Drinking Japanese tea is one of the things you can enjoy when visiting Japan. You can find tea everywhere in Japan. You can find it in vending machines, at convenient stores, and of course at restaurants. A lot restaurants serve tea instead of a glass of water. Not many people may know that there are not just one but lots of types of Japanese tea.
Types of Japanese tea
Due to its health benefits, green tea has become very popular in foreign countries. It is the most basic type of tea you’ll find in Japan and probably the most consumed type of tea too. It has a mild grass-like taste so some people don’t have a liking for it, but you should definitely try it once. In Japanese, it’s called “ryokucha”.
This tea adds a twist to the basic green tea. It has a sweet fragrant smell because of the roasted rice mixed in with the green tea leaves. It has a yellowish green tea and is called “Genmaic ha” in Japanese.
This tea is made out of roasted green tea leaves as you can imagine from the name. This tea is of a reddish brownish color. It is milder and sweeter than regular green tea, so younger children may favor it. Since it is roasted, it has a fragrant toasted kind of taste. It’s called “houjicha” in Japanese.
This “matcha” is the most expensive type of green tea. It is served at tea ceremonies and is a thick green tea powder mixed and frothed with hot water. It’s quite bitter so as a cultural experience, it’s great, but not many people enjoy drinking it. There are many sweets that are matcha flavored, like ice cream, chocolate, cakes, etc. These are matcha flavored but they’re sweet so if you enjoy green tea, I recommend trying these sweets first.
This of course is a Chinese tea. However, it’s now one of the teas that you can also find just about everywhere in Japan. The tea leaves are oxidized and then steamed or roasted, so it also has a toasted type of taste. If you want to order it in Japanese, it’s called “Oolongcha”.
In Japanese, this tea is called “Mugicha”. It’s a very popular tea to drink especially in summer time. It replenishes the minerals that the body loses due to perspiration during the hot and very humid Japanese summer. It is made by infusing roasted barley in water. It seems to not be enjoyed much by foreign tourists, but try it anyway if you’re here in summer time.
This is another originally Chinese tea. However, you can find it a lot in Okinawa. It’s called “Jasmincha” on the mainland of Japan, but it’s also called “Sanpincha” in Okinawa. Jasmine flowers are mixed in with green tea or oolong tea. So the tea has a touch of a sweet flowery taste making the green or oolong tea have a milder taste.
Black tea or red tea is usually thought of as a western type of tea, like those regularly consumed in England or exported from Sri Lanka. However, there are some Japanese versions of this black tea, made in Japan. Due to the lack of sun compared to for example Sri Lanka, the tea has a milder sweeter taste and has a more reddish color when brewed. It goes well with Japanese sweets or Japanese food.
Japanese Tea Brands
There are many many brands of Japanese tea that I cannot begin to cover them all. The 5 top prefectures that produce tea is Shizuoka, Kagoshima, Mie, Miyazaki, and Kyoto prefectures. Shizuoka alone produces 40% of all the tea produced in Japan.
Where to Buy Japanese Tea
You can buy all kinds of tea anywhere in Japan, so it’s hard to recommend where the best place to buy tea is. For those of you who don’t have much money to spend, go to a supermarket. It’s probably the cheapest place to get some tea leaves. You can also find lots of types of bottled tea at supermarkets and convenient stores.
For those of you who have a little bit more money to spend or are looking for an especially tasty type of tea, below are some tea stores you can go shopping at. They are arranged in two groups, the first is for green tea and other types of Japanese tea. The other is for Japanese Black Tea.
Address: 1-34-15 Kamiuma, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 154-0011
Hours: 1pm - 8 pm (open from 11 am on weekends)
Website (Japanese only): https://www.tokyosaryo.jp/
Address: Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi Main Bldg B1, 1-4-1 Hashimuromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 103-0022
Hours: 10:30am - 7:30pm
Address: Kabukiza Tower 5F, 4-12-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
Hours: 10am - 6pm (until 6:30 pm on weekends)
Address: Ta1-8 Iburihashicho, Kaga-shi, Ishikawa Pref.
Hours: 10am - 6pm (last order at the cafe 4:30 pm)
Website (Japanese only): https://www.kagaboucha.co.jp/web/shop/
Ippodo Tea (Kyoto)
Address: Teramachi-dori Nijo, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-0915
Hours: 9am to 6pm (tea room 10am to 5:30pm)
Closed: New Years holidays
Gion Tsujiri (Main shop)
Address: 563-3 Gion-machi Minamigawa, Shijo-dori, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto
Hours: 10am - 9pm
Website (Japanese only): http://www.giontsujiri.co.jp
Lupicia (Main shop)
Address: 1-25-17 Jiyugaoka, Meguro-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 10am - 8pm (tea room open until 7 pm)
Address: 4-7 Yanagimachi, Saga-shi, Saga Pref. 840-0823
Hours: 11am - 6pm
Closed: Mondays and Tuesdays
Website (Japanese only): https://creha.net/
Japanese Tea Ceremony
For people who’d like not only to experience the taste of Japanese tea but also experience Japanese tea as a cultural experience, participating in a Japanese tea ceremony is an amazing way to do so. Learn about how to make authentic matcha tea and also witness the aesthetic process of the tea ceremony. But be aware that you’ll be drinking matcha tea in these ceremonies. It’s the one that is thick and bitter, so if you’re not a fan, I would not recommend it. In case you’ve never tried matcha tea before and are willing to try it, the tea ceremony is a great experience to try.
There are tea ceremony activities that allow you to experience making the matcha tea yourself, and there are also those which you just participate in the tea ceremony instead of making the tea yourself. Decide which type you want to try and see some of the following websites in Tokyo to make a reservation. The fees start from around a minimum of 4,000 yen. Some places also offer the additional option of doing the ceremony in a kimono, so you can take some wonderful pictures too.
Omotenashi Nihonbashi : http://www.nihonbashi-info.jp/omotenashi/tea.html
Shizu-Kokoro : https://shizukokoro.com/chado-workshop/
Kimono Tea Ceremony Maikoya : https://mai-ko.com/culture/tea-ceremony/
Tea Ceremony En: http://www.teaceremonyen.com/
Tea Ceremony Camellia: https://www.tea-kyoto.com/
Tea Ceremony Ju-An: https://www.teaceremonyjuan.com/
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