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Glossary - Japanese Tea Terms

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Aracha (荒茶)
There are two stages in the production of Japanese Tea. The first stage is to make Aracha: which involves the farmer taking the harvested tea which is steamed, rolled, and dried – this stops the oxidizing process that would happen if the tea were left after picking. At this stage different sized leaves, stems and twigs are all still mixed – this is Aracha which is also called Farmer’s tea.

Asamushi (浅蒸し茶)
This term refers to the method of Japanese tea processing that involves light steaming. After the tea is picked it is steamed. The typical steaming time for Asamushi is 30-60 seconds, this result in large tea leaves and pale yellowy-green tea liquor.

Asanoka (あさのか)
A tea cultivar typically made into Sencha. This variety produces an incense-like aroma with a touch of astringency and an umami taste.

Bancha (番茶)
A relatively inexpensive Japanese tea made either from the large, firm leaves from the bottom of the tea plant or from the plants harvested in late summer or even early autumn.

Benifuuki (べにふうき)
Benifuuki was a black tea cultivar registered in the 1960’s. In 1999 research found that O-methylated catechins that are prevalent in this variety were shown to ease sinus allergies. The oxidation process involved in black tea production destroys the O-methylated catechins and Benifuuki is now processed as a green tea, which is not oxidized.

Please see Japanese National Agriculture Food Research Organization

Boba (ボバ)
A tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. A sweet tea with added tapica balls (pearls).

We have a simple recipe to try in a past newsletter

Boucha (棒茶)
In Japanese Bou means stick and cha means tea. The tea has the appearance of a bunch of tea sticks, so this tea stem tea is referred to as Boucha.

Bubble tea (バブルティー)
Another name for Boba

Caffeine (カフェイン)
The quesion of Caffeine in Japanese Green Tea often comes up. The answer to this question is yes, caffeine is present in green tea. The amount of caffeine varies by the particular type of tea and the brewing time. Between 15 and 70 milligrams of caffeine are present in an 8 oz (240ml) cup of sencha which is compared to 80 to 200+ milligrams of caffeine in a cup of coffee. Bancha has the lowest amount of caffeine and Gyokuro and other shaded teas the most.

Catechin (カテキン)
Catechins are chemicals that belong to the polyphenol group. A catechin is a type of flavonoid, which is a group of plant compounds known for their antioxidant properties. Catechins are found in various foods, including tea, cocoa, fruits, and vegetables. They are particularly abundant in green tea, where they are the most active and well-known type of flavonoid. Catechins are believed to have some health benefits; the most prevalent catechin in green tea is epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) catechin. The shading process of some green teas results in less catechin remaining in the tea. Benifuuki is a tea that is rich in EGCG, and some research indicates it helps with allergy relief.

Chumushi (中蒸し茶)
This term refers to the method of Japanese tea processing that involves medium steaming; steaming length varies from Asamushi, through Chumushi and up to Fukamushi. After the tea is picked it is steamed. The typical steaming time for Chumushi is 60-100 seconds

Cultivar (品種)
A cultivar is a plant variety that has been produced by selective breeding of plants and seeds to enhance particular traits in the plants. Typically, cultivars are developed to promote resistance to pests and/or to enhance a particular characteristic found in a single plant. The naming of cultivars is an important aspect of cultivated plant taxonomy, and the correct naming of a cultivar is prescribed by the Rules and Recommendations of the International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants (ICNCP), commonly denominated as the Cultivated Plant Code. Plant Code.

Please see ISHS site .

We have more details of plants, cultivars and terroirs

Cultivate (耕す)
The farming process, the raising of crops.

We have more details of Japanese Tea Farming Practices

First infusion (一煎目)
Tea from the first brewing. The most umami is prevalent in the first infusion.

Fukamushi (深蒸し茶)
A classification of the steaming length of the Japanese tea process, this indicates a long steaming time, typically 100-140 seconds. This results in powdery tea leaves, intensely dark green colored liquor and less bitter taste by virtue of the longer steaming process. Fukimushi is longer than Chumushi and Asamushi steaming.

