Whether you’ve taken a walk through Tokyo or have a favorite Japanese restaurant that you frequent, you will certainly have encountered all manners of Japanese green tea – their national drink.
One of the most popular types (and one of our favorites) is known as “Sencha Green Tea”, which has become a staple of Japanese tea cups since its discovery in the 16th century.
As big fans of Japanese teas, we thought it would be fun to take a deeper dive into Japanese sencha green tea to discover more about its production, flavor profile, different types, and of course, our recommendations for the best ones to buy.
So, put on your kimono and let’s dive in.
What Is Sencha Green Tea?
We already know that Japan is a huge consumer and producer of green tea, with varieties such as genmaicha, sencha and matcha.
Did you know that 80% of all the green tea produced in Japan is actually Sencha tea?
Made from the leaves of the camellia Sinensis tea plant, sencha is the most popular tea in Japan, and is often part of tea ceremonies and drunk before and after meals.
Flavor Profile and Aroma
Japanese sencha tea has a refreshing, energetic and uplifting aesthetic.
Although your preparation method will ultimately inform the overall taste, at its basic form, sencha can be described as having an earthy, grassy and slightly bitter taste.
In terms of color, the tea liquid can range from light green to dark green, depending on whether you’re brewing from a powder or loose leaves.
Cultivation and Harvesting
The plant that this tea comes from is normally cultivated in the Kagoshima, Fukamushi and Shizuoka provinces of Japan.
Once they are harvested, the sencha tea leaves are withered and dried in a natural process, which is different from Chinese green tea.
The typical method for Chinese teas pan-fires them to prevent oxidation, while Japanese green tea is steamed instead – resulting in that earthy and ‘grassy’ flavor.
Once the leaves have been steamed, the final part of the process is to roll them into their characteristic needle shapes before packaging them up into loose leaf products or tea bags.
The Different Types of Japanese Sencha Tea
As you might imagine, the rabbit of hole Japanese green tea and sencha goes deep, with many different varieties coming from different tea production methods and harvesting times.
For instance, the first harvest of the season is carried out for shincha teas, whereas bancha sencha is harvested in summer and the early fall.
Here’s a quick rundown of the most prolific types of sencha tea.
Sincha – Also known as New Tea or Ichiban-cha, sincha is typically harvested in the spring, and is often the first tea to be harvested for that year. In terms of taste, it has a more delicate and subtle flavor profile that can be described as sweeter than other types of sencha green tea.
Uji Sencha – Grown in the Uji region of Japan, Uji is considered as one of the more premium varieties of sencha, alongside other teas from the area, including gyokuro and matcha.
Asamushi Sencha – The unique thing about Asamushi is that it is deep steamed quicker than other Japanese teas – sometimes for only 30 seconds. And, as it is one of the least ‘altered’ teas, the flavor is more delicate and the drink is lighter in color.
Kukicha – Also known as ‘twig tea’, kukicha is not made from the leaves of the tea plant, but the stems and twigs instead. This results in a more nutty flavor, and it can come in a ‘green tea’ form, or after more oxidation, something closer to oolong or black tea.
Gyokuro – What makes gyokuro different is that it is grown in the shade, whereas other varieties are left out in the sun. This results in a more mellow taste and a lighter color of the liquid.
Fukamushi Sencha – As one of the varieties that is steamed for the longest time (from 90-120 seconds), Fukamushi sencha leaves end up more brittle, resulting in a richer and darker color when infused with water. It’s flavor is more full-bodied and deep.
Powdered sencha – Not too far from matcha green tea, powdered sencha can be mixed with water or sprinkled over food items for green tea goodness and flavor. The only difference it has with matcha is that it is not grown in the shade, meaning that the taste ends up being more earthy and vegetal.
The Health Benefits of Sencha Green Tea
The health benefits of Japanese green tea are well-known, and sencha is no exception! Here are a few ways in which it can help with your overall well being.
