The most popular tea consumed in Japan are sencha, genmaicha, gyokuro, hojicha, and matcha. In the previous part, we went over them and some other delicious and better-known teas. However, there are many other tasty and original Japanese teas that deserve more attention. Let's go over some of them.
- Gobocha — gobo tea is a caffeine-free tea made from dried burdock root. It has a mellow flavor, somewhat similar to mushroom broth. It’s especially popular in Japan with older generations for its numerous health benefits and relaxing qualities.
- Kombucha — caffeine-free tea made from kombu (a type of seaweed). This tea is lightly salty and considered very healthy. Not to be confused with the fermented tea that is loved in the west, which is in fact rarely seen in Japan.
- Sobacha — a caffeine-free tea made from buckwheat. Considered healthy and loved for its calming qualities and mellow toasty flavor.
- Mugicha — a very popular caffeine free tea made from barley. In the hot summer months, a cold brew of this tea can be found in almost every Japanese household. The tea is healthy and refreshing, with a slight taste similar to coffee.
- Jasmine tea — green tea scented with jasmine flowers. A very popular tea that was adopted from Chinese culture. In Japan, jasmine tea is usually drunk iced.
- Oolongcha — Oolong tea, another tea which has been adapted from Chinese culture and is usually drunk iced in Japan. There, it is famous for its health benefits and ability to ease the stomach after indulging in oily foods. Nowadays there are a few oolong tea producers in Japan, although it is rare and farmers tend to stick to Japanese tea varieties.
- Tencha — tencha is the high-quality tea leaf that matcha is later on made from. Although tencha is rarely drunk as is, the taste is quite similar to Gyokuro, although the processing differs.
- Funmatsucha — funmatsucha has recently gained a lot of popularity in Japan because of how easy it is to brew. It settles somewhere between matcha and konacha (mentioned in part 1). Although funmatsucha is a powdered tea, it is made from the same tea leaves that sencha or hojicha is made from and not tencha, thus does not nearly reach the quality of matcha.
Sakura Sencha — sencha with cherry blossom petals is quite popular in Japan, although far from being an “everyday tea”. Sakura Sencha captures the impermanence of the beautiful hanami (sakura viewing) which only lasts but a week. In the form of tea, it can be enjoyed year-round with a reminiscence of the beautiful view.
Preserved sakura petals are also sometimes brewed to make tea. The taste is pleasant although slightly salty.
- Koucha — western-style black tea, usually made from tea leaves grown in India or Sri Lanka. This tea is very popular in Japan nowadays and is commonly drunk with sugar, milk, or lemon. More tea farmers are starting to grow black tea within Japan. Although it is not as popular, it is of high quality and holds its own niche.
Today Japanese tea culture is rapidly changing. Although the tea industry is still booming, many people prefer convenience and speed versus a quality experience. Tea is mostly drunk in iced form, prepackaged in bottles. Many people have made the switch to coffee and now Japan is the 4th largest coffee importer in the world.
With all the delicious tea varieties Japan has to offer, and with the traditional techniques only known to tea farmers within Japan, it is our job to keep tea production stable so we can keep enjoying this wonderful product with its many benefits.
To read part 1 of The Different Types of Tea Found in Japan click here.
Can you think of any teas found in Japan that we are missing?
What is your favorite Japanese tea?
Share with us in the comments below!