Japan has traditions and customs about pretty much anything – of course, that includes drinking green tea.
One of the main reasons to drink green tea is because it has a substantial amount of health benefits. While there is a lot of hype (and lies) around the health benefits, there have been studies that show it can:
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Speed up metabolism
- Contains B vitamins, folate, manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants, notably catechins.
So, let’s start off about clearing any confusion about what Japanese green tea “緑茶” actually is.
Green tea in Japan is not a sweet, fruity tea like you often by in supermarkets in the west, but has a homely taste. Green is NOT the same as the powdered maccha tea, which is a much stronger and thicker type of tea used in tea ceremonies (sadou).
Green tea “ryokucha” (left) looks like this, while maccha (right) looks like this.
There are many types of green tea, but the best leaves are the ones picked from the first harvest. The higher the harvest number, the lower the quality. The green tea you would buy in a convenience store bottle is often used with the lower quality leaves – unless you go out of your way to buy the fancy stuff.
To make your tea in the traditional way, you’re going to need something called a ‘kyuusu’, which is basically a funny-looking teapot.
How to Prepare Green Tea
Step 1. Boil the kettle.
Step 2. Put roughly 2 tablespoons of tea leaves into your kyuusu (for a typical size kyuusu).
Step 3. Once the boiled water has cooled slightly, pour the water into the kettle.
- For tea with a bitter taste, 80 degrees is ideal.
- For standard tea, 70 degrees is best.
- For tea with a slightly sweeter taste, 60 degrees is best.
Step 4. Allow several minutes for the tea leaves to blend into the water.
Step 5. Take the kyuusu (teapot) in one hand, hold down the lid with your other hand, and pour the tea into the cups for you and your guests. (It’s common for men to hold the teapot and hold down the lid all with one hand).
TIP: Don’t fill up the cup all in one go! Fill each cup little by little to prevent one tea becoming stronger than another.
Step 6. Once the tea is a drinking temperature, take the cup with both hands and drink away!
Step 7 (optional). If you’re having a wagashi (Japanese sweets) with your tea, please wait until after you’ve had a drink, or the sweet will hide the taste of the tea.
Note: Because maccha tea has a much stronger flavour, feel free to eat your sweet before you have a drink.
That’s everything you need to know about drinking green tea in Japan. Enjoy!