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The Best Water Temperatures for Japanese Tea

A complete guide for understanding how temperature effects the taste of Japanese tea, and what you should do

This article was last modified June 8th, 2024 by Yuki

What is the most important tip for making good Japanese tea? The proper water temperature is certainly up there!

Whenever you buy a pack of Japanese tea and see the brewing instructions indicate a specific temperature, (such as 70 degrees Celsius) you might wonder how important it is to the actual tea's taste. After all, it is a little tedious to nail the perfect water temperature. It's not like you always have a thermometer in your kitchen! Well, the truth is, it's actualy quite essential!

Although very underestimated, the temperature at which you brew the tea is very key in perfecting a cup of delicious Japanese tea.

Whether it be Matcha, Sencha, Houjicha, you name it! The water temperature for brewing the tea is integral to the taste. You can say this is true for almost any type of Japanese tea.


Why is Water Temperature so Important for Brewing Japanese Tea?

Some Japanese teas require boiling water to brew. These are the likes of Houjicha, Kyobancha, Kaga-Boucha, etc. These are easy to prepare because you pour boiling water into the teacup. As long as you have a kettle, it's a piece of cake!

Other Japanese teas, on the other hand, require lower temperatures. They would range around 80 degrees, 70 degrees, and even 60 degrees Celsius.

Tea, such as Gyokuro, Matcha, or even Sencha, to name a few, falls under this category. I must say that preparing these teas is a little bit tedious, as the water temperature needs adjusting after it is boiled.

A few questions might be swirling in your head.

  • But what exactly happens when you get the temperature wrong?
  • Is the water temperature like a "good to have" that only slightly changes the outlook of the taste?
  • Is it something that, as a newbie Japanese tea drinker, my tongue wouldn't notice?
  • Or does it cause a massive difference and significantly influence the tea experience?

The truth is, it does have a big influence and could completely change your tea experience 180 degrees! Temperature is a significant factor because it dramatically affects Japanese tea's astringency and aroma.

I call the brewing temperature of tea the "Astringency lever." If the water temperature is high, you get more astringency. If it is low, you get less.

Astringency is slightly different from "bitterness," although they are commonly closely associated. It's a dry, pulling sensation on your tongue when you drink Japanese tea. While it adds more strength to the tea, which is good, too much astringency may become challenging to drink, which is terrible. This characteristic is why optimizing the amount of astringency is a vital part of enjoying Japanese tea.

Now, you might ask, is hot water bad? Well, not necessarily. Hot water also has some good attributes when it comes to brewing Japanese tea.

  • Hot water can release more aroma, another essential part of the tea experience.
  • It helps Matcha powder mix and foam quickly and easily. This benefit is also essential, as Matcha powders are difficult to mix.
  • Also, warm tea - tends to feel nicer sometimes. 

This art of nailing down the proper tea temperature is more complex than it seems.

Here are some examples of things you'd want to avoid when brewing tea.

Dont do of Japanese Tea

3 Example Don't Dos

No-no 1: If you brew a high-grade Sencha using boiling water?

Of course, sencha is the most standard Japanese Tea. It's a beautifully rolled green tea leaf bursting with rich Umami and flavor. Some high-end sencha may look like they were beautifully and meticulously made into needle-shaped rolls. It's standard because of its taste and because most Japanese Tea is manufactured as sencha.

However, if Sencha is made with boiling water, the astringency will become so strong that it will punch your tongue with a wham, and you won't be able to enjoy the taste at all!

That's obviously completely distant from what you want with a high-grade Sencha. You want to enjoy the mellowness and Umami of the Tea instead. The piercing astringency will take away from that lovely experience.

Now, all astringency is alright, of course. The sensation that pulls back the tongue is an integral part of the Tea you should enjoy.

It gives it substance. It gives it body.

It's just that you won't like it too much, and controlling the temperature will keep the astringency at bay.

No-no 2: If you brew a Houjicha using a lower temperature?

