The Japanese Tea Type Rankings!
A recommendation guide to Japanese Tea Types, by Tealife's customer support manager!
This article was last modified June 22nd, 2022. by Yuki
As the customer support for our Tealife online shop, probably the question I receive most often is this.
“There’s a lot of types of Japanese tea. What would you recommend for me?”
Well, there ARE a lot of types.
And it’s also a great question. I love replying to these, as the answer could be different for each person.
It depends on different factors. Factors such as…
- The reason you want to drink Japanese tea.
- When you want to drink Japanese tea.
- Are you drinking at the office or home?
- Do you like cold tea, or hot tea?
- What types of tea equipment do you have?
- What is your tolerance level to caffeine?
- Do you mind a more difficult preparation?
In this article I’ll do my personal recommendation rankings of Japanese Tea Types based on common questions from my customers. I’ll start off with three, but I hope I can add more as I expand this article in the future.
I hope this article helps you choose the Japanese Tea for you!
Top 3 Tea to replace my morning coffee.
This is a very common question from my customers. Although coffee is a delicious drink, it does come with some drawbacks.
- You might be feeling jitteriness due to the caffeine spikes which you won’t find as much in green tea.
- Perhaps you have a meeting and want to avoid the bad breath that comes with the coffee.
- Maybe you’re just looking for a healthier alternative with more antioxidants.
Either way, Japanese tea is a great place to go.
For those of you who are looking to replace your morning coffee with tea, here are 3 recommendations.
#1 - Matcha
The concentration of caffeine is the highest of Japanese tea, and yet it won’t cause the caffeine spike as you would find in coffee, thanks to the effects of the amino acids.
Not only does it power you with the required caffeine to energize your morning, but it also gives you a perfect zen moment to reset the mind and body before heading into the day.
Preparing Usucha Matcha does require some tools – especially the bamboo whisk. Also, you might need some practice.
However, if you don’t mind some of these efforts, Matcha is what I recommend the most.
#2 - Gyokuro
The pinnacle of Japanese loose-leaf tea, the Gyokuro when prepared right, is a unique tea with immense thickness and flavour.
The thickness comes with an amazing punch of umami, and a good boost of caffeine!
Like the Matcha, it won’t cause the caffeine spike you would find in coffee due to the amino acids contained in the tea leaves. But it will certainly get you awake.
The downside to Gyokuro is that it requires low temperatures and longer infusions for it to be brewed.
If you don’t have the tools to make Matcha, but if you don’t mind the time required, Gyokuro may be a good choice for you.
#3 – Sencha
My number three recommendation for the morning coffee replacement can go several ways, but I recommend the Sencha.
This is perhaps the most accessible of quality Japanese tea. Both from a production volume perspective, and from a price perspective.
Good Matcha and Gyokuro are invariably expensive. Of course, unless you’re going for some of the yucky ones that is! Especially for Matcha, some of the low-quality powder becomes intolerable!
But that defeats the purpose of starting your day in a positive note!
The Sencha has a much wider variety of grades, ranging from good to bad, and you’ll even easily find an acceptable pack of Sencha in your local grocery store.
On top of being accessible, they contain the caffeine content you are looking for. The concentration of caffeine is not to the degree of Matcha or Gyokuro, but will still get the job done.
It really is also a tasty choice. Matcha and Gyokuro choose customers, but Sencha is more suited for a wider acceptance.
The Sencha I’m saying here aren’t of the teabags type. Even if some of those teabags are labelled as Sencha, they’re usually Sencha in a broader definition.
The Sencha I’m talking about here are loose leaf Sencha leaves brewed in a teapot. There is a huge difference in quality, and the quality is important as a morning boost.
Let's go to our next recommendation ranking now.
I’d like to start Japanese tea for health. Which are the top 3 Tea for antioxidants?
Japanese tea is an excellent source of antioxidants. This is, one of the main reasons why it’s so popular as a health drink.
For those of you who are keen to take advantage of these benefits, here are the 3 types of Japanese tea I recommend.
#1 - Matcha
Yes, Matcha ranks number one here again!
Matcha is considered one of the healthiest drinks in the world!
Why? It is loaded with Catechins.
These Catechins are powerful antioxidants, which keep your cells young and strong.
You can find Catechins in all types of Japanese green tea. That’s why all types of Japanese green tea are considered to be healthy.
The thing that stands out with Matcha is - the possible absorption of Catechin is through the roof.
Unlike loose leaf tea, Matcha is powdered tea. The powder dissolves in water, so you essentially absorb grounded green tea leaves directly into your body.
This is much more efficient than extracting the nutrients through loose leaf infusion. (It is said that only 1/3 of the nutrients can be extracted through infusion)
Yes, it is a little tedious to prepare. Yes, not all Matcha are delicious.
But if health is your priority, Matcha’s the one for you.
#2 – Fukamushi-Sencha
You might not be too familiar with the second tea On this list.
It’s the Fukamushi-Sencha, or the ‘deep steamed’ Sencha.
It’s a little different from the normal sencha. Stronger umami, stronger viscosity. Maybe a little less aroma. But it’s also a delicious tea.
The Fukamushi-Sencha is essentially Sencha, but is steamed a little bit longer during the manufacturing process.
It makes the tea leaves brittle.
They tend to crumble.
Compared to other tea types with a shorter steaming period, the Fukamushi-Sencha is easier for the nutrients to be extracted through infusion.
