The Ultimate Guide To Sencha Green Tea

Posted by Path Of Cha on

Ah, Sencha. Japan's most beloved tea. Found in nearly every household, every vending machine, and in every convenience store in Japan. Chances are you've had it too! As sencha is served in most Japanese restaurants and sushi bars. Often free of charge. 

 

Was it always this way? Nope. 

 

A Brief History of Sencha

 

Sencha didn't become popular in Japan until the 18th century. In fact, prior, no one even consumed sencha. Matcha (powdered green tea) was the tea of choice, albeit it was only available to the elite. This all changed when a monk named Baisao stepped on the scene and started selling brewed sencha on Kyoto's streets for a small price. To read more about the fascinating history of sencha and sencha tea ceremony (Senchado), click here

 

Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan. It can be found in every store, vending machine, and most homes. 

 

The 8 Varieties of Sencha Green Tea

 

  1. Jo Sencha — superior sencha
  2. Toku Jo Sencha — extra superior sencha
  3. Hachijuhachiya Sencha — sencha harvested after 88 days after the first day of spring (Risshun)
  4. Kabuse Sencha or Kabusecha — shaded sencha
  5. Asamushi — lightly steamed sencha
  6. Chumushi — middle steamed (30-90 seconds)
  7. Fukamushi or fukamushicha — deeply steamed sencha (1–2 minutes)
  8. Shincha or Ichibancha — first sencha harvest of the year

 

organic sencha green tea

Organic Asamushi Sencha

 

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How To Tell If Sencha Is Good Quality

 

High-quality sencha green tea has a vivid or deep green color. It is not dull. The tea leaves are thin, firm, and twisted, resembling needles. The aroma is a mix of fresh-cut grass and seaweed. The brew is a golden-green color. Lastly, the taste is deep and full of umami — a perfect balance of sweetness and astringency. 

 

The best sencha is harvested between April and May. Summer and fall harvests also exist but are usually lower in quality and price. To learn more click here.

 

How Is Sencha Processed?

 

Unlike matcha and gyokuro, sencha tea leaves grown unshaded, in full sunlight. Sencha tea leaves have a healthy amount of catechins responsible for the refreshing aroma and bitter taste. 


80% of all tea produced in Japan is sencha green tea.

 

Sencha Japanese green tea is first steamed for 15–20 seconds to prevent oxidization. Then, the leaves are rolled, shaped, and dried. This step creates the iconic needle shape of the tea leaves.

 

japanese tea field

 

Fukamushi sencha is steamed twice as long as regular Sencha. Fukamushi means "steamed for a long time." Fukamushi usually has a stronger taste and a deeper dark green color. The taste is not as fresh and grassy as regular sencha, and it's also much sweeter. 

 

What's the Best Way to Keep Sencha Fresh?

 

The best way to store sencha Japanese green tea is in an airtight, odorless container made out of steel. The container should be about the same size as the amount of tea you have, so there isn't too much air left. Unopened Japanese teas are best stored in the refrigerator. Once open, they should be stored in a dark place that's not over 70F. Read more

 

How To Brew Japanese Green Tea?

 

Brewing With Hot Water and a Kyusu:

 

  • Place 1.5 tablespoons (7 grams) of tea leaves into the kyusu
  • Pour water of 175ºF (80ºC) into the kyusu
  • Wait 1 minute for the Sencha to brew 
  • Pour tea from the kyusu into each cup little by little, alternating them, so that both cups end up with the same amount of tea and the same taste
  • For the next brew to taste its best, make sure to pour all the tea from the kyusu 

You may follow this method for three consecutive infusions.

 

Kyusu are made especially for Japanese teas like sencha. Of course, if you don't own a kyusu, feel free to use any other tea infuser you may have. Read more about kyusu here

 

Iced Sencha

 

If making iced sencha, you can enjoy the refreshing and astringent taste that it's well-known for. Brewing sencha with hot water first extracts catechins and caffeine, which aren't extracted by brewing with the koridashi or mizudashi methods. 

 

  • Place 1.5 tablespoons (7 grams) of tea leaves into the kyusu
  • Pour water of 175ºF (80ºC) into the kyusu
  • Wait 2-3 minutes for the Sencha to brew. The tea brew should be strong, as it will get diluted by the ice. 
  • Fill cups with ice
  • Pour tea from the kyusu into each cup little by little, alternating them, so that both cups end up with the same amount of tea and the same taste

 

iced japanese green tea

 

For Mizudashi Sencha (Cold-brewed Sencha):

 

  1. Place 10 grams of sencha green tea in a kyusu (or brewing vessel of choice)
  2. Add 200 ml fresh cool water
  3. Place in the fridge for 15 minutes
  4. Stir the tea leaves and wait for them to settle. This helps the tea leaves release more flavor into the water
  5. Enjoy the cold-brewed sencha tea!
  6. *For the second infusion, brew for 7 minutes.
  7.  For the third infusion, brew for 3 minutes. 

  

For Koridashi (Ice-brewed Sencha):

 

Kori Dashi refers to tea brewed with ice. While this process is slightly longer than Mizudashi, the ice is even better at extracting all those sweet tea notes.

 

  1. Place 1 gram of gyokuro tea leaves for every 30 ml of water (ice) in a brewing vessel
  2. Place the ice somewhere where it can slowly drip down on the tea leaves as it melts
  3. Wait for the ice to melt completely (in hot weather, this will take a few hours)
  4. Enjoy!

 

Read more about making cold-brewed and iced Japanese green teas here.  

 

Note: try not to drink sencha on an empty stomach. Sencha green tea is lovely when enjoyed during or after meals. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may not want to drink it before bed. 

 


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