Japanese green teas begin as aracha, “rough tea” or what we like to call “farmer’s tea”. It is tea leaf just after it finishes drying, before it is blended with other teas then separated into leaves, leaf stems (which become kukicha), and smaller particles (mecha and konacha).
This aracha is then refined and blended at Dobashien’s factories under the direction of our master tea sommelier to create the premium flavor profiles found on this site.
(Read in the below order for an understanding of Japanese tea.)
- Sencha: The main and most common form of Japanese tea, the leaves are steamed to stop oxidization, then rolled into fine needles and dried. This is the primary tea that is created after refinement from aracha
- Kukicha: Leaf stems that have been separated in post-processing. Also called “Karigane” (“雁ヶ音” – “call of geese”) in the Kyoto region and “Shira-ore” (白折 – “white snaps”) as a more elegant name for stems from higher grade sencha and gyokuro. (Read about the origin of Karigane.)
- Houjicha: Roasted green tea leaves, usually bancha, but for a more refined taste sencha may be used.
- Genmaicha: Green tea leaves are blended with toasted rice grains, usually white rice instead of its literal translation as “brown rice tea”. Usually lower quality summer or autumn harvested bancha tea leaves are used, but Dobashien uses high quality sencha for a much more refined taste.
- Gyokuro: Tea leaves are cultivated for a strong flavor, then shaded for approximately three weeks before harvest to minimize the production of bitter-tasting catechin. The production process is the same as sencha in that it is steamed, rolled and dried.
- Matcha: Like gyokuro, tea leaves are cultivated for a strong flavor, then shaded for approximately four weeks before harvest to minimize the production of bitter-tasting catechin. The production process skips the rolling process to create a flaky looking tea leaf. This is then ground into fine matcha powder approximately 5-10 microns in diameter for smooth mixing into water. This is the tea that is utilized in Japan’s famous tea ceremony.
Bancha: Summer or Autumn harvested tea leaves that have been allowed to grow large to maximize volume. Usually a low quality leaf with a more bitter taste, and most often used in bottled tea drinks.