The most commonly enjoyed variety of Japanese green tea in Japan. Sencha has a beautiful emerald color and a delicate balance of sweetness, umami, and bitterness.
It can be enjoyed both hot and cold. A cup of hot sencha both relaxes and invigorates and is a great pick-me-up for short breaks. Cold sencha is wonderfully refreshing as a summer drink.
The level of oxidization is the main factor which determines the different kinds of tea. Indian and Chinese green teas are usually oven-dried rather than steamed. Drying can cause the oxidization of important vitamins, minerals, and flavor components, which can alter the taste and result in the loss of nutritional content. However, sencha goes through a steaming process immediately after harvesting in order to halt oxidization and make it as close to fresh leaves as possible. Recent chemical analysis has revealed that early stage steaming destroys most of the oxidative enzymes in tea. Consequently, Japanese green teas retain their bright green color, natural vitamins, and high concentration of polyphenols. Moreover, the amino acid content, which determines the depth of flavor in green teas, is much higher in Japanese teas.
Tea harvesting starts in early May and sencha is normally picked throughout spring time. Generally the leaves are harvested several times in a year and the first harvest are considered the finest in its quality, usually contain a rich aroma and flavor including umami. A general principle with sencha is that the higher the grade of the tea, the stronger the umami and the more elegant the taste.
Organic green tea
Available in teabag and loose form in bags or bulk
Green tea has been valued as a legendary medicinal drink for centuries. The first major work on the benefits of tea was Kissa Yojoki (Drinking Tea for Health), written in 1214 by Myoan Eisei, the founder of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism in Japan. This treatise in praise of tea begins “tea is a marvelous elixir of health that has the capacity to prolong human life”, and outlines tea’s many medicinal effects. In the last few decades, hundreds of articles have appeared in professional medical journals and lay publications reporting the medicinal benefits of green tea.
In particular, green tea has been proven to be a formidable force for preventing, inhibiting and reducing risks, as indicated by its many “anti” properties, such as anticarcinogenic, anti-obesity, antioxidant, antiviral, anti-allergy, anti-stress, antibacterial.
Over 700 components have been identified in green tea and the main components of Japanese tea are catechins, amino acids, caffeine and vitamins. They are said to have powerful effects on the body and regular consumption may help to maintain good health and well being or to assist in improving physical ailments. Here are the major components of Japanese green tea and their impressive beneficial aspects.
Fermented black teas lose much of their health promoting properties during processing. Research at Rutgers University has confirmed that green tea has six times the antioxidant capability of black fermented teas. Chemical analysis has shown that steaming green tea leaves immediately after they are picked, as is the case in Japan, works to destroy most of the oxidative enzymes in the leaves. This allows the tea leaves to retain their natural vitamin content and high concentration of polyphenols.
Catechins are a kind of polyphenol (a type of micronutrient found in our diets), and these phytochemical compounds are what imparts astringency to green tea, as well as functioning as powerful antioxidants. There are four types of catechins found in green tea, of which Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) is the most bioactive. The strong presence of EGCG and other catechins, all of which are powerful antioxidants, in green tea works to reduce the escalated risk of disease and the aging caused by increased levels of reactive oxygen in the body. EGCG also has a number of clinical applications, including its use in therapies targeting heart disease, a number of cancers, arthritis, and diabetes. EGCG has also been shown to help alleviate anxiety and mitigate stress. Some of the effects related to catechins are as follows:
- Reduces the risk of several types of cancer
- Lowers blood cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular diseases
- Prevents or lowers high blood pressure
- Helps regulate blood sugar
- Leads to decrease body fat and lower the risk of becoming obese
- Anti-virus effect; fights viral colds and flu
- Boosts the immune system
- Prevents gum disease, cavities, and bad breath
Green tea has naturally high levels of vitamin C. Vitamin C is renowned as being a brilliant beautifier, and for excelling at protecting the skin and blood vessels from premature aging. However, vitamin C is easily destroyed with heat; for example, boiling vegetables such as spinach will cause the natural vitamin C content to leach into the cooking water, meaning that the vitamin C is lost when the cooking water is discarded. With green tea, however, the vitamin C “leaches” into the tea which you then drink, so it is not lost. Further, green tea also contains antioxidative catechins, which prevent the decomposition of vitamin C.
Green tea is also rich in vitamins which work to remove reactive oxygen, including beta-Carotene and vitamin E, as well as vitamin C. The presence of these antioxidative vitamins helps green tea to match its reputation as the most powerful antioxidative drink available.
