A lot of times when you think of green tea, a hot beverage comes to mind. But did you know that there are some green teas that are just as good, if not better, when they are iced or even cold brewed? Iced beverages as well as cold brewed coffee and tea are beloved in my native New England, we even drink them while shoveling snow. So I may be a little biased, but I was pretty excited when I discovered Reicha tea.
What is Reicha Tea?
Reicha tea is not actually a tea itself, but a method for cold brewing sencha, a Japanese green tea. There are four different ways to cold brew Japanese sencha tea, and Reicha is the most basic method.
While the process itself is not complicated, there is one piece of equipment that is suggested for use that is not commonly found in kitchens outside of Japan, the kyusu. It is not necessary if you have a fine tea strainer that you can pour your tea through, but it is the traditional equipment used for cold brewing tea using the Reicha method.
What is a Kyusu?
A kyusu is a traditional Japanese teapot. It is well loved in Japanese culture and is still commonly used today in Japan. What makes the kyusu unique is the placement of its handle, which is found on the side of the pot. Most kyusu are made of clay and have been made that way for centuries, but other materials are used occasionally in modern times.
One important part of the kyusu is the very fine mesh filter inside of it. Japanese sencha tea, which is very fine, is brewed inside of the kyusu itself. Because of that the fine mesh filter is a necessary part for pouring the tea from the kyusu. Some kyusu have these mesh filters built into the pot while others are removable.
Another thing to keep in mind if you do use a kyusu for making sencha with the Reicha method is the material your kyusu is made of. Clay kyusu, which are the most popular, tend to absorb some of the flavor of the tea you are brewing in them. It is recommended that you only brew one type of tea per kyusu if you are using a clay one. Not only will this prevent any kind of odd cross-contamination of flavor, but it will also improve the taste of the one tea you do brew over time.
How to Cold Brew Using the Reicha Method
The brewing process itself is relatively simple. Add your tea leaves directly to your kyusu followed by a small amount of hot water, roughly 10ml. Allow the hot water to sit with the tea leaves for a moment then add some ice to your kyusu. Finally pour cool water into your kyusu and allow the tea to steep for one minute. After the minute is up your tea is ready to be poured.
Aside from providing a cold tea, the Reicha method also changes the flavor profile of the tea. Tea brewed using a cold brew method will have a different taste than if you brewed your tea hot. Cold brewed tea tends to be smoother and more clear, as well as much less bitter. It will also have a richer umami flavor to it.
Even if you brew tea hot and allow it to cool, it still will not taste the same as cold brewed tea. The reason for this is the way catechin is extracted from tea. Catechin is the source of bitterness in tea and it is extracted more efficiently when tea is brewed in hot water. When tea is cold brewed, much less of it finds its way from the tea leaves into your tea.
How Much Caffeine Does it Have?
Sencha tea brewed using the Reicha method has less caffeine than your standard hot brewed cup of sencha tea. In fact, cold brewed sencha tea has about 50% less caffeine than hot brewed sencha tea. The reason for this is because of how caffeine is extracted from tea leaves during the brewing process.
Caffeine is extracted from tea leaves much more efficiently using hot water. There is a small amount of hot water used at the very beginning of the Reicha brewing method, but it is only in there briefly before the ice and cool water is added. Because of that tea brewed using the Reicha method will be lower in caffeine.
Popularity of Sencha Tea
Sencha tea is one of the most common teas brewed using the Reicha method. Because of that it’s worth looking further into if we are discussing Reicha brewed tea.
Sencha tea is the most widely grown tea in Japan. In fact, almost 70% of all tea grown in Japan is sencha tea. It is a green tea that is steamed, dried, and then rolled into small needles. Because there is so much of this tea being grown in Japan, there is also a very wide variety of different strains of sencha tea. Some strains can be very expensive while others can be much more affordable.
Reicha tea is a sencha tea cold brewed using the Reicha method. It is a clean, very smooth tea with a deep umami flavor. This tea also has about half as much caffeine as its hot brewed counterpart.
If you want to brew this tea using traditional methods, it will require a pretty unique teapot called a kyusu. If you are in Japan, odds are you may already have one, but they are not commonly found outside of Japanese kitchens. Without a kyusu, you will need a fine mesh tea strainer to be able to properly brew this tea.
Reicha tea is brewed using sencha tea, the most commonly grown tea in Japan. It is small, needle shaped tea that comes in several varieties.