Are you curious about what makes a perfect cup of Japanese tea? Today, I’m going to be talking about 15 ways that you can make your next Japanese tea drinking experience amazing!
And even though we are going to be talking specifically about Japanese tea, you can actually apply some of these tips and techniques to other types of tea as well!
Have you tried Japanese tea before? If so, what is your favorite? And if you haven’t yet, which one will you be trying first?
9 different Japanese teas
1. Sencha – The first type of tea which you may or may not be familiar with is the most common type of tea and it’s called sencha. Just simple Japanese green tea. And it’s probably one of the things that you’ll find most commonly served in a Japanese restaurant
There are several different varieties of sencha, but we’re just going to be referring to sencha as green tea and that’s one of the first things that you’re probably going to encounter when you eat or enjoy Japanese food.
2. Kabusecha. The next step up from sencha in terms of quality is going to be something called kabusecha which has been grown in partial shade.
This is going to have a little bit more of a delicate flavor, a little bit more refined flavor, a little bit more sweetness, and a little bit more umami, as compared to sencha. Kabusencha has been grown in shade a little bit partially, which gives it a different flavor characteristic or different flavor profile as compared to just straight sencha.
3. Gyokuro. Gyokuro is a very premium type of Japanese green tea that has also been grown in shade. And this is considered more of a high-end type of tea. There are different ways that you can prepare it
You might want to follow the instructions that came with your tea if you did purchase some, but this generally has a very mild flavor. Very, very, very full of umami. Maybe slightly sweet as well.
And it can be a very interesting and unique experience if you’ve never tried it before. so
It’s very useful, very versatile. You can actually use it in all kinds of different things including baked goods sweets, like ice cream, cake frosting as well as a drink.
Matcha is also one of my favorite things to drink especially on a hot summer day over some ice, or even in the wintertime when it’s cold outside and I want something warm and cozy.
5. Hojicha. is roasted green tea, and it’s got a very earthy and robust flavor, very bold. You can actually enjoy this both hot and cold, just like all the other teas that we’re going to be talking about.
And it’s very, very unique. It’s actually one of my preferred teas to drink in the evening because it has very little to no caffeine. I can actually drink a bunch of hojicha before I go to sleep. Oftentimes, if you are in a desert place, like in Japan, somewhere where they serve desserts, usually, they will serve your desserts with a small cup of hojicha.
6. Mugicha is a tea made from roasted barley. It’s very, very earthy. It’s got a delicious flavor. There isn’t really anything to compare it to. It’s roasted barley. It has no caffeine because it’s made from barley and it’s very tasty.
7. Kombucha is a tea which is actually made from seaweed or kelp. And it’s different from the kombucha that you might have found in your local supermarkets or grocery store, at least here in the US. I don’t think I’ve seen Japanese kombucha here.
I’ve seen American kombucha, which is a very sugary drink, very different from the traditional kombucha that you might find in Japan.
It has a very unique, more of an ocean-like flavor because it is made from kelp. I recommend trying this as well.
You can have it hot or cold and it can come in a whole form, pieces of kombu, or you can also get powderized versions for convenience and quick brewing.
8. Sobacha is actually made from buckwheat groats. The same stuff that they use to make soba (buckwheat) noodles.
And you can actually make tea from the buckwheat. If you have access to whole buckwheat groats, you can actually make it yourself on the stove. It’s very simple. You just roast the groats for a little bit. And once they get nice and roasted, all you do is brew it in some hot water.
It’s got a very nutty flavor, which is very unique as well. It is also caffeine-free and a delicious way to enjoy your Japanese style tea if you’ve never tried it before.
And it’s also another delicious caffeine-free way to enjoy Japanese tea.
9. Kamairicha. This is actually pan-roasted tea. But basically, this is a pan-roasted green tea. It’s got a little bit more of a delicate flavor. Slightly sweet, a little bit of umami as compared to regular Japanese sencha. And if you haven’t had this before, it’s also worth trying. It has a little bit lower caffeine content and a little bit lighter flavor. Also recommended if you are interested and curious about trying Japanese tea.
7 tips for the best tea drinking experience
1. Try to get a feel for the dry leaves. If you have never smelled your dry tea leaves, they have an aroma which you may or may not have known. And if you’re open a new bag of tea, it’s nice to get a good whiff of it.
That’ll give you somewhat of an idea of how it’s going to taste. That’s one of the fun things about drinking tea is the ability to smell it both prior to brewing, and while it’s brewing, and as you’re drinking it.
2. Savor the flavor. Take your time sipping the tea. As soon as you brew the tea, make sure that you enjoy it. And try to concentrate on the tea that’s in front of you without any distractions, without any conversation.
See how it tastes, and notice how the flavor may change as it’s once a very hot cup, to one that’s a little bit cooler. And maybe once it’s cooled completely, maybe it has changed slightly in the flavor that you perceive.
3. Temperature. There are two ways that you can enjoy Japanese tea. Hot, with very hot water, as well as cold. Cold water, which is going to be similar to a cold brew. And If you’re going to be doing a cold brew, you’re going to have to do it overnight
4. Think about the type of food that you’re going to be serving it with. When I’m visiting Japan, one of my favorite things to enjoy while I’m there is the tea. Especially in the restaurants that they serve you while you’re eating.
And then, depending on where you’re at, maybe you’ll get a second type of tea after you’re done eating. And both of those usually tend to complement whatever it is the food that you’re eating pretty well.
