Choosing a Japanese TeaChoosing a Japanese Tea
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Varieties of Japanese tea

At Hibiki-an we have a wide selection of many different kinds of top quality Japanese green tea. This page offers help for those who are new to Japanese green tea and would like to know which of our teas they might like the best. We hope this information about the different varieties of tea we offer here at Hibiki-an will help you to discover the perfect tea that is right for you.

1) Tea grown in the shade

This type of green tea is carefully grown in the shade for twenty to thirty days before harvesting. This creates Theanine, an amino acid, which gives the tea a sweet and mellow taste. When brewed, this tea has a pure grassy green color.
In this type of tea there are Matcha and Gyokuro.

Shading from sunlight traditionally by straw and reed. It is called "Honzu"

Shading from sunlight by "Tana"

Shading from sunlight by "Jikagise"

- Matcha

After harvest, tea leaves for Matcha go through (1) steaming, (2) drying, and (3) grinding with a stone mill.
The highest grade Matcha is the brightest green and has the most sweet and mellow flavor, without any hint of bitterness, such as our Matcha Pinnacle and Matcha Super Premium. Lower quality Matcha is less green and more yellow and the flavor is less mellow.
Matcha is special because since it is ground into a powder and completely dissolved in water when brewed, you drink the whole constituents of the tea leaves and ingest all of the healthful nutrients without throwing away the leaves as one does with other teas: Gyokuro, Sencha, Genmaicha, and Houjicha. Besides, by drinking Matcha you can also ingest oil soluble constituents (Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Beta-carotene, etc.), which are not extracted into water when brewed.

- Gyokuro

After harvest, tea leaves for Gyokuro go through (1) steaming, (2) drying and kneading (crumpling), and (3) sorting. This processing is the same as Sencha. Kneading enables the tea leaves to extract the flavor and constituents into the water.
Gyokuro has a mellow flavor, sweet taste and noble aroma. When brewed, Gyokuro has a pure grassy green color.
Brewing more slowly with lower temperature water is also one reason why Gyokuro brings a relaxed atmosphere as well as an excellent flavor. The highest grade Gyokuro has the most sweet and mellow flavor and noble aroma.

- Gyokuro Karigane

Gyokuro Karigane is composed of stems selected from Gyokuro tea leaves. Karigane stems are less expensive than tea leaves because stems are a by-product of tea leaf production, though they have an excellent flavor. When brewed, Gyokuro Karigane has a grassy green color. If you are looking for a unique product or a good value then this tea is perfect for you.

2) Tea grown in full sunlight

Tea leaves grown in full sunlight have much of the healthful nutrient known as Catechin, which creates a refreshing aroma and bitter taste. When brewed, this tea has a golden yellow green color.

- Sencha

After harvest, tea leaves for Sencha go through, (1) steaming, (2) drying and kneading (crumpling), and (3) sorting. This processing is the same as Gyokuro. Kneading enables the tea leaves to extract the flavor and constituents into the water.
Sencha is the most popular and widely-consumed Japanese green tea. It is suitable for any situation and anytime, a quick eye-opener and energizer, great served with sushi or other Asian foods, after meals, teatime, and so on.

(Sencha)

Sencha has the perfect balance and harmony of refreshing aroma, mellow flavor, and bitter taste. When brewed, Sencha has a lovely golden yellow green color.
The highest grade Sencha has the most mellow flavor, excellent refreshing aroma, and more balanced bitter taste.

(Sencha Fukamushi)

Tea leaves of Sencha Fukamushi are steamed heavily for a longer time. This special steaming process causes the tea leaves of Sencha Fukamushi to split, so that the taste of the tea is stronger yet more mellow. When brewed, Sencha Fukamushi has a cloudy green color, because the constituents are more easily extracted in water and more of the tea dissolves into the water.

(Sencha Karigane)

Sencha Karigane is composed of stems selected from high grade Sencha tea leaves. Karigane contains much Teanin, which gives the tea a sweet and mellow taste. Karigane stems are less expensive than tea leaves because stems are a by-product of tea leaf production, though it has an excellent flavor. When brewed, Sencha Karigane has a yellow green color. If you are looking for a unique product or a good value then this tea is perfect for you.