Caffeine & Theanine
Studies have shown that caffeine works synergistically with theanine, another compound unique to green tea. Together, these substances work to improve memory, learning, attention, and other brain functions. The performance of this pairing has even raised hope for clinical applications in therapies designed to treat or slow the progression of Alzheimer’s. Theanine is a type of amino acid and works to increase the activity of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which counterbalance the actions of excitatory neurotransmitters and thus demonstrates anti-anxiety effects. GABA also increases the level of dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to reward and pleasure centers in the brain, and boosts the production of alpha waves, which are thought to be associated with creating a state of relaxed wakefulness in the brain.
The combination of a high level of theanine and a lower level of caffeine in green tea is believed to work to moderate the stimulating effect of the caffeine. This may explain why Zen monks have traditionally used green tea during long meditations to stay calm yet alert. Compared to the short-lived “buzz” of coffee, green tea is believed to help drinkers maintain stable energy levels and therefore productivity, too.
Japanese green tea undergoes various stages of processing, which are generally divided into three parts. Making Mitoku’s delicious, high quality green tea starts in the tea fields, since Mitoku’s Japanese green tea is 100% of agricultural product. The next stage comprises the processes required to make crude (unrefined) tea, such as steaming. In the final stage, when the tea is finished, sorting and blending are carried out to create the end products.
Japanese green tea is the fruit of hard labor. Like any other crop, nutritious soil is essential for good growth. In particular, organically grown tea requires the utmost care and attention, since only specially prepared organic compost containing no artificial chemicals can be used to generate a healthy wholesome crop. A few months prior to harvesting the youngest leaves, the fields must be covered completely with cloth, as part of a process in which the leaves are shaded from the sunlight in order to obtain a better taste and more vivid color. Care must be taken to ensure that the leaves are not damaged in this delicate process. Japan has four distinct seasons, meaning that the period when tea can be harvested is very limited. The timing of the harvest will also affect the flavors of the resulting tea. The youngest leaves, which become gyokuro grade tea, are picked in early May, while sencha is harvested throughout spring.
The process in which the picked tea leaves are steamed is unique to tea making in Japan. This process enables the leaves to retain most of their natural nutritional value. Steaming is a critical stage which will determine the quality of the resulting tea, in terms of color, aroma, and flavor. Tea leaves which have been steamed, cooled, rolled, dried are referred to as crude (unrefined) tea. Crude tea is tea which has been steamed and processed to halt oxidization, prevent fermentation, reduce moisture content, and to withstand storage until the next stage begins.
There was a time when all tea in Japan was handmade by skilled experts. Today, however, most tea is machine-processed. Although the original temomi (hand rolling) techniques provide the foundation for this modern tea-making technology, the fact remains that no machine can surpass the delicate skill of veteran, artisan tea makers working with long-held, long-refined traditions. Mitoku’s tea makers are aiming at the quality derived from temomi techniques passed down from their skillful predecessor.
This crude tea is then processed further to produce refined teas, carefully blended to achieve the delicate aroma and sophisticated flavor associated with Japanese green tea. In general, the crude tea is sieved and cut, the leaves sorted by color and shape, and then subject to further drying to enhance aroma and flavor. The next stage is one of the most critical: the blending. Tea blenders begin the task of creating subtle and bespoke blends through a critical and careful process. The resulting teas are rich with subtle aroma and delicate yet distinct flavor.
To make a perfect cup of Japanese tea, the most important points are the water used, the temperature of the water, the ratio of tea leaves to water, and the steeping time. Where possible, soft water should be used. If only hard water is available, leaving the water overnight can help to reduce the smell of chlorine that can be characteristic of hard water.
Water should then be boiled and poured over tea leaves, then left to steep. The hotter the water, the greater the volume of catechin – a type of antioxidant—released into the tea, resulting in a rich intensity of active ingredients and a more pronounced bitterness to the tea. The cooler the water, the greater the volume of amino acids in the resulting tea, and the more pronounced the umami taste. Higher grade teas are best prepared using warm, rather than piping hot, water. Water that is too hot may mask the delicate taste of green tea. Equally, steeping the leaves for too long can leave tea dark and bitter. The chilled green tea are getting popularity too as it makes a refreshing cool summer beverage with a bit of astringency.
Sencha leaves may be reused once or twice. Fresh leaves should not be added to used ones – discard spent leaves, rinse the pot, and begin fresh.
Makes 2 cups (300ml)
- Pour boiling water into the tea cups and leave it to cool down to 70-90°C.
- Place 1 tsp (5g) Sencha tea leaves in a teapot.
- Pour hot water (70-90°C) over the tea leaves. Steep for about 1-2 minutes, then serve.
- Pour hot water at 70-90°C over a teabag in a mug or cup
- Steep for 1-2 minutes; do not leave any longer, and serve warmed