5. Consider how it’s served. You may have heard of chado/sado, which is like the way of tea the Japanese way of tea, which is similar to bushido or judo. the way of the warrior, or the way of judo, like the martial arts.
Chado or saro is the way of tea, Japanese-style If you’ve ever been to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony, you know they are very deliberate in the way that they prepare the tea, the way that they serve the tea, the technique, the presentation, the types of sweets that you’ll get. It’s all very formal and something that has been done for many, many years.
And that’s something that if you haven’t experienced, maybe that’s something that you can try when you next visit Japan.
6. Be present and to savor the flavor, the experience, the aroma, everything that is in front of you. It’s easy to get distracted these days with many things. Maybe your kids. Maybe your spouse. Maybe your friends. Maybe the food. Maybe the TV. Maybe you’re listening to a podcast. Whatever it is, try to be present and take a moment to enjoy what’s in front of you and your cup, and pay attention to nothing else. You might be surprised.
7. Wear a blindfold. Maybe you want to try something new, something that you’ve never done before. But if you have a blindfold on, obviously you can’t see, and it’s going to change the way that you perceive what is around you and also what you consume. It’s going to make your other senses which are still active and receiving information from the environment, more perceptive. Maybe you will be able to enjoy your tea in a different light with your blindfold on.
8. Temperature. This Is the first thing that we’re going to be talking about and that has a very large effect on the resulting tea flavor in your cup. Very hot water is going to extract the flavor and all the goodies from the tea leaves much quicker than a cooler water or cold water will.
That’s why when you make a cold brew, you have to do it for a long period of time overnight, as compared to a hot brewed tea with which you can brew less than a minute before pouring depending on the type of tea that you’re using.
Try to follow whatever directions are going to be on the package that came with your tea.
You don’t want to use boiling hot water, but somewhere close to that depending on the type of tea that you’re using, or something a little bit under boiling if you’re going to be using something more high-grade or high-quality tea like a premium gyokuro, for example, or kabusecha or high-grade sencha with which you can brew very quickly and at a lower temperature depending on the type.
And if it’s too cold it’s not going to extract properly or completely and your flavor is going to be somewhat mild or muted, and not as flavorful as it should be.
9. Time. Depending on the type of tea that you’re using, some tea leaves are larger than others. Some types of tea may have other things in there like sticks or stems, )also known as kukicha in Japanese) Matcha is powdered tea, so as soon as you add water to it, you would be able to drink it. But you want to aerate it first with the chesan or the whisk the bamboo whisk.
But there are types of tea which have larger pieces of leaves, which have not been chopped.
It’s going to take a little bit longer to brew as compared to something that has chopped leaves because there’s more surface area.
10. Technique. When you drop your tea leaves in the water, you don’t want to use too much and you don’t want to use too little. If you end up using too little maybe you’re going to dilute the flavor. And if you use too much, then you’re going to make it too concentrated. Generally, you don’t want to stir your tea up too much or disturb it
And then also, at the same time, you don’t want to re-brew your tea leaves multiple times. I know some tea packages or brands will say that you can brew your tea many many times. But the truth is you can really only brew it maybe two or three times before there really isn’t that much flavor left.
11. Water that you’re using. I have a reverse osmosis water faucet. If you don’t have one of those, try to use filtered water. And if you don’t have that either then I guess you could use tap water. But the tap water generally has things added to it, which is going to affect the end flavor in your cup.
Try to use at least filtered water reverse osmosis if you can so that your tea isn’t really compromised in flavor from using the stuff or the gunk that is in tap water.
12. Using a quality tea. As the saying goes, you get what you pay for. If you don’t spend on your tea, it’s not going to taste as good. Try spending a little bit more on some middle-range or some high-end tea to see if you like them first of all, and if you can even notice a difference
If you can’t notice the difference, or if you don’t like it, then just stick with whatever it is that you were using before and be on your way. But if you do notice a difference, maybe it’s something that you can enjoy and treat yourself and your friends every now and then.
13. Avoid using bagged tea or pre-measured tea in general. I think most tea bags for example or pre-portioned types of teas, yes, they’re convenient. But in general, I think the quality is going to be a little bit less than something that’s going to be loose-leaf.
And yes, of course, there’s going to be exceptions. But in general, I think that’s that holds true. Also, if you are going to be using tea bags, which is totally fine, try to avoid the ones that are made from plastic
So plastic mesh, you might have seen those. It’s like a non-paper material, but the reason being is because it’s made of plastic and because it’s a mesh, there has to be some sort of a process or machine to cut those little holes into the plastic to make it a mesh and chances are you might be ingesting some of that plastic or those little particles from the mesh when you’re making your tea that might not necessarily be as healthy as you had intended when you were drinking your tea
14. Avoid teas that have things added to it. Like flavor additives or any kind of sugar, sweeteners, artificial things. Tea should just be straight tea leaves, grains like the sobacha or mugicha, or kombu, and nothing else.
And yeah, it’s totally cool if you enjoy those types of things. But we’re talking about traditional Japanese tea here. And those are things that I avoid when I’m choosing to buy traditional Japanese tea.
15. Probably the most important thing to do is to follow your heart. You should do what makes you happy. Just because I like my teas this way doesn’t mean that you or somebody else will. Figure out for yourself what it is that you enjoy and do what makes you happy. Try new things. Find your own way. Find the things that you enjoy the way you like to enjoy them.
And if you don’t know what that is just yet, perhaps you can use this as a guide or starting point to help you on your way to the perfect cup of Japanese tea