The Houjicha is Japanese green Tea that undergoes an additional roasting process. It's a brown or yellow-looking loose-leaf tea loved for its heartwarming aroma.

However, if this Tea is prepared at a lower temperature, it won't extract the aroma quite enough! Houjicha is, by nature, already a very light tea to the mouth, so it'll just become a light tea with not much aroma either!

Yes, that's something you'd rather avoid!

Instead, what you DO want to do with the Houjicha is boil water in a kettle and immediately pour it into the teacup with the tea leaves inside.

You want to pour it in as if cooking the Houjicha tea leaves in the teapot as they bubble and release the roasted smell. This process maximizes the aroma.

Now, before you drink it, you'll want to let it cool down a bit. If it's too hot, the human senses won't be able to enjoy the scent or the taste.

But wait, aren't there cold-brew Houjicha?

Yes, there are!
Sometimes, high-quality Houjicha is not all "Light" in taste. It might also have some nice umami to the Tea.
For Houjicha like this, there is an option of "cold brewing" the Tea. Instead of the "aroma," you can focus more on the taste. That's an excellent and enjoyable tea experience as well.
But if you intend to enjoy the aroma of the Houjicha, make sure you choose boiling water.

No-no 3: Preparing Matcha with boiling water?

In Matcha's case, since the Tea is so strong, it is integral to control the astringency as much as possible. Matcha powders are tea leaves preserved by steaming and ground to a fine powder so all the nutrients are possessed in their most potent form. That includes the catechins, which are responsible for the astringency of the Tea.

If a lower-grade Matcha is made with boiling water, the astringency may be too strong for you to finish the cup.

Since a high-grade Matcha would have less astringency, one may think we could use boiling water for this case. High-end Matcha indeed contains less Catechin, hence is less astringent. However, it's not like they don't have any astringency; they still contain a high level of Catechins. Also, the stakes are even higher if it's a high-grade Matcha! You're wasting precious and expensive Matcha powder by extracting the astringency and making it less enjoyable!
In summary, following the recommended temperature is extremely important for all types of Matcha.

Kettle steaming

Why does using boiling water increase the astringency of tea?

Why can the water temperature work as the "astringency control"?

There's a fascinating science to this.

As mentioned above, the astringency is determined by a substance found in Tea called Catechin. This Catechin starts to get extracted into the Tea liquid at around 80 degrees Celsius.

Therefore, if the water is less than 80 degrees, the astringency will be less in the Tea.

Additionally, the Theanine responsible for the umami taste of Green Tea can be extracted at much lower temperatures—around 50 degrees Celsius.

Below is a rough relationship between the taste of the Tea and the temperature of the water.

temperature and taste of japanese tea

Let's look into some of the specific temperatures for some tea types.
Gyokuro is so rich in Umami, and you don't want the astringency to bother the taste, so it is best to brew the Tea using hot water that is around 50-60 degrees.
For Sencha, it's best to extract the Umami but also have some pleasurable astringency while holding it to a certain extent. Therefore, you would brew Sencha at around 70-80 degrees Celsius. This temperature will extract the Umami and a mild dose of the astringency taste, resulting in a well-balanced tea.

At the end of the day, reading the instructions for each Tea package is important. Each Tea may have different preferences depending on their grade. However, some tea products may not come with detailed instructions. In that case, the above guidelines are good to use.

(*we always enclose English instructions with our Tea)

For Japanese Teas that are best enjoyed with a stronger aroma, such as Houjicha, Genmaicha, and Bancha, it is best to brew in boiling water at 100 degrees Celsius.

Houjicha cup and leaves

How to Control Water Temperature

Lowering the water temperature before infusion is a tedious part of preparing Japanese green tea. There are a few easy ways to do this.