So, it’s the same nutrients as say a normal Sencha, but you can absorb more in your body.
It doesn’t come with the tediousness of preparing a Matcha. So if you’re not really a Matcha person, this is an avenue you can look into.
#3 Sencha (or any green tea you love)
When I’m asked the most recommended tea for health – and I receive this question very often as well - my first answer is always ‘it’s the tea that you like’.
And it’s invariably true. And it’s VERY important.
This is because it must continue.
It must become a prolonged daily habit for it to truly effect and help your health.
The issue which I observe with customers in our shop is that - despite its superior health benefits, Matcha is difficult to continue for some of them.
Some people like Matcha, and some people don’t. But if you don’t like Matcha, it can’t become a sustainable practice.
I choose Sencha as my #3 recommendation for this category, just because it’s very popular. Many people enjoy Sencha. And it can be easily found.
Simply put, it’s very easy to continue.
Sencha also has the strong nutrient profile as well. It has great Catechin content. It has much more concentration than some of the other teas such as Houjicha or Genmaicha.
But more than anything, it’s really easy to continue.
I could have easily selected Gyokuro as the #3 instead. The concentration of the nutrients is higher in Gyokuro than Sencha.
But again, Gyokuro tea is a unique tea and is not for everyone to like.
It could have been Tama-ryokucha as well. Very likable, similar to Sencha.
It’s just that it’s difficult to find outside of Japan.
So with all this in mind, Sencha is a great way to start your Japanese tea journey.
OK, on to our next rankings!
Which Japanese Tea are easy? I don’t want to go through too many tedious steps. Top 3 easy-to-prepare Japanese Tea.
This is a tricky question.
It’s a great question, but a tricky one. Tricky because there are several parameters to ‘easy’.
- For most Japanese tea, the temperature of the water needs to be just right. Usually, you can’t use boiling temperatures. If you do, the tea might become too bitter. You might need to wait for boiling water to cool down.
- The length of the infusion is sometimes crucial. You can’t let it wait too long or too short. Which is difficult to control when you’re busy.
- Some tea demands a very long infusion period. Gyokuro requires 2-3 minutes. This may not exactly be ‘easy’.
- The amount of water is crucial for some Japanese tea. You need to measure or have familiar sized tea ware to get the water amount correct.
- If you’re pouring for multiple people, you need to pour evenly. Which also tends to be quite difficult until you get the hang of it.
- Matcha requires lots of specialized tools such as the bamboo whisk or the Matcha bowl. It’s hard to consider these as ‘easy’ as well.
There are several ways to interpret ‘easy’.
But let’s say that the tea that requires the least amount of skill, attention, tools, and time to prepare an adequately nice tasting tea.
With that, here is my top 3 ‘easy’ tea.
And by the way, I’m not including ‘teabags’ as an option.
Houjicha is one of those teas that really won’t go wrong too often.
As long as the quality of the leaves are decent, a misstep in the preparation won’t disastrously alter the taste of this tea.
Yes, it’s really, really easy to prepare.
Just boil the water. Pour it on the leaves. Wait for 30 seconds.
That’s it. Yes, stress free.
And even if you accidently pour in too much water, or even if you suddenly have a delivery come knocking on the door in which you end up infusing the tea a tad too long, the taste of the tea really won’t go wrong.
This is because Houjicha is a relatively light tasting tea more focused on aroma, rather than the taste.
Since it doesn’t focus on the ‘taste’ as much, it doesn’t get too bitter, too strong or too light.
Again, it’s an easy tea to prepare.
This can be said about green tea that are made by ‘roasting’.
Most Japanese tea are unoxidized through a steaming process, but teas such as ‘Houjicha’ go through a ‘roasting’ process following the initial steaming process.
The roasting process combusts the taste particles and changes them to aromatic particles, really changing the state of the tea.
These tea tend to be easier to prepare. Which leads us to our next recommendation in this category.
#2 2. Iri-bancha (Kyobancha)
You may have not heard about this type of tea, but Iribancha (or the Kyobancha) is an extremely unique tasting tea with a smoky aroma.
As this is also a tea that is focused on aroma rather than the taste, it is also an easy tea to prepare.
Use boiling water.
Add a heap of leaves. Brew. Wait for a while.
Just like the Houjicha, it’s hard to go wrong. You can mix up the water to leaves ratio, you can infuse too long, but you’ll still be okay with this tea.
The third recommendation is Genmaicha.
Genmaicha is Japanese green tea, usually Sencha, mixed in with roasted brown rice kernels. It produces a magnificent aroma and is widely popular.
Now, Genmaicha is not disaster proof. It can go wrong depending on how you prepare it.
It can become too astringent. Or it can become too thick.
So compared with the previous 2 teas, you may seem it’s not as easy. Which is true.
However, the margin for error is relatively large.
This is because the brown rice kernels are the key to this tea. The fantastic aroma of the brown rice kernels can mask some of the mistakes.
Preparation is easy as well.
Usually, you can use boiling water for Genmaicha. However, for quality Genmaicha, it requires a reduced water temperature.
Add leaves. Brew.
So, there you have it! I’ll add in additional types of rankings in the future. Please let me know if there are any requests!
Yuki is the Editor-in-Chief AND Community Manager at Tealife. He bleeds Japanese Tea and loves being a part of the Japanese Tea journey of others. Writes, does events, conducts tasting sessions, drinks, drinks and drinks tea! Easily accessible - hit him up on whatsapp (+65) 85882980.