Genmaicha (玄米茶)
A combination of sencha leaves and toasted brown rice. This is a very popular tea in Japan and throughout the world. Genmaicha is sometime referred to as popcorn tea because of the addition of the rice, some of which ‘pops’. Genmaicha has a characteristic nutty flavor.

Gokou (ごこう)
This cultivar was developed in the Uji region of Japan. The tea is typically used in the production of tencha and gyokuro.

Guricha (ぐり茶)
Normally after picking, the leaves are steamed and then kneaded and rolled. With Guricha the final rolling process is omitted which make the tea not straight as in Sencha but a curled shape. Guricha is sometimes referred to as gunpowder tea because of its shape. Guricha has a milder flavor than sencha. Tamaryokucha is the name given to the omission of the final rolling, Guricha (Steamed) and Kamairicha is pan fried.

Gyokuro (玉露)
Gyokuro is a variety of Japanese green tea that is grown under shade for approximately 3 to 4 weeks prior to harvest. The shading process reduces the amount of photosynthesis. The lack of the photosynthesis process at this stage prevents the L-theanine present in the plant being converted into Catechins. Catechins are a type of polyphenol and part of the flavonoid family. Catechins are associated with an astringent flavor. Because of the shading process, there is less production of catechins and more presence of L-theanine, the results of which are this sweet and umami rich taste tea. Only young small leaves are used to make gyokuro, this and the shading of the plants make the cultivation method very labor intensive.

Hachijyu-hachiya (八十八夜)
Hachijyu-hachiya is the day that falls on the 88th day counting from the first day of spring. This is the day when the fresh harvest is available. There is a legend that drinking the first tea of the season will bring you good health for a whole year!

Hard-water (硬水)
Hard water refers to water that has high levels of calcium, magnesium and other minerals. Over 60% of homes in USA are considered to have hard water. Hard water can make green tea taste flat and can cause it to be cloudy. If you live in a hard water area, ideally use bottled water or filtered water to get the best out of your green tea.

Hojicha (ほうじ茶)
Hojiccha is a type of green tea that is roasted. The Roasting process changes the green color to a brown appearance. Hojicha tastes sweet and has a nutty roasted aroma. Hojicha comes in a large variety of grades. Longer roasting time makes for a darker brown appearance and less caffeine contents. Hojicha is known for being a low-caffeine Japanese tea.

Please see our Hojicha Selection

Ichibancha (一番茶)
The first tea picked in a given year's harvest. Also called the first flush. This tea is usually picked in early spring. The exact time of picking varies by region and by the weather in the months proceeded harvest.

Irimushicha (炒り蒸し茶)
A method of tea production that applies very high steaming temperature compared to ordinary method. Usual steaming temperature for tea is 100 °C (212 °F). This process steams tea at 300 °C (572 °F) utilizing a special machine designed for the purpose, the machine is often referred to as a ‘super steamer’.

Jas (JAS)
JAS is the Japanese Agrigulcure Standard and is certification controlled by Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. The JAS logo is only allowed to be stamped on the products that pass the JAS quality standard, issued to registered business entities that have been certified by the registered certifying bodies to verify that organic foods are produced in compliance with JAS. JAS is a standard for organic production of foodstuffs. JAS certification is equivilent to the US USDA standard.

Please see the MAFF site

Here is our Organic Selection

Kabusecha (被せ茶)
Kabusecha is a type of shaded green tea. The covering is placed directly over tea plants to reduce amount of sunlight typically 3 to 10 days prior to harvest. The shading process retains the L-theanine (sweetness) hampering its conversion to polyphnol (astringency). Gyokuro is also known for being a shaded green tea. The differences between Gyokuro and Kabusecha is the length of shading periods, method of shading and also shading materials used.

Kagoshima (鹿児島)
Kagoshima is prefecture on the most southernly point of Japan. The prefecture is the second largest tea growing area and produces many other farm products.

