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Japanese Green Tea Glossary

The A-Z glossary of Japanese green teas and terminology. A glossary of tea terminology commonly used to describe tea leaf and tea types. Whether you are relatively new to tea drinking or consider yourself to be a connoisseur, it is no secret that the language of tea is rather complicated.



A tea tasting term which describes a liquor which is pungent, creating a "dry" feeling in the mouth.


Literally “coarse tea”. Japanese tea production can be understood (simplified) as harvest –> steam –> roll –> dry –> sort –> post-process. Aracha tea leaves are leaves that have been dried but remain unsorted. The sorting process separates the leaves from stems, fannings, and dust.


Light-steamed tea, usually referring to sencha. In general, the highest quality teas are light-steamed, i.e. for about 30 seconds. This preserves the shape of the leaf. Chuumushi or Fukamushi (mid or deep steamed), breaks down the leaves making it easier to draw out more flavor so is used for leaves that are not as infused with the goodness that is tea.

Awa Bancha

Awa Bancha is a slightly fermented bancha tea from Tokushima Prefecture that contains lactic acid, also known as milk acid, which gives the tea a slight pungency.



A Japanese tea made from coarse leaves, usually from the last plucking. This tea is generally consumed domestically.


A post-fermented tea that is usually drunk by whisking. Batabatacha is produced in Toyama Prefecture on the coast of the Sea of Japan, Batabatacha is served at events such as when introducing the bride after the wedding ceremonies in the region. A blend of herbs and tea from neighbouring town of Itoigawa in Niigata Prefecture also uses the same name. "Batabata" refers the sound of whisking.



Cha is a generic term for tea. It refers to all types of tea made from Camellia Sinensis, however, in Japan, the term “cha” is used for tisane/herbal teas as well.


One of the three methylxanthines in tea (caffeine, theophylline and theobromine), caffeine stimulates the nervous system. A cup of tea averages 40 milligrams of caffeine versus approximately 110 in a cup of coffee.


Cha is a generic term for tea. It refers to all types of tea made from Camellia Sinensis, however, in Japan, the term “cha” is used for tisane/herbal teas as well.


Tea scoop used for sencha.


Bamboo tea spoon used for Matcha


A Bamboo whisk carved out of a single piece of bamboo into fine strands or 'tines'. Its use is only for whisking powdered Matcha with hot water.


Chawan is a tea cup or bowl used for preparing and drinking of matcha tea. There are many types of Chawan used in Japanese tea ceremony.

Camellia Sinensis

This plant is used to produce tea leaves. Also known as a tea plant or shrub. Interestingly, the Camellia Sinensis produces the Matcha tea, white tea, black tea, green tea and oolong tea. Variations in cultivation including soils, shading, climates and time of harvesting along with differences in processing, create different types of tea.


Catechins are a type of flavonoid and anti-oxidant. Matcha tea, in particular, is rich in Catechins, in particular, EGCG.


A small linen cloth for wiping the tea bowl during the tea ceremony



Dobin is a large teapot with a bamboo, rattan or wooden handle on the top



Fukamushi Sencha

Fukamushi Sencha is a variety of green tea that is steamed two to three times longer than regular Sencha. The longer steaming process causes the tea leaves to become fragile and break into small pieces


Matcha sifter used to remove all the clumps from the matcha before whisking. 



Genmaicha is a type of tea made by mixing sencha or bancha with toasted rice. Though there are different types, 1:1 ratio of toasted rice and bancha is regarded as the standard genmaicha. Because the tea leaf used is half the amount of usual tea, genmaicha contains less caffeine compared to sencha or other green tea.


Goishicha is Japan’s only fermented tea and made with a special method known as after fermentation. Made in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, the name goishicha is taken from the Japanese game Igo. The tea has a bit sour taste.


Gyokuro is a type of sencha, but grown under a different condition; while sencha is grown under the full sun, gyokuro is shielded from the sun (shaded for approximately 20 days, but length vary by farmer and region). Catechin that causes bitterness in taste is decreased under the shade, and instead preserves a high L-theanin amino acid content. As a result, the umami taste in the tea increases.

Goishicha is Japan’s only fermented tea and made with a special method known as after fermentation. Made in Kochi Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, the name goishicha is taken from the Japanese game Igo. The tea has a bit sour taste.



Hojicha is a Japanese green tea that originated in Kyoto 100 years ago. Unlike traditional green teas, hojicha is roasted after the leaves are steamed. Along with removing all bitterness, the roasting process gives hojicha its signature earthy aroma, its reddish-brown color and a unique smoky taste.


A bamboo ladle to scoop the hot water out of the tea kettle into the tea bowl


Hohin is a Japanese teapot. Hohin means "Treasure Jar" in Japanese and implies with this name that only high quality tea leaves should be brewed inside this teapot. This teapots are similar to Kyusu teapot but without a handle



The first harvest tea picked from late April through May and into June.



Cloth or fabric cover placed directly on the tea plants to cover them; used to produce gyokuro & tencha.


Tea made from leaf buds and tips.



Kamairicha is made by heating the leaves in a pan instead of steaming. Many Chinese teas use this method to make green tea and has been practiced in Southern Japan for generations.


Kancha, cold-season tea. A very rare tea prepared in Aichi and Tokushima prefectures. It's also known as asukekancha.


