Japan is widely known for producing some of the finest green tea in the world. There are many delicious varieties of green tea in Japan, including sencha, kukicha, matcha, and genmaicha. If you're an avid tea drinker and want to explore the world of Japanese green tea, we're here to help!
We have 10 delicious Japanese green tea suggestions for you. One of our favorites is Chaganju's Sencha Green Tea Leaves. It has a light and refreshing flavor and comes from Uji, a town known for green tea. There are many great options on our list, so continue reading to find out more. We also have a buying guide, reviewed by a certified tea sommelier, with many tips to help you choose the right Japanese green tea.
Kate Hesser is a certified tea sommelier, tea taster, blogger, and brand collaborator. She provides event and restaurant menu consulting, and personalized tasting experiences for in-home gatherings and office retreats. She believes every tea is made with pride and has something unique to show us!
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Table of Contents
When choosing a Japanese green tea, there are many factors that you should take into consideration, including the origin and the type.
There are several types of green tea, all with their own method of production and flavor profile. We will explain some of the most common varieties of green tea found in Japan.
Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan and makes a great daily tea. If you're new to Japanese green tea, this is probably the one you should try first! Sencha is steamed to stop oxidation, compared to many Chinese green teas that are typically pan-fired. This preserves the vegetal taste and aroma. It's mellow and has a green to yellow color.
Among sencha, there are varieties like smooth and sweet saemidori made from the first harvest leaves in the spring. If you prefer something that tastes stronger, consider fukamushi sencha. It's steamed two times longer than traditional sencha and has a richer taste. Kikucha is made from the stems and twigs of the sencha. It has a slightly nutty and creamy taste.
Gyokuro is another popular type of sencha. It's shade-grown for about three weeks to enhance the flavor and fragrance. Tea made from the stems and twigs from shade-grown Gyokuru is called Karigane and is prized for its quality.
Matcha is green tea powder made from shade-grown and then stone-ground leaves. Compared to regular green tea, it's higher in caffeine and antioxidants. It has a refreshing, slightly sweet, and bitter flavor. You can drink it on its own or add milk and sweeteners to make a matcha latte.
There are generally two grades of matcha: ceremonial and culinary. The matcha used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies is usually more flavorful than culinary matcha used in cooking or baking.
Matcha delivers more antioxidants to the body for two main reasons: the shade-growing slows down photosynthesis and results in a concentration of amino acids and chlorophyll in the leaves, and because the leaves itself (in powdered form) are ingested, rather than just the steeped essence.
If you like the pure taste of green tea, go for sencha. But if you find sencha too vegetal or astringent, there are many tea blends for you to choose from! For example, genmaicha is sencha mixed with roasted brown rice kernels. It's well-rounded and refreshing with nutty and grassy notes.
Tea culture in Japan is very extensive, and there are tea cultivation regions throughout the country. The flavor profile of tea varies since each region has its own unique climate and landscape.
Shizuoka is currently the largest tea producer in Japan and accounts for 40 percent of tea domestically produced. Most of the tea plantations in Shizuoka grow sencha or fukamushi sencha.
Sencha in Shizuoka is very famous and has a well-balanced flavor without being too bitter. Matcha is not widely produced in Shizuoka, but it has a slightly bitter taste with grassy and umami notes.
Kyoto is the birthplace of Japanese tea culture and is currently the fifth-largest tea-producing area. Varieties like sencha, gyokuro, and matcha were invented there, too.
Kyoto has foggy mornings and rich, acidic soil, all of which are ideal conditions for growing tea. The sencha produced in Kyoto usually has a strong, rich, and slightly sweet flavor with a pleasant fragrance. Matcha from Kyoto is also very delicious and considered one of the best in Japan. It has a bright, creamy, and savory flavor.
Kagoshima has many favorable conditions for growing tea, like fertile volcanic soil and a subtropical climate. Many types of green tea are grown here, but sencha is one of the most popular. Sencha from Kagoshima tastes sweet, flavorful, and slightly fruity. Matcha from Kagoshima is sweet, grassy, and savory with hints of bitterness.
Japanese green teas can be loose leaf, bagged, powdered. No matter what form of green tea you choose, you will still get the health benefits!
Loose leaf tea usually produces a transparent and flavorful brew. Loose leaf tea is usually higher quality than bagged tea, making it the go-to choice for tea connoisseurs. However, with loose leaf tea, you will need brewing equipment.
The flavor of bagged tea is not as rich as loose leaf tea, but it's a convenient option when you don't have brewing equipment on hand. Powdered tea (aside from matcha) also isn't as flavorful as loose leaf. However, it's easy and quick to prepare. Powdered green tea is great for adding to drinks or baking, too!
If you a have tea bag with very small particles, try brewing it at one-minute intervals and at a temperature of about 175 degrees. That will help to bring out more of the nuanced flavors and less of the bitterness.
If you're unsure of whether you're making your green tea correctly or you just don't want to make it yourself, try a bottled version! They taste great chilled, and they may also be available in local Asian supermarkets. The only downsides are that they're not the most eco-friendly (though they are recyclable), and you'll have to pour it out of the bottle and heat it separately if you want it served hot.
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Best Everyday Green Tea With a Refreshing Taste
Ocha & Co.