Please note that the tea is not intended as a cure for anything, so please seek professional medical help if you have any chronic conditions.
Increased Metabolism and Weight Management
We’ve all seen those ‘weight loss teas’ in the shops, but if you look a little closer, you’ll see that they are pretty much green tea blends.
Green tea and sencha are well-known to help with weight loss due to the compounds contained within, such as l-theanine which helps increase energy levels.
These compounds are also known to assist the small intestine remove fat from nutrition easier and have been known to prevent overeating by suppressing appetite and hunger.
Finally, when your body digests green tea, your metabolic rate increases.
This is thanks to compounds known as catechins, which are said to help burn fat and increase your overall bodily function.
There has been evidence that green tea consumption helps to slow down visual impairment and diseases, such as glaucoma.
Once again, we have the abundance of catechins to thank for that, as well as a plethora of antioxidants and amino acids.
Green tea also has a bunch of vitamins, including vitamins E, C and lutein, and together with the antioxidants and catechins, have been known to ward off free radicals.
Finally, because green tea helps maintain your immune system as a whole, your body has a better chance of fighting off infections and bacteria that can affect your eyes.
Better Heart Health
Heart disease and related conditions are one of the leading causes of death in the world.
While a healthy lifestyle and plenty of exercise is always best, having sencha green tea regularly can also help with your overall well-being.
Having green tea has been shown to help with blood pressure and circulatory health, and while won’t stop serious heart conditions can certainly help.
With the sheer amount of catechins, vitamins and antioxidants, your overall health will be better, and your immune system will be stronger.
However, if you do have a serious heart condition, please continue your normal course of medicine and consider drinking sencha green tea as a bonus!
The Best Sencha Tea Options to Buy
There are a lot of brands that produce sencha green tea, and while we won’t list them all, we do want to point you in the right direction.
Here are four of our favorite types which you can buy online:
If you know anything about tea, you’ll already know Harney & Sons. The quality of their product is a sure thing, and this standard is no different with their sencha tea offering.
Coming in handy tea bags for those who prefer less fuss, their sencha green tea is one of the more mild and aromatic varieties, making it the perfect entry point for anyone curious to try sencha for the first time.
Any tea purist will be the first to tell you that loose is the only way to go. If you want to go all-in with your sencha, this product is sourced directly from Japanese tea farmers and picked for its superior quality.
Organic, natural and put through a vigorous selection process, this is a fantastic option for anyone looking to take their tea ceremony to the next level.
We’re big fans of Buddha-brand teas. They always know how to put together the perfect blends, and with their Japanese sencha green tea, they’ve done just that.
With a moderate amount of caffeine from carefully selected plants, this is an invigorating blend that wakes you up and keeps you going.
Packed with natural goodness and with plenty of good customer reviews, you can’t really go wrong with this.
Blends are a great way to enjoy a particular tea, but with different variations to take flavor to the next level.
This energizing blend of matcha and Japanese sencha has a deep sweetness and smooth, umami richness that you’ll love.
With attractive packaging and high quality ingredients, we wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this Rishi blend to anyone who is a fan of green tea and its benefits.
The Best Way to Brew Sencha Tea
Brewing and drinking sencha tea and Japanese teas in general has a lot of ceremony behind it.
Not only will it affect the overall flavor, benefits and enjoyment factor of the end product, going through the proper steps can bring about a feeling of calmness for you, and respect for any guests that you’re serving. Here’s what you need to do:
Have the Right Teaware
For the full sencha tea experience, you’re likely going to be using loose leaf tea leaves. This is because the needle-like shape of sencha tea needs space to unfurl and release the goodness.
To get the aesthetic and brew just right, we recommend using a Kyusu.
A Kyusu is a traditional Japanese teapot (which is the same word, translated) which can come in several different forms: one with a handle on the back, one with a handle on the side and one without any handles at all.
