Tea is the most consumed beverage in Japan and considered an important drink in Japanese Culture. There is even a special Japanese Tea Ceremony to prepare and present tea. This is mostly attributed to health benefits of tea. There are different types of tea (ie. Matcha, Sencha, Bancha etc…) in Japan based on the season of harvest, method of cultivation and processing techniques. We are going to look at varieties of tea in Japan and their benefits in this article.
Also referred to as Green Tea; Sencha is the most consumed tea in Japan. It is most served tea for guests and when you order tea without specifying the type you will be served with Sencha. It derives its name from the traditional method of processing which involved roasting of tea leaves. Today, Sencha is steamed prior to roasting to avoid losing important minerals through oxidation. There are different grades of Green Tea depending on the method of cultivation, season of harvest, exposure to sunlight and method of processing.
It is a type of green tea also referred to as common tea in Japan. The leaves are harvested towards the end of summer after harvesting of high-quality leaves. This is mixed with leave parts and residues remain obtained during the processing of Sencha tea. Despite the low quality, Bancha tea is still a favourite beverage to many due to its rich flavour and is used to complement specific Japanese meals.
Hojicha is manufactured by roasting Bancha or tea leaves under high temperatures. Roasting makes it red-brown in colour. Bancha has a rich refreshing taste and is not bitter. It is low in caffeine making it preferable beverage after dinner. The leaves can be subjected to different temperatures giving rise to different grades of Hojicha tea. It retains its red-brown colour when mixed with water thus making it different from other types of teas.
It is considered the finest quality tea quality due to special growing and processing. Tea leaves used in making Gyukoro are obtained at the first flush which gives it a fresh, sweet taste and high caffeine content. Tea leaves are covered in shades 20 days prior to harvesting. This increases amino acid and theanine content which gives Gyukoro tea a sweet taste. The special growing and processing conditions make scarce in the market hence raising its price.
Genmaicha is a blend of roasted Genmai rice grains and tea leaves. Roasted brown rice gives this tea a mild flavour and a unique taste. Genmaicha has a yellowish colour when mixed with hot water; this is due to the use of roasted rice and tea mixture. It has low caffeine content and can be consumed after dinner.
Benefits of Japanese tea
Tea leaves contain Catechin pigment which has anti-oxidation properties. This helps in removing harmful radicals formed after oxidation of free occurring compounds in body cells. Free radicals are responsible for many diseases and lead to fast ageing and wrinkle formation. Lifestyle habits like cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol intake have been linked with an increase of free radicals in the body. Taking tea helps flush out free radicals.
Healthy brain relaxation
Theanine amino acids found in tea leaves causes a healthy mind relaxation without affecting the normal functioning of brain cells. It helps relax the brain and enhance concentration on a particular task. Different research indicates that theanine helps improve brain memory by increasing Dopamine levels.
Healthy weight loss alternative
Tea helps to maintain a healthy weight through enhanced body metabolism. Catechin absorbed in the blood stimulates the liver to produce bile which ensures efficient metabolism. This results in maximum energy production and breaking down of fats thus helping in maintaining a healthy weight.
Consuming tea encourages a good oral health through prevention of dental cavities and bad breath. This is attributed to Catechin content which prevents germs and bacteria build up in the mouth. This prevents the formation of harmful bacteria and acids which are responsible for bad breath and dental cavities.
Tea leaves contain Vitamin C and Vitamin E which makes the body less susceptible to disease-causing organisms. This makes the body strong and resistant to common infections. Vitamin C also promotes a healthy skin making it look fresh and healthy.