Green tea is revered for its wide variety of health benefits making it the most popular drink in Japan. As an important part of the Japanese culture, green tea can be found pretty much everywhere to the point that it’s served for free at restaurants much like water. There are countless varieties of green tea from Matcha and Gyokuro to Hojicha. But today we’ll be focusing on Sencha green tea. With its sweet and earthy aromas and grassy flavor profiles, it’s no wonder why sencha is the go-to tea for Japanese.
What is Sencha Green Tea?
Sencha is a green tea made with traditional Japanese steaming methods to lock in the green colour and fresh flavour of the tea leaves. Sencha is the most popular type of green tea in Japan with over 60% of tea production being sencha green tea.
After harvesting, the processing of sencha green tea kicks off with the fresh tea leaves being steamed. This process prevents oxidation and locks in the green colour and flavour of the tea. The leaves are then rolled, shaped, and dried. Finally, the leaves are then sorted and divided into quality groups.
Sencha teas are also produced in China and South Korea. But these teas can greatly differ in terms of flavour profiles compared to their Japanese counterparts. This is due to the differences in tea plants and processing techniques used. Chinese sencha are initially pan-fired while Japanese green tea is first steamed. Sencha teas that are produced outside of Japan often have a toasted, nutty flavour instead of the vegetal and grassy flavour Japanese sencha offers.
Types of Sencha Green Tea
Sencha green tea can be divided into three different categories based on the steaming methods the leaves go under; Asamushi and Fukamushi.
Asamushi is a traditional Japanese tea-making method that lightly steams green tea leaves between 20 to 40 seconds. This particular type of tea leaves creates a tea with a light yellow and green appearance. Asamushi offers a silky infusion rich with umami flavors.
Fukamushi is another traditional Japanese tea-making method, but this time it involves a longer steaming time of 80-200 seconds. The longer steaming process causes the tea leaves to break into small pieces. This process results in green tea with a slightly weaker aroma. But the smaller leaves allow for a shorter brewing period. Sencha tea leaves that have gone under this longer steaming method offer a sweet and full-bodied flavor profile.
Chumushi is another popular green tea-making method that stands in between Asamushi and Fukamushi. In this process, the leaves are steamed for 40 to 80 seconds.
What Does Sencha Green Tea Taste Like?
In Japan, all aspects of tea are appreciated. Sencha Green tea can take on a variety of different flavour profiles depending on the leaf type and its exposure to the sun.
Generally, sencha has a fresh and herbal flavor with notes of grass, kiwi, and spinach depending on how longs it is steeped. When taking your first sip, sencha tea may have a more astringent taste which develops from slightly bitter to sweet to savory. It’s a journey within a cup.
5 Health Benefits of Sencha Green Tea
Green tea is famous the world over for its almost endless list of health benefits. The benefits of green tea come from antioxidants which fight free radicals and can decrease stress. Studies suggest that sencha green tea actually has more antioxidants than more expensive green teas such as gyokuro and matcha.
Check out these 5 proven health benefits of sencha green tea:
Aids Weight Loss
Keen to lose some weight this year? Drinking sencha tea can actually help you lose weight. The catechins and caffeine in sencha green tea have been proving by a number of studies that they can help boost your metabolism and increase fat burning in your body. Studies show that drinking more than 2 cups of green tea can help you burn an additional 100 calories per day. Keep trim by drinking sencha tea followed by a healthy and active lifestyle.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Green tea is known for lowering blood pressure, but did you know that sencha green tea can greatly reduce cholesterol levels? This is because the catechins found in this green tea affect lipid metabolism by decreasing the absorption of fat and thus lowering cholesterol levels.
Boosts Immune System
High levels of vitamin C, as well as a variety of antioxidants found in sencha, make it the perfect immune system supporter. Sencha is believed to stimulate the production of white blood cells which help fight off infections while also speeding up the healing process if you are suffering from a common cold or flu.
Improves Brain Function
Green tea has been proven to increase blood flow which in turn may also help with brain function. A study showed that individuals who regularly drink green tea such as sencha had greater activity in the memory portion of their brain. Although it is yet to be proven, it is believed that green tea may also help ward off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Green tea is revered amongst beauty gurus for its incredible beauty & skin benefits. With an enormous amount of antioxidants found in green tea leaves, sencha may be the answer to your skin problems. If you are struggling with dry and dull skin, you can include a cup of hot sencha in your daily routine. The antioxidants will help keep your skin looking radiant and youthful. Sencha is also said to aid in reducing the appearance of wrinkles and delaying ageing by hydrating the skin. Bottoms up!
How Do You Brew Sencha Green Tea?
Green tea lovers will know that how you brew your tea leaves can either result in a delicate and smooth cup or a very bitter tea.
Green tea that is brewed at temperatures that are too high or if are steeped for too long can develop a bitter flavor. But not to worry! You can make the perfect cup of sencha green tea by simply following these steps:
What you’ll Need
The Japanese pride themselves in the details and when it comes to brewing sencha it’s all down to having the right equipment. You will need a kyusu which is a Japanese teapot that’s about 250 ml. You will also need small teacups.
Good Quality Water
The quality of water you use is key for making the perfect cup of sencha tea. It is very easy to ruin the delicate flour and beautiful grassy color of sencha by using the wrong type of water. Springwater is the best option for brewing this green tea. Always boil fresh water.
Steps to Make
- Boil the water
The initial temperature of boiled water should be around 90 to 100 degrees Celcius.
- Cooldown the temperature of the hot water
In order to bring out the best flavor profile of sencha, it’s important to let the boiled water cool off. Pour the hot water into the teapot and wait for about 45 seconds. Pouring water first into the kyusu will allow the temperature to lower down to about 80 to 90 degrees celsius. You can also pour hot water into the teacups to warm them up.
This step should not be skipped as pouring hot water directly on the tea leaves will cause your tea to have a bitter taste.
Note: You can use slightly cooler water for lightly steamed teas and raise the temperature of the water for deep-steamed sencha.
- Lower the temperature of the boiled water even further
Pour the water from the kyusu into three teacups. This will allow the water to further reduce the temperature by another 10 degrees. The water will then be about 70 to 80 degrees which is the perfect temperature to steep sencha!
- Place the tea leaves in the teapot
Next, place around 2 tablespoons of tea leaves in the teapot. Pour the water from the teacups over the tea leaves. Pour a little into each cup alternately so that the richer tea at the bottom of the pot is distributed evenly between all cups.
- Wait for about 1 to 2 minutes
The first infusion should take about 1 to 2 minutes depending on the size of the tea leaves. The larger they are, the longer they will take to unfurl and release their flavor. Pour into the teacups and enjoy!
Sencha can make up to 3 infusions. Temperature and steeping time is key to creating a wonderful cup of green tea. To make the second infusion, steep the tea for only a couple of seconds with slightly hotter water. The third infusion takes longer and can be steeped for up to 50 seconds.
Enjoy A Cup of Sencha Green Tea
Japan is an incredible country with a unique culture surrounding tea. It is without a doubt that the Japanese have taken green tea to a whole level. There are many different types of green tea and even more varieties of sencha to discover and enjoy. Drink sencha and enjoy the rich flavour and culture of Japan.
About the Author
Amy is a travel writer and photographer with a passion for tea! Amy has traveled to many different tea regions of the world from Darjeeling, India, Japan, Taiwan, northern Thailand, and Vietnam to experience first-hand and learn about different tea cultures. She now lives in Kyoto where the Japanese tea ceremony was born and remains its spiritual heart.