You can use any teapot you like really, but if you’re going for the full experience, there’s nothing quite like brewing Japanese tea the authentic way.
We recommend this clay Japanese Kyusu, which is affordable and of high quality.
Prep the Tea Leaves
Any tea purist will tell you that loose tea is the best way to experience the full benefits of sencha – both in terms of flavor and in health benefits.
Of course, if you do prefer bags for the convenience, they are still great, but they might not have the full range of goodness.
Another thing to note is that you should always use organic green tea leaves to avoid any potential contamination from pesticides and other chemicals used in the processing.
If you’re using powder or loose leaves for your cup of tea, we recommend using around one teaspoon for every eight ounces of hot water.
Please note that if you’re brewing up a gyokuro drink, you should use twice the amount of leaves, as this is a more delicate blend.
Heat Up Your Teaware
You’re not done yet! To properly brew sencha for all the benefits, you’re going to need to heat up your teaware before starting the actual brewing.
After boiling up your water, pour it into your teacup, back into your kettle, and repeat the process again a few times.
You can consider this as part of the ‘ritual’ of brewing sencha tea, but it will also ensure that your drink won’t go cold too quickly.
Time to Brew
Unlike other teas, sencha is best brewed under lower water temperatures. If you use boiling water, you risk burning the delicate leaves and producing an overly bitter flavor.
We recommend that you use water that is between 150 and 170 F for the best result. Another thing to bear in mind is that if you steep for too long, the flavor may end up bitter again.
If you’re lucky enough to have Gyokuro and other higher-quality variants, you should lower the temperature even further to around 120 F, and steep for around 90 seconds.
Sencha Green Tea FAQ
Can I Drink It Every Day?
It is completely safe to drink green tea every day – in fact, we recommend it! However, that doesn’t mean you should have too much.
By drinking more than 2-3 cups a day (or more), you run the risk of having some minor stomach problems, diarrhea, insomnia (from the caffeine) and a faster heart rate.
By all means enjoy in moderation, but don’t go overboard.
Should I Use Loose Leaf Or Tea Bags?
This is one of those things that are purely down to personal preference.
In general, loose leaves are known to have a better taste and slightly higher levels of healthy compounds; but preparing them can take more time and equipment.
Some people prefer tea bags as they are much easier to prepare, and are happy to trade that ‘whole leaf’ taste for the sake of convenience. Try both and see what you like best!
Is It Ok To Drink It Before Bed?
Although there is substantially less caffeine in sencha tea than there is in black tea or even coffee, we would generally recommend going for a herbal tea before bed, instead of a green one.
Caffeine is still caffeine and may have a small effect on your ability to get to sleep.
If you do really want a cup of sencha before bed, just brew the leaves of the tea bag for less time for a weaker brew.
Does Sencha Have a Lot Of Caffeine?
Sencha tea, like other green teas, contains a small amount of caffeine. Depending on the variety and brewing methods, sencha can contain between 12 and 75 mg of caffeine. This is compared to 80 to 200 milligrams of caffeine in a normal cup of coffee.
Can I Add Milk to Sencha Tea?
Technically, yes, although it wouldn’t really work all that well with the fragrant and earthy flavor profile.
If you find the sencha tea a little too strong in taste, we recommend putting in a little bit of honey to round the taste off in a natural and delicious way.
You’re Ready for Your Sencha Tea Ceremony
The great thing about the world of green teas is that there are so many varieties and blends to try.
We must say that sencha is definitely one of our favorites as it has a great balance of bitterness and aroma, making it a great place to start for any beginner in green tea.
And, when you get yourself a proper japanese teapot and learn more about the traditional way of preparing and serving the tea, you can immerse yourself in the relaxation and the health benefits that follow.
Remember that your brewing method will make or break your cup of tea, so make sure to stay true to the instructions above.
If you have any tips or tricks for preparing sencha tea, do let us know!
Last update on 2021-10-24 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API