Kamairicha (釜炒り茶)
This is a type of Japanese tea that is pan-fried (sometimes referred to as pan-fired) instead of steamed to stop oxidation. Kamairi, pan-fired tea is considered rare as it takes less than one percent of Japanese tea production. The taste is different from typical steamed Sencha and has a floral scent and light yellowy liquor. Kamairicha tea is sweet and has a refreshing taste. Most Kamairicha teas are produced in southern island of Kyushu.

Karigane (雁ヶ音)
Kariganecha is stem green tea. In Kyoto most stem tea is referred to as Karigane; in Kyushu stem tea is usually referred to as Shiraore. There are other stems teas and words that refer to stem teas for example Kukicha, Boucha, Karigane and Shiraore - all indicate stem tea.

Koicha (濃茶)
This is the name given to a thick Matcha preparation. The thinner, more common, form of Matcha is Usucha. Koicha is almost syrup-like in consistency. A casual Japanese Tea Ceremony usually consists of Usucha and Wagashi (Japanese sweets). A more formal ceremony, that typically lasts several hours, will involve a Koicha tea made from best grade ceremonial Matcha.

Konacha (粉茶)
After tea plants are processed into Sencha or Gyokuro, the byproducts, consisting of tea buds and dust are used to produce Konacha. When brewed this tea has an intense green color and is a strong tea. It is a lower priced tea than its peers but is nonetheless a highly enjoyable refreshing drink. Sushi restaurants in Japan tend to serve Konacha as an accompaniment to meals.

Kukicha (茎茶)
This refers to tea made from the stems and twigs of the plants used to make Sencha or Gyokuro. The leaves produce Sencha or Gyokuro then the stems and twigs are processed to produce Kukicha. Kukicha is sometime referred as Boucha, Karigane or Shiraore. The naming changes by area. Stem part teas are known for having less caffeine and refreshing taste.

Kuromamecha (黒豆茶)
Kuromamecha is a traditional Japanese tea made from black soybeans. It is made by boiling black soya beans in water for several hours. Unlike most of the teas we cover this tea has no plant material from the Camellia sinensis plant. The tea is usually enjoyed in the winter months and has a brown liquor and a nutty flavor, often sweetened with sugar or other sweet additions.

Kyūsu (急須)
A Kyūsu is a traditional Japanese teapot. It is a type of teapot that is designed to be small and used to brew green tea. The spout usually has a strainer of some kind to catch the tea leaves as they leave the teapot. The handle is usually straight and is arranged parallel to the surface the pot rests on to aid with the slow, steady pouring of the tea. A Kyūsu is usually made of clay or porcelain and can be simple or heavily decorated.

Matcha (抹茶)
Matcha is made from shade-grown stem-removed tea called Tencha, whichh is then stone grind into a fine powder. The shaded growing process results in high levels of the amino acid Theanine, which imparts a full-bodied Umami-rich sweetness.

Mecha (芽茶)
Mecha are made from a collection of leaf buds and tips of the early crops. The tips of young leaves that are dislodged during the tea making process are then dried and become a tiny ball-shaped product. Mecha has a robust strong taste and is a good value tea.

Please see our Mecha Products

Michiyo tsujimura (辻村みちよ)
Have you ever wondered why green tea tastes so bitter when steeped for too long? Thanks to Japanese educator and biochemist Michiyo Tsujimura, and her groundbreaking research into the nutritional benefits of green tea. With Dr. Umetaro Suzuki, famed for his discovery of vitamin B1. Their joint research revealed that green tea contained significant amounts of vitamin C—the first of many yet unknown molecular compounds in green tea that awaited under the microscope. In 1929, she isolated catechin—a bitter ingredient of tea.

Miyazaki (宮崎)
Miyazaki prefecture is a tea growing area of southern Japan. This area is the sunniest area of Japan which helps with the growing of mainly Sencha.

