Two weeks ago on the Art of Tea blog, we shared some of the key components that set Japanese green teas apart from each other. This week, we’re continuing the story of what makes Japanese green teas unique with more information on Japanese green tea processing styles and Japanese green tea blending.
Most Japanese green teas are steamed. However, some (like Houjicha, our roasted-style Kukicha Twig Tea and Kamairicha) are roasted or pan-fired in a manner akin to Chinese green tea processing.
Within the category of steamed green teas, the amount of time the leaves are steamed also influenced the tea’s final flavor, aroma and appearance. For example, Fukamishi (deep-steamed) Sencha like our Zuisha Sencha has a bold green color with a mild aroma and a straightforward flavor, while Asamushi (light-steamed) Sencha has a light golden-green brew, nuanced aroma and complex flavor.
Some teas are steamed so heavily that the leaves begin to fall apart. In some cases, the veins and stems of the leaves are removed and the remainder of the leaf is slowly ground into a fine powder known as Matcha. Some Matcha teas (like our Ceremonial Matcha andMatcha Grade A) are whisked into a frothy, emerald-green brew before consumption. Others (like our Ginger Matcha) can be whisked or they can be blended into hot or iced tea lattes and smoothies.
Unusual variations on Matcha include Tencha (leaves that are steamed to make Matcha, but left un-ground), Kenacha (a lower-grade powdered tea made from un-shaded leaves) and Kokeicha (a powdered green tea that is kneaded with rice starch, extruded, cut into leaf-sized pieces and dried).
In Japan, some green tea (usually Bancha) is blended with toasted and puffed brown rice to make a nutty, low-caffeine tea called Gen Mai Cha (“brown rice tea”). If Gen Mai Cha is dusted with Matcha, it’s known as “Matcha-iri Genmaicha” or Gen Mai Matcha.
Here at Art of Tea, we employ artisan-blending techniques on some of our Japanese green teas. Using the naturally fresh, vegetal flavor of steamed Japanese green tea as a base, we draw upon all our senses to create blends like Tropical Green Tea Pineapple, Mango Melange, Japanese Cherry, Holiday Berry Green Tea and Ginger Matcha. We also combine the roasted, deep flavor of Houjicha with cold-pressed vanilla essence and white chocolate to make our decadent, latte-like Houjicha de la Crème. These are certainly not traditional blends, but they have been instrumental in helping an international audience come to love the flavor of Japanese green tea.