Have You Met Your Matcha? Types of Green Tea and Their Uses
There’s really nothing better than curling up with a warm, comforting cup of tea—especially if it’s green tea. Green tea is a mildly caffeinated beverage that can help contribute to better overall health while giving you a soft, natural boost of energy. And thankfully for tea lovers, there are a variety of green teas to choose from. It’s the perfect, healthy way to start your day.
The Camellia Sinensis Behind the Curtain
Almost all true tea (black, white, oolong, and green) comes from the leaves of one plant — Camellia sinensis. Once the leaves are harvested, they begin an oxidation process that slowly turns the leaf from a shade of green to dark brown, which also affects the flavor.
Green tea is made from minimally oxidized leaves. By processing the leaves quickly with heat and then leaving them out to dry, the oxidation process is slowed, which is what maintains green tea’s signature bitter taste—and helps them retain their antioxidant properties.
Waving Through a Tea Leaf
The harvest of tea leaves comes in waves, and the way they are harvested has an effect on the type of green tea it produces. As new leaves begin to grow during the spring, they are plucked in what is known as the first flush. The leaves from this harvest are considered the highest quality, which also makes them the most expensive.
The plant will continue to grow new leaves as it’s pruned and plucked throughout the year. Then, the tea leaves are processed to halt the oxidation process.
Regional Variations of Green Tea
The majority of today’s green tea comes from Chinese and Japanese methods, the regions where the plant is thought to have originated. While both Chinese and Japanese green tea comes from the same plant, their preparation methods differ greatly.
The typical Chinese method is pan firing. Tea leaves are heated in a basket and are constantly stirred to interrupt the oxidation process. The tea comes out with an earthier, roasted flavor.
Japanese green tea is made by briefly steaming the leaves soon after they’re harvested, which is another way to halt the oxidation process. This method produces a slightly sweeter and more vegetal flavor.
Types of Green Tea
After oxidation has been halted, most types of tea leaves are left out to dry. From here, the leaves are processed in a variety of different ways, which is why there are so many different types of green tea across the world. We’re going to look at 15 common varieties of green tea, as well as how they’re made, used, and any potential health benefits they provide.
The most popular green tea in Japan, sencha is made by rolling and drying green tea leaves. The rolling softens the fibers and allows the flavor to easily escape when it’s steeped in water. It has a low brewing temperature of around 170 degrees Fahrenheit and brews pretty quickly, ranging from 15 seconds to 2 minutes. Sencha is known to have a very refreshing and grassy flavor. It also packs a lot of Vitamin C, which is great for supporting a healthy immune response.
Bancha is similar to sencha—the main difference being that the tea leaves are harvested during second flush and are constantly collected between June and October.
Meaning “new tea,” shincha encompasses the first month of harvested leaves for sencha. It’s only available for the first couple of months of the harvest season and then disappears again. The newness of the leaves provides a sweet and grassy taste.
Genmaicha is made by taking bancha tea and combining it with roasted brown rice, making it sort of like a liquid stir-fry. The rice provides a fuller and nuttier taste thanks to the sugar and starch it adds to the beverage. Its brew time is slightly longer than bancha and sencha, taking between three to five minutes depending on the desired strength of the tea. The brown rice adds many health benefits, and is a great stomach soother and helps with digestion after eating fried foods.
This tea is also similar to sencha; however, the plants are covered from the sunlight for about three weeks before the leaves are harvested. This is done as a way to limit photosynthesis, which will let it maintain a fuller and less bitter taste than sencha. Brewing requires a cooler temperature range as well, between 122 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three minutes.
Since the production of gyokuro is more complicated, it’s more expensive than other green teas.
Tencha is made very similar to gyokuro, with the plants being shaded from the sun for the same amount of time. The key difference is how the leaves are prepared, while gyokuro is rolled like sencha, tencha leaves are used after being dried. Most people go a step further, however, and grind their tencha leaves, turning them into matcha.
The powder that comes from ground tencha is known as matcha. Not only is it used for traditional tea, but it’s also used to flavor and dye mochi, green tea ice cream, and soba noodles.
There are generally two grades of matcha powder: ceremonial and culinary. Ceremonial grade is a much higher quality tea and is often reserved for important Japanese ceremonies. It’s incredibly hard to produce, and only makes up about 1 percent of all matcha in the world.
Pure Synergy works with a Japanese tea farm to produce an organic and ceremonial-grade matcha powder that is packed with antioxidants and promotes:
- Improved concentration and focus
- Balanced, “soft” energy boost
- Healthy memory and cognitive function
Funmatsucha is another type of ground tea. It’s different from matcha, because its ground tea leaves do not undergo the shading process—leaving this tea with a bitter taste similar to sencha.
Konacha has an interesting processing method. While it’s often mistaken for a ground tea, it actually consists of small bits of leaves that are filtered out when gyokuro or sencha is made. Since it’s essentially the remnants of more expensive teas, konacha is much cheaper.
10. Jasmine Tea
Jasmine tea is a popular scented tea in China. Scented tea means the tea leaves were infused with the aroma of another fragrant plant. To make jasmine tea, jasmine flowers are placed with green tea leaves in a warm room. Over the course of a few days, the aroma of the jasmine slowly infuses itself into the tea leaves.
The jasmine flowers are removed, and the leaves are dried and packaged. The infused aroma makes for a delightful fragrance and has a subtle sweetness to it. The tea only needs to steep for one to two minutes.
11. Longjing Tea
Literally translated as “dragon well” tea, this Chinese pan-roasted tea is picked during the first flush of the harvest season. It’s known for being incredibly expensive, and the authenticity of the tea is commonly a point of controversy. With a sweet and mellow flavor, authentic longjing tea contains Vitamin C and antioxidants and is believed to support heart health.
Houjicha is made by taking already-processed bancha tea leaves and roasting them at a high temperature, a process that actually lowers caffeine levels in the tea. The lower caffeine levels make it a popular tea for kids and older people in Japan, but make it less effective as an energy drink. It’s prepared the same way as sencha tea.
Fukamushicha tea is prepared like most rolled and steamed green teas, but it is steamed for a little longer than what is generally required. The preparation process has given it the nickname “deep-steamed sencha.” A longer steam supplies this tea with a sweeter flavor. This tea only needs about 40 seconds of brew time, making it quick and easy to prepare.
14. Bi Luo Chun
This Chinese tea uses pan firing and rolling to get bi luo chun’s unique shape. Using leaves from the beginning of the season (that’s the first flush), this tea is incredibly aromatic and has a fresh and mildly sweet flavor to it. It’s thought to support cardiovascular health and promote weight loss efforts. Steep loose tea leaves in 176-degree water for about two minutes.
Parts from camellia sinensis that aren’t usually used for tea, like stalks, stems, and twigs, are what make kukicha. These parts come as a byproduct of sencha and matcha. The woodier plant parts make for a nuttier flavor, and it’s very rich in vitamins and minerals. Brew for one minute with water heated to 176 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Best Type of Green Tea for You
This should give you a pretty concise guide for the best types of green tea you’ll run into. It’s important to search for the highest quality teas, so you can get the most from your green tea as possible.
Pure Synergy has worked to ensure our Japanese Organic Matcha Power Powder is as authentic and natural as possible, helping you to support a healthy and energized lifestyle. Visit our website today to find out how we can help you with your health goals!