Karigane refers to kukicha leaf stem tea made from gyokuro or high-grade sencha, and a term used mainly in the Kansai region (western Japan). Karigane is translated as “the sound of geese”, the motif geese symbolising beauty in the traditional Japanese poetic aesthetic.


Kabusecha is a tea that is categorised in between gyokuro and sencha. Shaded for approximately one week (after the leaves bud), it has a good balance of rich taste and savouriness.


Koicha is the term for matcha made to be very thick. In tea ceremony, koicha is made by putting three chashaku scoops of matcha in a bowl with small amount of warm water. It is more like kneading rather than whisking, creating a thick, dark matcha. Koicha is said to be the most important way to welcome and treat the guests. Often times the bowl is passed around among the guests where each guest take a sip (practice may vary depending on the school of tea ceremony).


Literally “powdered tea”, konacha is often confused with tea powder but it is actually a tea made up of smallest bits of tea leaves that are left after processing. It is known as a tea served in Sushi restaurants for its short steeping time, bitter taste that erases the fishiness, and its low cost.


A Kyusu is a traditional Japanese ceramic teapot specially designed to brew green tea. Kyusu are available in all shapes, sizes, and colors.



L-theanine is an amino acid which has been shown to improve levels of GABA, serotonin and dopamine. This compound is found in abundance in Matcha, with smaller amounts in black tea and also mushrooms. Studies suggest that L-theanine improves mental focus, sleep satisfaction, relaxation, cognitive performance and even weight loss.



Matcha translates to powdered tea powder. While it comes from the same tea plant (Camellia Sinensis) as green tea, its colour and unique nutritional qualities come from its farming practices. During the final three weeks of growth, the plants grow in the shade. Shielding from the sun boosts production of amino acids and L-theanine giving it a potent supply of antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.


Mecha refers to tea made from the tips of the leaf or small, soft leaf that are separated from other leaves during processing. Mecha is deep green in color and rich in savory umami flavor.



A tea caddy for matcha, used during the tea ceremony, made of lacquered wood (or plastic if it is a cheap natsume).


The term for Japanese tea, generally referring to traditional Japanese teas, not Japanese black teas or Japan-produced oolong teas


Bancha leaves are the lower leaves on the tea bush, and are normally picked in the second harvest. That's why it's called as nibancha = second harvested tea.



Ocha tends to mean to 'traditional' Japanese tea,that is,green tea


Okumidori was developed by the National Institute of Vegetable and Tea Science in Kanaya and registered in 1974. Okumidori is due to it's excellent taste and deep green colour suitable for producing Tencha and Gyokuro




A thick-walled, rough, dark lead-glazed Japanese tea bowl used in the tea ceremony.


The Japanese word for green tea. This is often used when the manufacturer doesn’t want to say that they used lower quality leaves to make, for example, a bottled tea or a tea bag. It is also used sometimes when the producer has innovated in a way that prevents categorization under tradition terms. Fukushima-san’s Royal Emerald Tea powder is one such innovation.



‘Saemidori’ is one of the tea cultivars for green tea, suiting to Sencha, Gyokuro and matcha due to higher umami, bright green colour and higher suitability to shade cultivation


Sencha is a type of green tea made in Japan in which the tea leaves are steamed, rolled, and dried immediately after harvest to prevent oxidisation. It can also refer more specifically to tea leaves that are unshaded when compared to shaded teas such as gyokuro and kabusecha.


Shira-ore is another name for kukicha (stem tea), but refers only to the stems of gyokuro or high-grade sencha.


Shincha, literally new tea, is a term used for to new harvest tea or first-flush tea of the season. Some producers market any of their teas in the first 1-3 months after harvest as "shincha" while others (particularly larger companies) only market an extra premium / early harvest of young leaves as "shincha". The latter version has often led to confusion that "shincha" is a specific type of tea. However, any type of tea can be called "shincha" in the first few months after harvest.



Canopy covering used to cover the tea plants; used to produce gyokuro & tencha.


Most Japanese green teas are either steamed or pan-fired before processing and drying. Toubancha, in order increase the amount of polysaccharides in the tea leaf, skips this step and is immediately rolled, and dried simultaneously.


Tencha is made in a similar process as gyokuro, where the leaves are covered and shaded from the sunlight. The leaves are shaded at least 20 days (length may vary by farmer and region), and unlike gyokuro it skips the rolling process so the leaves remain flat. Tencha is the tea used for making matcha.



Usucha is the term for matcha made to be very thin. In tea ceremony, usucha is made by putting one and a half chashaku scoop of matcha in a bowl with warm water, resulting in a bright light green color. In general usucha is used for casual settings. Each of the 70+ schools of tea ceremony have different rules however, and this may differ depending on the school.


Tea canister for usucha ; also known as a natsume.


While there is no exact English translation, the Japanese term Umami is best described as a savoury flavour. You may the notice Umami flavour in Matcha products and articles referring to Matcha. While we have four senses (saltiness, sweetness, bitterness and sourness), the Japanese describe Umami as a fifth sense - savoury.




The term for Japanese black tea, or more specifically, black tea made in Japan. Often times these wakoucha use tea plants originally meant for making green tea, so the taste and aroma is different from other imported black teas.




Tea cultivar, mostly used for sencha; rich-tasting.


Fourth-picked tea, usually in October.


Is a form of teacup, typically made from a ceramic material, being taller than wide, with a trimmed or turned foot. Unlike the more formal chawan tea bowl which is used during the Japanese tea ceremony, the yunomi is made for daily (or informal) tea drinking.


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