If truth be told, Japanese tea is not a different type of tea, nor is it a differently processed tea like Oolong tea. Japanese tea is in effect Green tea. However, due to the fact that it is abundantly available in Japan and is drunk far more than other tea varieties, Green tea in Japan has simply become known as "tea" (just as we commonly refer to Black tea varieties as "tea"). For clarification purposes however, we shall keep referring to this green tea from Japan as Japanese tea.
So, to begin with you might be interested to know that Japanese tea was first introduced into Japan from China by a Buddhist priest. The popularity of this new beverage from China became widespread and more and more provinces in Japan began the cultivation of what was later to be known as Japanese tea.
In fact, the popularity of Japanese tea became so widespread that it even spawned its own ceremony - known to many as a Japanese Tea Ceremony - and is carried out with the same solemn and reverential attitude today, just as it was in the beginning.
Through time, with the acceptance of tea into Japanese culture, the different varieties of Japanese tea from the different provinces changed along with the landscape to produce some of the best green teas known to the world.
The variety of Japanese tea known as Jade Dew, or Gyokuro, is one of the highest graded teas. The reason for this lies in the method of cultivation of this particular Japanese tea. The leaves of the Jade Dew tea plant are grown in shade just before it is harvested. This changes the flavor of the simple Japanese tea to create the far superior Jade Dew tea.
And just as the cultivation methods of the Jade Dew tea changes its properties, other Japanese tea varieties also have unique cultivation and processing methods which gives each of them their unique flavor, such as,
- » Hojicha tea. Also known as Roasted tea, this Japanese tea is made by being roasted over charcoal.
- » Kamairicha tea. This tea leaf is pan-fried and not steam-treated like other Japanese tea varieties, hence the name Pan-fried tea (although you might want to ask of it by its Japanese name instead if you're looking to buy it!)
- » Kukicha tea or Stalk tea. Unlike the usual two leaves and a bud method of harvesting the tea, this tea is made primarily from the stalks, by harvesting three leaves and a bud instead.
- » Kabusecha tea. This is also called Covered tea since the leaves of this tea have also been grown in the shade before harvesting just as with the Jade Dew tea, albeit for a shorter length of time.
So now, whenever you drink a good quality Green tea, you can ponder on whether you're drinking a wonderfully named exotic Japanese tea grown in the foothills of Mount Fuji, or a tea from the Kyoto province, or the Yame region, or even a tea from an lush green valley with tea fields that stretch out as far as the eye can see.
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