Mugicha (麦茶)
Mugicha is not a traditional tea made from the tea plant Camellia sinensis, rather it is a tea made from roasted barley seeds. It is a popular drink in Japan and is widely available. The prepared tea is tea is light brown in color and has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of bitterness.

Nara (奈良)
Nara city was the capital of Japan in the 700's until the capital was moved to Kyoto. Nara is well known for its high quality Bancha, more recently production of sencha, kabusecha and matcha has become more prevalent.

Nibancha (二番茶)
The second flush. The harvest that occurs 40 to 50 days after the first flush.

Nishio (西尾)
A city located in Aichi prefecture in the Chubu region of Japan. Most of the tencha tea produced in Japan, which is refined into the popular Matcha variety is grown in this prefecture.

Okumidori (おくみどり)
This cultivar was developed in the Shizouka prefecture. It is used to produce high grade Sencha. The color of the tea produced is very green with very low levels of yellow coloring.

Okuyutaka (おくゆたか)
Okuyutaka is a cultivar with intense green color mostly used in Sencha production.

Organic (オーガニック)
Tea that has been grown and processed under auspices of the Japanese Agricultural Standards organization (JAS)

Please see our Organic Tea Selection

Sado/chado (茶道)
This is the name given to the Japanese Tea Ceremony, also called 'the way of the tea'. The Japanese Tea Ceremony was perfected in the sixteenth century and was formalized by the Tea Master Sen no Rikyu. The ceremony involves the preparation and serving of Matcha tea.
There are seven rules for the ceremony as laid out by Rikyu when he was asked by a student 'What are the secrets of the way of the Tea':
  • Make the tea so that your guest will enjoy it
  • Place charcoal so that it will boil the water
  • Arrange the flowers in a way suited to them
  • Keep the atmosphere of the tea room cool in summer and warm in winter
  • Be ahead of time
  • Prepare an umbrella even if there is no rain
  • Attune your heart to the other gusets.

Saemidori (さえみどり)
This cultivar is a cross between Asatsuyu and Yabukita cultivars. It's popularity among tea producers is increasing since its inception in 1990's. This cultivar produces an intense green color and has a less astringent flavor than other popular cultivars.

Sakura (さくら)
Sakura is the Japanese word for cherry blossom. Sakura tea is a traditional Japanese tea made from the blossoms of cherry trees. Sakura tea is often enjoyed during springtime in Japan when the cherry teas are in full bloom. Sakura tea has a pleasant taste, with the Sakura imparting its taste to the tea, and the fresh blossoms enhance the aroma of the tea.

Sanbancha (三番茶)
The third harvest occurs a month after the second harvest, so usually in mid or late summer. Harvesting the third flush can be detrimental to the first crop of the following year so some farmers don’t harvest this third flush.

Sannen-bancha (三年番茶)
Sannen-bancha is a green tea made with green tea leaves and stems which are dried in the sun. After drying they are matured for three years. After this maturation process they are then slowly roasted. This maturation period breaks down caffeine and other stimulants, resulting in a very mellow flavor and an almost caffeine-free drink.

Second infusion (二煎目)
Results of the second brewing of the tea.

Sencha (煎茶)
Sencha is the most common of the Japanese green teas. Almost 60% of all tea produced in Japan is made into Sencha. Sencha tea differs from the likes of Gyokuro in that it is not shaded at all or shaded from direct sunlight for a very short time. After the tea is harvested it is steamed, there are three levels of steaming Asamushi, Chumushi and Fukamushi. The steaming level affects both the flavor and color of the liquor, with Fukimashi being the darkest color liquor and the dried tea leaves can be powdery after longer steaming process.

Sencha & More Collection

All of our Sencha Products

See more about Sence here

Shincha (新茶)
This term literally means ‘new tea’. Shincha tea is the tea made from the first harvest – the first flush, of the season. The term only applies to tea that enters the market from first harvest until July. Other tea that is available until July in a given year is typically produced in the previous year, so the Shincha name denotes that this is the new tea of the season of the current year. It is basically the same as Ichibancha, "first tea" and is distinguished by its fresh flavor and sweetness. The harvest begins in Kagoshima and continues north as the warmer weather spreads.

