tea Plants in Shizuoka, Japan

What are the best green tea leaves?

No matter who you ask, this answer will always be a matter of opinion. The best answer I can give you is that it all depends on what you like and what kind of flavor you are looking for.

What I can tell you is the process that these tea leaves go through before they end up in your hand.

Matcha – is grown in the shade. So the leaves end up being a bright green color, just like the drink. The leaves are ground into a fine, brilliant green powder. It is often said to be an acquired taste because it has a rich, sweet flavor.

Gyokuro – is grown similar to matcha, however it’s not ground into a powder. It’s usually more expensive and is thought to have a sweeter flavor than sencha.

Sencha – is the most popular and most common green tea in Japan. The new buds are steamed and rolled as they are dried giving them a thin and cylindrical shape. The taste is light and slightly bitter with a refreshing aroma.

Genmaicha – is a mixture of green tea leaves and roasted brown rice. This tea has a much more mild flavor and it’s aroma comes primarily from the brown rice. The color tends to be more yellow than green.

Kukicha – is made from the scraps left over from the powdered matcha. It is pretty much all stems and leaf veins. It’s still really good though, with a mild nutty flavor. It’s not nearly as bitter as matcha and sencha.

White Tea – is from the same plant as all the different teas on this page. It is made by letting the buds and leaves dry out in the sun before processing. This causes the buds and leaves to lose their color and go white. Once brewed, they make a pale yellow drink.

Oolong tea – is made from the same leaves. What makes them different is that they are dried and fermented until they are fifty percent oxidized. This makes it a very dark tea and it can have a variety of flavors depending on the amount of processing and brewing.

The way the tea is grown, picked and processed all have an affect on the flavor of the drink. Another major factor is the way that you brew the green tea leaves. It makes a huge difference in the taste.

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