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The 4 Keys to a Delicious Second Infusion of Japanese Green Tea

Learn about the differences between the infusions and best practices on how to conduct second infusions of Japanese Tea.

This article was last modified Nov 4th, 2021. by Yuki

pouring japanese tea

Are second infusions ok for Japanese tea? Is it the same as Chinese tea? How is the second infusion different from the first? How should I prepare?

I'm sure there are tons of questions - let's get them all answered here.


Japanese teapot kyusu and a tea cup

Can I do multiple infusions of Japanese tea? (Similar to Chinese tea?)

If I were having my favorite Sencha, or my daily Genmaicha, or any Japanese green tea for that matter, would it be proper to re-use the tea leaves to make a 2nd cup of tea?

The quick answer: It absolutely is!!

As a matter of fact, it’s another great way to enjoy Japanese green tea.

But don't go for your 5th or 6th infusion the way you would do for say a Chinese tea. For Japanese tea, it doesn't work that way. The maximum for Japanese tea I would say is 2 or at most, 3 infusions.

What's the difference?

Chinese tea is a tea which you enjoy the aroma. Japanese tea is different because you enjoy the taste more than the aroma. The umami and astringency components are what you are drinking.

The aroma tends to last longer, infusion after infusion. That's why you can have multiple infusions for Chinese tea. You can continue to drink the tea with the aroma.

On the other hand, the taste of tea tends to disappear quickly. When Japanese tea is made in a normal manner, the first infusion will extract all the umami.

Then the second infusion will extract all the astringency.

There won't be much to "taste" after that.


kukicha and a cup of japanese tea

How do the Nutrients Change for the 2nd Infusion?

There seems to have been a very interesting experiment conducted by the Food and Agricultural Materials Inspection Center (FAMIC) in Japan.

In their news magazine in July of 1999, they shared the results of an experiment conducted on the differences of the nutrients in Sencha tea depending on the number of infusions. Kudos to Cha Ichi for keeping the data in their website.


They took a medium grade Sencha, and conducted 3 infusions using water temperatures of 90 and 95 degrees to look at the extracted nutrient levels.

Take a look at the tables below.

Extraction of Nutrients per 1g of Sencha. (90 degrees, 60 sec infusion. 5g of leaves)

Nutrient (mg) 1st Infusion 2nd Infusion 3rd Infusion Total Extraction

Glutamic Acid

1.7

1.0

0.4

3.1

Theanine

6.6

5.0

2.1

13.7

Caffeine

10.6

8.5

4.2

23.3

Catechin

42.7

37.7

20.1

100.5

Vitamin C

1.4

1.3

0.3

3.0


Extraction of Nutrients per 1g of Sencha. (95 degrees, 60 sec infusion. 5g of leaves)

Nutrient (mg) 1st Infusion 2nd Infusion 3rd Infusion Total Extraction

Glutamic Acid

1.8

0.9

0.3

3.0

Theanine

6.6

4.1

1.5

12.2

Caffeine

8.9

10.9

4.9

24.7

Catechin

38.7

40.3

23.4

102.4

Vitamin C

2.3

0.8

0.0

3.1


Glutamic Acid and Theanine are "umami" substances. They give the sweet rich umami taste to the tea.

The Theanine and Caffeine are astringency and bitterness substances.

For both temperatures, you'll notice a substantial drop in the umami substances Glutamic Acid and Theanine after each infusion. It's especially noticeable on the third infusion. The third infusion carries very minimal umami nutrients.

A similar trend can be observed for Vitamin C as well.

On the other hand, the nutrients responsible for astringency and bitterness show a very different result. They continue to extract in high levels even during the second or third infusions.

Interestingly, the 2nd infusion for the 95 degrees experiment showed a higher level of catechin and caffeine than the 1st infusion.

This shows that the 2nd infusion of Japanese tea will substantially reduce in umami, and is to enjoy the astringency of the tea. The 3rd infusion of Japanese tea will be very prominent in the astringency and bitterness components.

 


pouring japanese tea

4 Keys to a delicious second cup of Japanese Green Tea

1. Don’t leave water in the Kyusu (or the Teapot)

After your first infusion, make sure there is no water left in the teapot. Try to extract even the last drop of water.

If water is left in the Kyusu after the first infusion, it will cook the leaves and reduce the taste. It will make the second infusion additionally bitter as well.

The last drop of water from your first infusion is actually very delicious. Often called the "golden drop", you wouldn't want to leave that in your teapot anyways!

2. Keep the teapot lid open

After the first infusion, and after you served all the tea until the last drop, make sure you don’t fully close the lid of the teapot or the Kyusu.

If you do, it will become musty and the taste will reduce. You can avoid this by sliding the top to the side so it doesn’t completely close.

3. Higher water temperature

A higher water temperature will allow more nutrients to be extracted.

For the second infusion, keep in mind to brew at a higher temperature than the first. The recommendation is about 10 degrees Celsius higher.

So for example:

For a Sencha
if 1st infusion is: 75 degrees Celsius
2nd infusion: 85 degrees Celsius

For a Gyokuro
if 1st infusion is: 60 degrees Celsius
2nd infusion: 70 degrees Celsius

This will allow the remaining taste nutrients to seep into the tea.

4. Shorter brewing time

The first infusion requires seeping time because the leaves are closed and takes time to open up.

The second infusion is different - the nutrients are ready to seep quickly.

I would generally recommend half the seeping time of the 1st infusion. Some people like it without any waiting time.

Try experimenting and see what you like.

Enjoy!


FAQ

Which Japanese tea can go for Second Infusions?

A: All of them!

It would be very common for all Japanese tea to be served second infusions. Sencha, Gyokuro, Genmaicha, Fukamushi-Sencha, Kamairicha, Tamaryokucha, Houjicha would all work.

One thing to note is that the Kukicha taste dramatically reduces on the second infusion. So might want to stick to one infusion for the twig teas.


Author Yuki

Yuki

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.