Shiraore (白折)
This refers to tea made from the stems and twigs of the plants used to make Sencha or Gyokuro. The leaves produce Sencha or Gyokuro then the stems and twigs are processed to produce Kukicha. Kukicha sometime referred to as Boucha, Karigane or Shiraore. The naming changes by area. Tea made from stem parts are known for less caffeine and very refreshing taste.

Shizuoka (静岡)
Shizuoka is a prefecture in central Japan on the outskirts of Mt Fuji. Shizuoka is the biggest Japanese tea producing area.

Soft-water (軟水)
Soft water has low levels of minerals and using soft water usually produces a better tasting green tea.

Stone-mill (石臼)
Ishi-usu is a stone mill (or grinder) used to make Matcha. Tencha are the leaves that are placed on the mill and ground to produce Matcha. This device dates back to the 12th century when the process of grinding tea leaves was introduced into Japan. It is a sign of Matcha's popularity that ishi-usu for personal use are widely available for purchase outside of Japan.

Tencha (甜茶)
Tencha is the tea leaf used to make Matcha. It differs from ordinary green tea in that it is a shaded green tea and there is no "rubbing" process after steaming. Once steaming is complete the stem is removed and the tea dried to produce Tencha. Tencha is not normally used to prepare tea for drinking but is to produce Matcha

Terroir (テロワール)
Terroir is the collective name for the soil, weather, growing methods and generally all environmental conditions of a particular growing condition for tea.

Please see plants, Cultivars and Terroirs

Umami (うま味)
Umami is a term used to describe one of the basic tastes. There are five fundamental tastes, which are sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. The term "umami" comes from Japanese and roughly translates to "pleasant savory taste.". Umami is the last of the basic tastes to be defined and is attributed to the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda in 1908. Umami taste is often described as a savory or meaty flavor that is sometimes referred to as brothy. This taste is produced by the presence of the amino acid glutamate, which is found naturally in certain foods such as meat, fish, and vegetables like mushrooms, seaweed, and tomatoes. Some people have difficulty explaining the taste of umami in a dish or drink like tea – it is not necessary to be able to identify it to enjoy it; if a tea tastes good, then its possible the umami is there and helping but there are other tastes in a complex thing like tea, and we do not have to separate them to know we like it.

Ureshino (嬉野)
Ureshino is a city in Saga prefecture in the south of Japan. Saga is considered the birthplace of Japanese green tea and its place in history comes about by the arrival of a monk Eisai who brought tea leaves back from China in 1191.

Usucha (薄茶)
This is the most common form of a prepared Matcha drink. It is a thin Matcha drink which is what is typically served. The alternate is a syrupy-like preparation called Koicha.

Withered-tea /withering (萎凋茶 / 萎凋化)
As soon as the tea is picked from the plant the process of wilting begins, this is called withering and is natural and present in all tea production.

Yabukita (やぶきた)
Yabukita is a tea cultivar. It is the most used cultivar in the production of tea in Japan with over 70% of all tea using the variety.

Yamakai (やまかい)
A cultivar that has a touch of melon taste. This cultivar is primarily used in the preparation of Sencha and Gyokuro

Yame (八女)
Yame is a tea-growing area of Fukoaka prefecture. Tea produced in Yame is prized for its fragrance and flavor. Fukoaka Prefecture is in the north of Japan's main island of Kyushu.

Yutakamidori (ゆたかみどり)
This is the second most common cultivar used in Japanese tea production. This cultivar results in very vibrant green color. It is mostly from the Kagomishi prefecture.

Yuzu (ゆず)
Yuzu is a citrus fruit native to Japan, Korea, and China. It is s often described as a cross between a lemon, a lime, and a grapefruit. Yuzu is a small round fruit and has a thick skin, it is usually yellow or green. Yuzu is often used in Japanese cuisine, and its zest is used to produce a fragrant tea when added to Sencha or Bancha teas.