- Other teas

Each unique tea in this category is not expensive and is light and mild in flavor, so that it is suitable for everyday use. These teas are made from Sencha or go through the same processing steps as Sencha.

(Genmaicha)

Genmaicha is a combination of Sencha tea leaves mixed with puffed brown rice, which adds a delicious popcorn and roasted grain flavor. And it contains less caffeine. When brewed, this tea has a golden yellow green color. Due to the rice, Genmaicha has the rich and hearty flavor of roasted grains or coffee. This also makes a good breakfast tea.

(Genmaicha Matcha-iri)

Genmaicha Matcha-iri is a combination of Genmaicha and Matcha. The Matcha powder lightly coats the Sencha leaves and rice, adding a mellow taste to Genmaicha’s delicious roasted flavor and makes the tea a more pure grassy green color. Due to the rice, this tea has the rich and hearty flavor of roasted grains or coffee but the freshness of Matcha. It is very well balanced, full flavored and smooth.

(Houjicha)

Houjicha is Sencha that has been additionally roasted, giving this tea its special roasted flavor. Houjicha contains much Catechin because the tea leaves are grown in full sunlight. And it contains very little caffeine so it is suitable even for a baby. When brewed, this tea is a transparent brown color and is somewhat similar in flavor to basic black tea such as English breakfast tea, Ceylon or Darjeeling, although it tastes much more fresh and healthy.

(Houjicha Karigane)

Houjicha Karigane is made from the stems of high grade tea leaves and roasted in the same way as standard Houjicha.
In contrast to the refreshing and roasted flavor of regular Houjicha, Houjicha Karigane has a deeply sweet and roasted flavor, which is quite unique among any kinds of Japanese tea. The sweet flavor is brought by Teanin which is a constituent contained in Karigane and known for having a sweet and flavorful taste and working to relax the brain and body.

(Kukicha)

Kukicha is composed of stems selected from low grade Sencha or pruned tea leaves. Therefore it is not as good as Karigane. (We, at Hibiki-an, don’t have Kukicha or Yanagi on our website.)

(Yanagi)

Yanagi is composed of pruned tea leaves that have been processed in the same way as Sencha, but is not as flavorful as Sencha. (We, at Hibiki-an, don’t have Kukicha or Yanagi on our website.)

Hand Picked vs. Trimmed by Machine

Today most tea leaves are trimmed by machine and traditional hand picked Japanese tea is quite rarely grown and is therefore very precious.
Tea trees for hand picked and for machine trimmed are grown in different ways, and tea sprouts of both types of trees grow differently. In the case of tea trees trimmed by machine, tea sprouts grow from the previously trimmed stubble. In contrast, in the case of tea trees picked by hand, tea sprouts shoot from the natural forks in the branches. The flavor and aroma of hand picked tea is much more mellow and smooth than tea trimmed by machine and the leaves are of higher quality.
All of our Super Premium and Pinnacle grade teas are picked by skilled hands.

Tea tree for hand picked

Picking tea leaves by skilled hands

Tea leaves picked by skilled hands

Organic vs. Conventionally-Grown

Today the vast majority of tea is non-organic, also known as conventionally-grown. Only a small percentage (much less than one percent of all tea) is organic.
Organic cultivation is to grow agricultural crops in the historic way before modern agriculture, without any chemical fertilizer or pesticides, using only natural organic fertilizer. Organic tea has a simple and traditional flavor. All of our organic teas are certified by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Japan.
Organic Green Tea shopping category

In Japan, conventionally-grown teas are also strictly controlled in the use of pesticides by the Concentration Standard of Residual Agricultural Chemicals in Japan. The Concentration Standard of Residual Agricultural Chemicals, established in 2006 in Japan, allows only 0.01ppm of residual concentration. The criterion measure level is similar to the limits required in the European Union. So you can be assured that our conventionally-grown teas are also grown with minimal pesticides.