1. Use a Yuzamashi (bowl to cool water)

To lower the temperature, you can use a "Yuzamashi" bowl. If you don't have one, well, you can use anything! A bowl, a cup, or whatever else you have in your kitchen. The mass and material of the bowl matter. The larger the mass, the higher its heat-reducing properties will be.
We recommend that you find a good bowl to use and stick with it until you understand how much it will reduce the temperature.

kyusu and yuzamashi

Yuzamashi (left) and Kyusu (right)

2. Transfer from bowl to bowl or Chawan (cup) to reduce 5 degrees

This may sound bizarre, but it is also a technique traditionally practiced in Japan. Each time the boiling water is transferred to a bowl or a Chawan (teacup), the water temperature will drop between 5 and 10 degrees. This will depend on many factors, such as the size of the bowls and room temperature, but generally, you can expect the drop to be closer to 5 degrees. You can use this mechanism to reduce the temperature of the boiling water to optimal levels.

Using the Chawan to reduce the temperature has other benefits. It's a convenient method of measuring the amount of water you want to brew. After boiling water in a kettle, you can pour the water into the number of Chawan you would like to serve. Then, you can transfer the water in the Chawan to the teapot. Not only does this reduce the temperature twice, it also helps measure the exact amount of water you would like to infuse Tea with. This is important because when serving, it also ensures that you can pour your Tea to the last drop. The last drop is the thickest and the most delicious, and this can't be served if you have more water in the teapot than the capacity of the Chawan!

3. Wait 1-2 minutes to reduce 5 degrees.

You can also wait for the water to cool. Waiting for 1-2 minutes will lower the temperature by approximately 5 degrees.

4. Build a combination and a routine.

It'll be easier if you already have a routine you can stick to to reduce your temperature.

So for example...

  1. Boil the water (100 degrees Celsius)
  2. Pour water into the teacup(s) to cool the water down. (95 degrees Celsius)
  3. Wait for 2 minutes (90 degrees Celsius)
  4. Transfer the water into a bowl (85 degrees Celsius)
  5. Transfer the water into the teapot (80 degrees Celsius)

Once you reach step 5, try measuring the temperature to see if you have reached the target of eighty degrees. Now you have a formula for bringing the water down to eighty degrees Celsius.
By using the same dishes and routine you used this time, you'll know precisely how to reach 80 degrees the next time you're brewing your Sencha.

5. Ultimate: Temperature Controlled Kettle

kettle boiling water

This is the game changer; getting the proper water temperature is much easier if you get a temperature-controlled kettle!

I admit- I use one as well! I highly recommend getting one.

There are many types, but they are all straightforward, as you only have to select the temperature and push a button. While there are very luxurious ones with fantastic functionality, including quick preparation and precision temperature control, there are also remarkably economically friendly ones too.

One thing to note is that even if you can control the temperature, you still want to boil the water once. This step of boiling the water removes chlorine content by making it disappear. Removing chlorine is vital because chlorine in the water will also change the taste of Tea.

I like to boil a full kettle of water in the morning and then leave it to cool. Then, I can use the kettle's temperature-control function to make whatever temperature water I like from the Tea I select.

How to Tell the Water Temperature

Although it's not easy, you can somewhat tell the temperature by how the steam emerges from the cup. You can use this as a guide as well.

use the steam to check the temperature

At 90 Degrees: You will be able to see the steam vigorously rising from the cup.

At 70 Degrees: The steam will wave to the side as it rises high from the cup.

At 50 Degrees: You will barely be able to see the steam rise.

Although it's not easy, you can somewhat tell the temperature by how the steam emerges from the cup. You can use this as a guide as well.

Mastering the temperature is indeed one of the keys to mastering Japanese Tea, and when you do, it's truly rewarding; this skill rewards you immediately with delicious Japanese Tea!
Initially, it may be a little challenging to understand and figure out ways to control, but it's a journey filled with excitement and fun once you get the hang of it.
Have fun trying different temperatures to find the combination of Tea and temperature you like!


Temperature controlled kettles very vastly in prices. Is there a recommended one?

A: I don't really have a particular type that I'd recommend. Many temperature controlled kettles are limited in the variety of temperatures that can be set, so make sure you know which temperatures are possible. Outside of that, I wouldn't be too picky as long you're using it for normal uses.

Author 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.