Brewing Japanese green tea
Brewing Japanese green tea is easy and fun, and can yield some delicious results.
Senchado (“the way of sencha”) is the preferred way to prepare higher grades of green tea, particularly gyokuro and sencha, as it helps to concentrate their flavour and aroma, and enhance appreciation through multiple infusions. This preparation style may also be used to brew other styles of Japanese tea.
Senchado is most recognisable for its application in tea ceremonies, both religious and secular. Similar to gongfu cha, it offers a wonderful way to appreciate tea, whether for your everyday ritual of personal focus and introspection, or for welcoming guests to Japanese tea.
Key factors to brewing
There is adage in the tea world that says, ‘the fresher the leaf, the lower the water temperature’ should be. This is particularly true of Japanese steamed green teas. Steeped too hot or for too long, and the tea can taste bitter and undrinkable.
Thankfully, getting the temperature right is easy. For one thing, you can simply get hold of a temperature controlled kettle. Another way is transfer hot water from one ceramic vessel to another; the temperature drops by around 10 degrees centigrade with each pour. Hence, this is why it is common in Senchado to use small ceramic bowls for holding water before pouring into the teapot.
Alternatively, you can simply use a temperature controlled kettle.
Rather than brew for longer, you can adjust the strength of the tea to your liking by brewing with more leaf instead.
A long infusion time of steamed green tea, especially with hotter water, will rapidly extract mouth-drying astringency and bitterness. Try not to exceed 1 minute steeping time for any single infusion.
Teas like gyokuro are an exception to the 1 minute rule, because they are lower in astringent and bitter-tasting compounds (thanks to being shaded prior to harvest). Also, shaded teas like this are brewed at a much lower water temperature anyway, which slows the extraction of these compounds.
With every infusion, the tea will absorb some of the water; don’t worry, we’ve factored this in to the guides below. Naturally, tea will absorb the most water from the first infusion, which helps to soften the leaf. Subsequent infusions will reveal more flavour and aroma as a result of a gradually unfurled leaf.
Suitable types of tea
Gyokuro, Kabuse Sencha
For these deep-shaded, tender teas, our recommendation is to start lukewarm and finish with water that is a few minutes off the boil. This allows you to appreciate the taste spectrum of this exquisitely tender tea.
• 5–7g tea
60ml water at 40°C • 90 seconds
50ml water at 60°C • 10 seconds
50ml water at 90°C • Serve immediately
Black tea and roasted teas
Japanese black tea, roasted green tea and rice-blended teas respond well to higher temperature brewing. As a general guide, we recommend abiding by the following parameters, though you can increase the amount of water by 50-100mL to suit your taste.
• 4g tea
100ml water at 90°C • 40–60 seconds
100ml water at 100°C • Serve immediately
Sencha, Bancha, Karigane
All steamed green teas
If you’re ever in doubt, try brewing with these parameters, which are effective and easy to follow. Feel free to adjust brewing time and temperature to your liking.
• 5-7g tea
60ml water at 60°C • 30–60 seconds
60ml water at 80°C • Serve immediately
60ml water at 90°C • Serve immediately