The world of Japanese tea is rich and complex, it comes with its own verbiage that can sometime be hard to decipher. Here are some of the keywords that might help you in your journey. And feel free to contact us if you have questions!

Asamushi Sencha | 浅蒸し

Asamushi is one of the three steaming process for Sencha along with Fukamushi and Chuumushi. Obtained by a short steaming (20 to 40 seconds), asamushi style Sencha can often be identified simply by the leaves remaining whole. Light and slightly tannic, their ample taste is reminiscent of green vegetables and fresh grass.
These days, the happy medium Chuumushi Cha is the standard. So when you buy Sencha without any accompanying qualifier, the assumption is that it’s Chuumushi Cha. Nonetheless, it was the light steaming method that had been in use as the standard fixing process for hundreds of years.

The custom goes back to 1738 in the late Edo period. One Soen Nagatani in Ujitawara-cho in Kyoto Prefecture established the asamushi way with the goal of steaming at a minimal duration just for the purpose of stopping the enzyme function. This way, the original taste and aroma of the tea leaves are retained as much as possible.

Chasen | 茶筅

A chasen is a traditional tea whisk for making matcha.

Also known as a bamboo whisk in English, a chasen is a beautiful and intricate tool carved out of a single piece of bamboo into fine strands or 'tines'.  Its use is only for whisking powdered matcha with hot water. The quality of your finished drink depends largely on the quality of your chasen.

The number of tines is important as this is responsible for producing different kinds of foam. The most common number of tines are 70, 80, 100 and 120, with 70 and 120 being less common.

Also important for creating the perfect foam is the kind of bamboo used. For high quality chasen, the bamboo is hunted, then washed, sun-dried, and left to age for 3 or even 6 years so the chasen won't warp or break easily. The longer the aging process, the darker the bamboo becomes. One length of bamboo normally yields only three or four whisks. This is because the joint of the whisk must be placed with precision accuracy, allowing 9 centimeters of bamboo above it for carving, and 3 centimeters below it for the handle. The joint is below the tines and helps line up the fingertips. Chasen that are mass produced in other countries, offered at cheap prices, do not go to this level of attention therefore they will not last long or be as beautifully crafted.

Genmaicha | 玄米茶

Genmaicha translates to brown rice tea, and the word is derived from Japanese. It is a mix of Sencha leaves and roasted brown rice. Japanese also referred to this green tea as popcorn tea due to the popping sound during roasting, and popped rice looks like popcorn. By adding roasted brown rice, green tea gets a healthy quality and makes the taste unique. Many people around Japan love this green tea due to its sweet flavor and a pleasant aroma.

In some parts of Japan, Genmaicha was also called people’s tea because the brown rice was used as a filler to reduce the tea prices. In the early days, tea was a luxury and only reserved for the elite. Due to lower prices, it was accessible to everyone, and every part of society enjoyed Genmaicha.

Hojicha | ほうじ茶

The term Hojicha refers to green tea that is roasted. Due to the unique taste of Hojicha caused by the roasting process, Hojicha has gained rapid popularity worldwide.  Hojicha is just like Matcha's less well-known brother - more zesty, less vegetal. 
Matcha and sencha typically have the highest, and hojicha the lowest caffeine content.

Kyusu | 急須

Kyusu (急須) are traditional Japanese teapots mainly made of fired volcanic clay of very high quality. The word kyusu simply means teapot, even though in common usage kyusu usually does refer to a teapot with a side handle.

They originally came from ancient China and have been naturalized into Japanese culture over the centuries for the preparation of Japanese green tea. Kyusu are usually smaller than a western teapot, around 100-300 ml (3-10 fl. oz) is common. A teapot with a volume of more than 300ml (10fl. oz) is perfect for several guests.

The green tea leaves are brewed loose in the pot with plenty of room to develop their aromas and flavors. The spout incorporates a clay or metal filter to retain the tea leaves when pouring.

Matcha | 抹茶

Matcha is essentially processed green tea leaves that have been stone-ground into a delicate powder. The powder is then sifted and whisked with hot water.

Matcha leaves are grown in a number of places and, in fact, the practice of milling tea leaves into a fine powder and then whisking in water originated in China around the 10th century. But, the best matcha comes from Japan and the most popular growing regions are in the southern half of the country: Uji, Nishio, Shizuoka, and Kyushu. What most distinguishes matcha from other green teas is that matcha bushes are covered for up to 20 days prior to harvest to shade the leaves from direct sunlight. This is done to boost the plants' chlorophyll levels (which turns the leaves a darker, vibrant shade of green), and increase the production of L-Theanine, an amino acid that occurs naturally in the tea plant and certain types of mushrooms. Notice how tea has a tendency to both calm and stimulate at the same time? That’s thanks to L-Theanine.

Workers only pick the best buds, and depending on whether the leaves are rolled out flat before drying or whether they are laid out to dry will result in two different green teas. If the leaves are rolled out they become a premium green tea named Gyokuro, while the leaves that are laid out to dry become Tencha. Tencha is the leaf used for making matcha. Once the leaf is de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone-ground it becomes the fine powder known as matcha.

Sencha | 煎茶

Sencha is the most popular and commonly found green tea in Japan. It is labeled as steeped tea because it is prepared by infusing the whole processed tea leaves in hot water. In Japan, Sencha is responsible for 60% of tea production, and only a small percentage is exported. It is cultivated from the Camellia sinensis var Sinensis tea plant. It is commonly grown with the Yabukita cultivar.

Sencha tea leaves are steamed, just like other Japanese green teas, and give a grassy and fresh aroma. In other countries, green tea leaves are roasted and create a nutty and toasted aroma, unlike in Japan, which has a refreshing taste. It has a wide range and is infused with other tea types to make flavors and refreshing beverages.

Yamacha | 山茶

“yamacha”, literally “mountain tea”. When we talk about mountain plantations, on slopes in general, we use in Japanese “yama no ocha”. But “yamacha” means something different, and especially very rare. It is a garden or group of tea plants growing in the mountains, rather scattered, usually in the middle of the forest. The impression is very different from that of a plantation with shrubs growing tight in line. With these “yamacha”, we have of course “zairai”, ie native tea seeds grown plants (and not cuttings like cultivars). It is this type of tea tree, growing in an “almost” natural way, that is found in many area in Japan but mainly in Kyûshû, Shikoku, but also in Shizuoka or in the region of Nagoya, among others, which made thought wrongly that tea would have existed forever in Japan, even before the introduction of tea trees from China. In reality, the origin of this type of “yamacha” is human. In the 20th century especially, the mountains were exploited for silviculture, so many forests were planted for timber production. Very often we were able to plant over old slam-and-burn land where there were tea trees. As this activity began to decline after the period of high growth, forest and tea trees began to coexist again. Also, from the small group of tea trees “zairai” and the seeds that they generate, these gardens, formerly planted by hand of man could extend in a natural way.