Sencha Japanese Green Tea: Everyday Essentials
Found in almost every Japanese household and enjoyed around the world, sencha is a mild and delicious green tea. It is the most common type of green tea. That postcard image of rolling hills and tea crops? They are lush growing fields that offer good sunlight and make the perfect location for growing sencha.
While many people aren’t even aware of it, the tea they are drinking every day most likely comes from one of the main tea production areas, Kagoshima in Kyushu or Shizuoka on the main island of Honshu in Japan. These two areas alone produce around 58,000 tonnes of tea. The new tea buds are picked, steamed, kneaded, and cooled during their processing to stop the fermentation, resulting in a fragrant and refreshing drink when brewed.
Ippodo Tea House
I attended a mini seminar about tea at Ippodo in Tokyo. It was a one and a half hour session and the teacher covered the basics of explaining tea, from the plant and processing, to how to brew it at home and enjoy in the proper tea cups. The session itself was held in Japanese, but for anyone lucky enough to be living or visiting Kyoto they also offer the sessions in English. Below I will list the amount of tea and water that was used, the temperature and brewing time and hints to get the most out of your tea..
How to Brew Sencha
We sampled two types of sencha, each brewed four times. When processed, the leaves are rolled into thin, needle-like leaves. Brewing in hot water makes the leaves unravel, releasing the flavours. As such, it is important to brew the correct amount of leaves, at the right temperature, for an appropriate amount of time. The longer you leave the steep, the more bitter flavours will come out as the tea leaves unravel. Starting with relatively cooler water will allow you to brew with the same leaves again and again.
What you need: Kyusu teapot, tea strainer (for pouring) and tea cups, and sencha.
Measuring out the tea
When first starting, it can be hard to gauge the amount of tea you need to put into the teapot. We used two scoops for 8-10g of sencha, but it really depends on the particular tea. The best way is to use a tiny set of scales and weigh it out. After you have done it once or twice you will come to know what the right amount looks like.
Put the tea leaves into the kyusu teapot. It looks quite small but is the correct size for this type of tea. If you need to check what type of teapot and cups are right for the tea, check this tea set and tea cup guide.
200cc of water boiled and cooled to 70 degrees. First pour the boiled water straight into the tea cups, and then pour the water between the cups to cool it. 70 degrees is when you can hold the cup comfortably in your hand.
Put 8g of tea into the teapot. Pour in the water and steep for 40 seconds to 1 minute depending on how strong you like your tea.
Pour the tea evenly between the serving cups until the very last drop.
The second steep was done with 200cc of water with a single ice cube. Served in glass tea cups you can see the clear and light colour. It was a cool and thirst-quenching drop.
Made with 200cc of water cooled to 70 degrees, and steeped quite quickly, in just 25-30 seconds. By this stage the leaves have unrolled inside the teapot, so you do not want to leave it for too long, to avoid an overly-astringent infusion.
Finally, fourth brew:
With 250cc of boiling water directly into the teapot, add a single ice cube and leave to steep for 1-2 minutes. The leaves have unravelled and most of the strong flavour has already been extracted in the previous three brews. Your tea leaves are going a very long way!
Which Sencha is Best?
We tried two different types of tea. They retail at around JPY1300 and JPY2400 per 100g respectively, and after sampling both, it is hard to judge them simply by price. The flavours are slightly different, as they are even according to brewing method. You really need to sample different teas and discover what you prefer. On top of that, remember it is fine to mix and match tea types. There are no rules that say you cannot blend different types of tea, so get mixing and see what you come up with. Brew hot or chilled, drink hot or chilled. There are countless ways to enjoy tea.
Other Benefits of Green Tea
While it might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you are buying tea, drinking tea when sick can be extra good for you due to its antibacterial properties. No need to gargle, just enjoy your tea. In summer, while green tea contains caffeine, it is suitable to drink to help stay hydrated.
Sencha is easy to find, easy to brew and very easy to enjoy. Get yourself some sencha and dip into the green tea world if you haven’t got a taste of it yet! It’s a healthy drink to enjoy every day, to serve to visitors, drink after a meal, or delight in at any time of day.
Disclosure: I attended the free seminar out of curiosity and to learn about tea, and am not affiliated, associated, authorised, endorsed by