Organic tea farm

Mantis on the organic tea farm

Rooting up weeds by hand at organic tea farm in summer season

Tea Bag vs. Loose Leaf Tea

At Hibiki-an, we use only the highest quality tea leaves in our tea bags. Each specially-designed nylon bag is filled with whole-leaf tea, so you can enjoy the elegant flavor of genuine Japanese tea in no time at all. The individual tea bags are much larger than standard paper tea bags - over 2 x 2 inches in a unique pyramid shape.
We have designed our Teabag teas to brew quickly and easily in the shortest possible time, while still retaining the fullest flavor and aroma, even when brewed in a teacup and not a teapot. We finished each kind of tea leaf for our tea bags in a special way, so that they will brew easily with teacups in a very short time. Of course, like all our teas, our tea bags may be reused three times. Each infusion will have a unique flavor and aroma.
If you want a quick and easy way to enjoy genuine Japanese tea, our Teabag teas are perfect for you. And we are certain that it is also perfect for the office, taking along on a trip, and so on. Teabags are also a great way to introduce genuine Japanese tea to beginners who may not own a teapot!




Which teas are best for getting the most health benefits?

Catechin contained in Japanese tea works to remove free radicals (activated oxygen), reduce cholesterol and fat, and has antibacterial, sterilizing, and antiviral properties. These are just some of the many positive effects of tea on health and wellbeing. (more info; Positive Effects of Japanese Green Tea)

You can efficiently ingest Catechin with Sencha or Matcha. (more info; Natural Elements and Nutrients)

Matcha is ground into powder and completely dissolved in water when brewed (prepared), therefore you drink the whole constituents of the tea leaves and ingest all of the healthful nutrients without throwing away the leaves as one does with other teas. (more info; Ingesting Beneficial Constituents)

However, please note that it is most important that you drink teas you enjoy in order to keep it a regular habit!




When you still wonder which tea to choose…

We recommend you try our Superior grade tea at first. And when you find it to your liking, then try a higher grade such as Premium or Super Premium Grade. Regarding Matcha, we recommend you try our House Matcha or Matcha Superior at first.

Our tea tasting sets are an excellent way to try a variety of our teas all at once:
- With our Superior Tea Tasting Set , you can try three Superior grade teas: Gyokuro, Sencha, and Sencha Fukamushi.
- With our Karigane Tea Tasting Set , you can try three Karigane teas: Gyokuro Karigane Superior, Sencha Karigane, Houjicha Karigane.
- With our Genmai-Houji Tasting Set , you can try four unique Japanese teas: Genmacha, Genmacha Matcha-iri, Houjicha, and Houjicha Karigane.
- With our Organic Tea Tasting Set , you can try three Organic teas: Organic Sencha Superior, Organic Genmaicha Matcha-iri, and Organic Houjicha.
- With our Teabag Tasting Set-Forest , you can try three Teabag items: Teabag Gyokuro, Teabag Sencha, and Teabag Houjicha. And with our Teabag Tasting Set-River , you can try three Teabag items: Teabag Organic Sencha, Teabag Genmaicha Matcha-iri, and Teabag Houjcha.

If you wnat to enjoy genuine Japanese tea without teapot at office, or on a trip, and so on, try Teabag items.

If you like black tea, try Houjicha, Houjicha Karigane, or Organic Houjicha.

If you like coffee or a roasted grain flavor, try Genmaicha or Genmaicha Matcha-iri ( Organic Genmaicha Matcha-iri).

If you want brisk, refreshing tea with a yellow green color, try Sencha.

If you want smooth and mellow sweet grassy green tea, try Gyokuro or Matcha.

If you want tea low in caffeine, try Genmaicha, Houjicha, Houjicha Karigane, or Organic Houjicha.

If you want tea to serve with sushi, try Sencha.

If you want rich green tea with full flavor, try Matcha or Sencha Fukamushi.

If you are looking for an inexpensive green tea, try our Sencha Karigane, Gyokuro Karigane Premium, or Gyokuro Karigane Superior.

If you want healthy tea - ALL of our green teas are very healthy and have a wide variety of vitamins and other nutrients.
Please see our Green Tea for Health page for more information.

Please also visit our Tea Recipes page to learn how to use green tea to make delicious sweet desserts and other treats!