WHAT CHA MEAN? LEARN ABOUT DIFFERENT JAPANESE TEAS.
Genmaicha, hojicha, matcha, sencha? the list of Japanese teas is a long one, and that?s unsurprising. The Japanese are known for their varying degrees of subtlety, not just in the preparation of their food and drinks but in almost everything they do! It?s no wonder that they?ve got at least 30 types of tea leaves (though we won?t be exploring all of them in here).
If you?re like the average Singaporean and only got to know about hojicha through Starbucks, that being the second Japanese ?cha? you have ever heard of in your life besides matcha – then you?re not alone. It can be very tricky to differentiate the different Japanese ?chas?. Some of us already have problems differentiating English teas! You may also be wondering how different they are from their United Kingdom tea-sipping counterparts? Right on (We?ll be investigating this too).
JAPANESE TEA VS ENGLISH TEAS, ARE THEY ALL THAT DIFFERENT?
Yes! For starters, the English don?t grow their own teas locally – they use Indian, Kenyan, Chinese, and several other tea leaves in their tea plantations. They used to fully import all their teas from India and other countries: Ceylon, Darjeeling, Black teas, etc, but now with their own tea plantations (containing the ?borrowed? tea), they then blend the harvested leaves with other ingredients or plants and give these newly ?minted? tea-concoctions new names! If English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Prince of Wales teas sound familiar to you – then you should know that they have their roots in India, and then enhanced/mixed with interesting alchemic additions (like liquor for the Prince of Wales tea)!
WHAT ABOUT JAPANESE TEA?
Japan?s very first tea seeds originated from China during the Heian period (794?1185). The Japanese diverged from the Chinese in the way they grew and treated the seeds and plants, especially seeing that the different parts of Japan affected the growth of the tea plants. For example, the Shizuoka Prefecture produces about 40% of the sencha tea – makes a lot of sense since that location has the best conditions to host the growth of the sencha tea leaves. It is warmer in climate compared to most places in mainland Japan. This brings us to our next important difference between the two types of teas: English tea is almost always black, and Japanese teas are made mostly with green tea leaves. In fact, they used to experiment with black teas in the 19th and 20th century but in recent years, almost all of Japan?s commercial tea exports focus on green tea, and you?ll learn that ?green tea? isn?t just ?matcha? but consists of other variations too (again, we?re not surprised)! Sencha is by far the most popular Japanese tea for Japanese folk, but matcha is an internationally renowned favourite.
WHAT ARE BLACK AND GREEN TEAS?
Both green and black teas come from the same Camellia Sinensis tea bush, and whether they end up being green or black is how they were processed. Green tea leaves are steamed and dried, while black tea leaves are dried and crushed. Lots of recent studies show that both green and black teas are both great, and healthy alternatives to sugary or other highly caffeinated drinks, like coffee. Though there is still much to learn about the correlation of the tea to ?treat? specific conditions, research has been proving quite fruitful, and we are yielding a lot more than we had in the past 10-20 years.
THE LIST OF DIFFERENT JAPANESE CHAS
More Well Known Teas
This wins hands down the most popular tea in Japan. It?s known for its loose leaves. How does it differ from matcha, you may ask. Sencha is made by growing the tea plants under the scorching sun, and this ?tans? them, giving them a darker shade of green and a stronger flavour. To prepare sencha, one has to steep the tea leaves in hot water – this is different from matcha in that it doesn?t need grounding its leaves to become fine powder. Sencha, unsweetened and iced, is one of the most popular drinks in Japan.
Ah, the international favourite! Unlike sencha, it is grown under the shade and not exposed to direct sunlight 24/7. Matcha leaves end up being bigger and having a brighter green colour because they?re not as ?tanned? as their sencha counterparts. To prepare a cup of matcha, one grounds the leaves to a fine powder and then mixes it into hot water. Many of Kakuida?s kurozu drinks contain all-time favourite matcha! Why not try our Passionfruit Matcha Ice Blended?
People mistakenly thinks this is somewhat made from nuts because of its warm, nutty flavour. To make hojicha, one has to roast the stems and leaves of the tea plants. Hojicha goes back all the way to the 1920s! You don?t have to worry about caffeine levels when drinking hojicha because roasting the leaves with the stems decaffeinates it, and you?re free to drink it anytime of the day!
This is another somewhat quite well-known tea, with a growing international presence that is akin to its brother, the hojicha. For an appetising cup of genmaicha, one combines both roasted rice (brown rice, in particular) together with matcha. Interestingly, this homely and delicious genmaicha used to be drunk mainly by the poor Japanese because the roasted rice, sometimes served with rice bits, made them feel fuller. Kakuida?s love the wheat-like taste of the genmaicha, and we?ve included genmaicha toppings for our kurozu soft serves!
Lesser Known Teas
This is a Japanese?s go-to drink in the summer. It?s light and caffeine-free, with no bitter taste at all! It?s made by roasting barley (and surprisingly not tea plant leaves!) and then whisking it with hot water. Like the mugicha?s more well-known tea counterparts, it can generally be served iced or hot, but preferably the former on a hot summer?s day!
This unique-sounding tea is prepared by roasting the gobo root (which is burdock), a type of vegetable that?s a staple in Japanese food. Many people believe that the burdock plant contains anti-ageing properties, and that?s partly the reason how it got so popular in Japan. If you?re wondering how gobocha tastes like, imagine a wilder, more mushroomy taste that is so unlike the rest of the teas due to its more savoury flavour that can sometimes resemble broth!
Yup, you?ve guessed it! It?s the same grain used in Japanese soba noodles! Soba noodles are made with buckwheat flour – it?s really healthy, earthy-tasting, caffeine-free, and packs a good punch ?ol dietary fibre! A cup of sobacha contains roasted buckwheat groats infused with hot water, which is rich in antioxidants and has a very soothing, homely smell and taste.
This one?s an interesting one. Kombucha is a sweetened tea that has been fermented for a period between one to three weeks. It?s got a rich, tangy and slightly salty flavour. Even though the word ?kombu? means ?kelp?, there?s no seaweed in this tea! To spice things up with kombucha, you can also add sour plums in, and this further enhances the taste.
There you go, a simple breakdown of the eight most common teas in Japan (at least to the international crowd). We?re sure the other 22 teas are just as fascinating, and perhaps we might expand on them another time, but mentioning these highlighted teas in conversations will surely earn you some impressed stares from friends and family! 😉
Kakuida?s use some of these teas in our wares: Matcha baked donuts, matcha ice-blended with kurozu, kurozu soft serve topped with genmaicha powder, and lots more. If you?re curious to know more, simply ask away via email or approach us at our shop located at Icon Village, #01-23. We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Cheers!