Best Organic Brown Rice Green Tea
Best Production Using a Sustainable Agricultural Method
Best Ceremonial Grade Matcha
Best Packets for Easy Preparation
Best for Those Who Prefer Strong Green Tea
Best Floral Fragrance and Taste
Best Organic Bottled Tea
Best Saemidori Sencha With a Smooth Flavor
Sencha is an excellent introduction to Japanese green tea. Chaganju's sencha leaves are sourced from Uji, a small city in Kyoto prefecture famous for its green tea production. Grown under sunlight, they are then steamed to stop the oxidation process and to keep the fresh flavor and green color.
According to some buyers, the tea leaves are not whole. Nevertheless, many love its delicate, fragrant, and non-bitter flavor. Many say it's a great option for an everyday green tea.
Genmaicha is a type of Japanese green tea made by blending sencha leaves mixed with roasted brown rice. This organic tea has low astringency, a strong roasted fragrance, and a slightly sweet taste. The addition of matcha makes the tea taste even smoother and gives it a nice green hue.
A couple of reviewers complain that there is more rice than green tea leaves. Still, most buyers are impressed with the refreshing, nutty, and non-bitter taste. They also like that the airtight packaging that preserves the freshness of the tea leaves. Many reviewers also like that the tea is organic.
This kukicha has a light, slightly sweet, and nutty flavor with a distinctively floral fragrance. This tea is produced using the Chagusaba method, a traditional and sustainable agricultural technique that has been selected as a UNESCO Globally Important Agricultural Heritage System.
One buyer dislikes that the stems float on the surface. Even so, the complex flavor of this tea is praised by many buyers. They love that it's flavorful, grassy, and light. A lot of reviewers are satisfied with the floral fragrance, too!
This ceremonial grade matcha is sourced from Uji, which is world-famous for its matcha production. It is made using shade-grown leaves from the first harvest of the year and has a well-balanced, nutty flavor with a slight bitterness. This matcha powder is packed in an airtight container to preserve freshness.
A couple of users find the taste lacking umami. Nevertheless, the majority of reviewers like that it's rich and refreshing with a pleasant fragrance. Some say it's excellent for making lattes or baking. Many reviewers also like that the powder is very fine and leaves no clumps behind.
This green tea powder is a convenient choice if you're busy or on the go. This blend of sencha and match comes in single-serving packets that you can toss in a bag or keep in your desk. Simply mix it with hot or cold water, and your cup of green tea is ready!
A few buyers say that this green tea is too mild. If you prefer strong tea, use more than one packet. Meanwhile, many reviewers love that it's quick to make and dissolves easily in hot or cold water. They also like that the packets are easy to take with them!
Fukamushi sencha is steamed for twice as long as regular sencha. Thanks to the long steaming time, it's less bitter and has a refreshing taste. This tea doesn't need to be steeped for a long time and can be used to make cold brew iced tea.
A few reviewers report that the aroma isn't fragrant. On the other hand, many love this tea for its smooth and rich taste. They like the light green hue, too!
This jasmine green tea is blended with matcha for a light, refreshing flavor and floral fragrance. This loose leaf tea comes in pyramid-shaped tea bags that provide sufficient room for the tea leaves to fully expand.
Although some reviewers say they need two bags to get a flavorful brew, most are pleased with its floral, smooth taste. They also say this tea tastes great hot or cold.
Looking for a premade option? This bottled tea is convenient to take on the go. And since it's USDA-certified organic and unsweetened, it's a healthy alternative to other premade iced teas. It's especially good chilled!
Some reviewers compare this organic version to the other bottled products by Ito En and find that it tastes slightly stronger. Nonetheless, the majority love that it has a fragrant and refreshing taste without any bitterness.
This saemidori sencha is sourced from Kagoshima prefecture. It's handpicked at the first harvest of the spring season and has a smooth, nuanced taste. This product is also certified organic by the USDA.
The taste of this sencha is too mild for some reviewers. However, many find it well-balanced, clean, sweet, and smooth. They add that it has a beautiful green color and is packaged well.
Hojicha, otherwise known as a steamed and roasted version of sencha, is technically a different type of tea and, therefore, not included in our main green tea ranking. But we still think this nutty-flavored beverage deserves a shoutout, so here's our recommended hojicha. Check the link below for more info on hojicha!
Hojicha is still considered a green tea because the "kill green" step in the process happens right away, preventing the tea from oxidizing. It is only after the tea is rolled and dried that it is given the treatment of roasting. Other pros might be that the roasting takes out the caffeine, so it is often given to children or enjoyed in the evening.
Along with reviewing and commenting on our buying guide, Kate also took the time to answer a commonly asked question about Japanese green tea.
Kate explains, "Because Japanese tea is steamed, it allows you to taste the 'younger' or 'greener' flavors of the tea leaf - think steamed broccoli versus roasted. There is no added influence such as smoke, searing, or caramelization, so you will experience the most vegetal qualities of the tea.
Japanese green teas tend to be brighter in flavor with marine and citrus notes. They are energizing and light. They also stimulate the digestion system, so they are best to enjoy on a slightly full stomach rather than an empty one, or you might experience cramping."
The world of tea is very fun to explore, and there are many varieties to learn about. Check out our articles for suggestions and guidance!
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