Green tea, which is made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant, was first introduced in Japan during the 9th century. Buddhist monks brought tea seeds from China to their native land where the plant and beverage quickly became popular.
Bancha tea, the second most popular and consumed green tea in Japan, is available in 22 different grades. In fact, roughly 10% of tea produced in Japan is of the Bancha variety. This Japanese green tea, which is considered to be a of a lower quality when compared to other green teas, is often consumed with or after a meal.
Grown in multiple regions throughout Japan, Bancha tea started increasing in popularity during the middle of the Edo period, which was sometime during the 1700s. Since then, this beverage has gained a reputation for being an affordable and “everyday” type of tea.
Harvest & Production
Bancha tea leaves and stems are gathered during the second harvest, also referred to as the second flush. Since the leaves are plucked during the late summer to fall harvest, they are more mature, larger in size, and located lower down on the plant. With Bancha being plucked during a later harvest and the leaves being older, it is considered of a lesser quality.
After the leaves are harvested, they are heated and dried to stop the oxidation process. The preparation methods, however, vary from region to region. While some Bancha tea leaves are left unroasted, others are pan-roasted, smoked, or even fermented.
Due to climate and weather, only certain parts of Japan are conducive for this tea tree plant to grow. Unable to survive the cold winters in the north, this green tea plant typically grows in southern and central Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu.
Although there are quite a few different types of Bancha tea, there are two more well-known varieties. Both have a distinct look and taste.
Unlike other Japanese green teas, which tend to be steamed, this variety is roasted at a high temperature in a ceramic pot. The roasting, which is done over charcoal, transforms the leaves to a beautiful reddish-brown color. Not only does this stop the oxidation process, but it also infuses the leaves with a toasty flavor.
After brewing tea with these specially prepared leaves, the beverage takes on a distinct red-tinted color. It also produces a sweet and nutty aroma with a toasty flavor. Ironically, this method of preparing the tea leaves makes the leaves lose a lot of their caffeine content, so it becomes more child-friendly. It is also a great option for people who are more sensitive to caffeine.
This tea, which is made from the stems, stalks, and twigs of the of Camellia sinensis plant, is commonly referred to as twig tea. Since this tea is made from plant material that is often not used in teas, the brew tends to have a strong and fresh aroma and a mild nutty and sweet flavor.
Brewing Bancha Tea
While Bancha tea is available in tea bags, it is often discouraged to use this form of tea, mainly because the quality of the product in the tea bags is lower than the quality of product when purchased loose. Not only that, but loose-leaf tea tends to brew a more flavorful beverage that is more enjoyable.
In order to brew traditional Japanese Bancha tea with loose leaves, you will need a pot to boil water, a Kyusu teapot for brewing the tea, and a teacup to drink out of. With these three items, you can enjoy a fresh cup tea in just a few steps.
- Bring water to a boil in a pot.
- Once the water reaches a rolling boil, fill your teacup with the boiling water and let it cool until it reaches around 185°F. Not only does this cool the water down quicker, but it also pre-heats your cup.
- While the water in the teacup is cooling, put 1 teaspoon of loose leaves into the small kyusu, or Japanese teapot.
- After the water has reached the correct temperature, pour the hot water from the tea cup into the kyusu. Allow the tea leaves to steep for one minute.
- When the time is up, gently swirl and pour the tea into the pre-heated tea cup. Then, enjoy your fresh brew!
Appearance, Flavor, & Aroma
The look, taste, and smell of Bancha tea is directly related to the variety being brewed. While some take on a yellow color, some also have a reddish tint to them. Some are considered to be bold and robust, while others have a mild and sweet flavor. Aroma is another variation, with some brews having a nutty smell where others may have a more grassy aroma.
Caffeine & Nutrition
In every 8 fl oz of Bancha tea, there is roughly 10 mg of caffeine. Of course, this number varies depending on how the leaves were processed after harvest. In addition to this, each serving has a low nutritional value. One cup contains zero calories, fats, carbs, and proteins.
Potential Health Benefits
Many people who enjoy tea for the taste, also enjoy the potential health benefits that it provides. Although it has not been studied, green tea is believed to help with digestion, blood sugar, mind clarity, and the immune system.
Bancha Green Tea
This Japanese green tea variety is both common and relatively inexpensive. Being of a lesser quality than some other green teas, it is consumed by everyday people and is often used in addition to meal time. With many different types of Bancha tea, the appearance, flavor, and aroma differ depending on which type is being brewed.
Making up approximately 10% of all tea produced in Japan, it is the second most popular kind of tea in the country. Being relatively easy to brew and highly diverse, this lightly caffeinated beverage is an excellent choice for someone who wants to experiment with green tea.
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