All traditional tea is made from the leaves and buds of the Camellia sinensis plant. Depending on when the leaves are plucked and how they are processed determines what type of tea will be produced. Of the basic types of tea, Chinese green tea is the oldest and one of the most popular types available.
There are many varieties of tea that fall under the classification of green tea. They are also produced in many countries today including China, Japan, Korea, and India. One type of green tea that is known for its unorthodox preparation methods is Fukamushicha-Sencha tea. Popularized during the 1960s, it’s commonly consumed in Japan today.
The first reference to tea in Japan dates back to the 8th century. Said to have been brought from China by visiting monks, the tea culture in Japan exploded in the 13th century and production quickly followed. Unlike China, which is best known for pan-frying or roasting green tea leaves, Japan has become famous for its steamed green teas.
Sencha, the most favored and consumed green tea in Japan, makes up roughly 80% of the teas produced in Japan today. Originally developed in the 18th century, this type of green tea can be enjoyed in several different forms. When the leaves are harvested and how long they are steamed determines what type of sencha tea is produced.
Fukamushicha Harvest & Preparation
The leaves used to produce this green tea are generally plucked during the first or second harvests of the year. Then, the leaves are steamed to stop the oxidation process from occurring. Once steamed, the leaves are rolled to release more flavor and dried to remove any remaining moisture. While other green tea leaves are steamed for anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds, these tea leaves are steamed for up to two minutes.
The word ‘fukamushicha’ translates to “deep steamed.” In other words, the name of the tea directly references how the leaves are processed. Fukamushicha-Sencha tea is just one of eight types of sencha available. Although this deep steaming process can take place on other tea leaves, it is most commonly done with sencha leaves. Chances are if you are enjoying green tea that has been deeply steamed, it is of the sencha variety.
Benefits and Drawbacks of Deep Steaming
This preparation method enhances the tea’s taste. Taking the time to steam the leaves longer makes the final brew sweeter and more flavorful. It helps stifle the more acidic and bitter notes that tend to come through when brewing green tea.
The drawback to a longer steaming time is the leaves become more susceptible to breaking, leading to smaller fragments rather than whole leaves. This makes them harder to strain out after brewing.
This type of green tea can be a little tricky to brew correctly. This is partially due to how much longer the leaves are steamed when compared to other green teas. When brewing a cup of Fukamushicha-Sencha tea, you need to be very careful of quantities, time, and temperatures.
In order to brew a delicious hot cup of this green tea, you will need a kettle or pot to boil water, a teapot for steeping the leaves, a strainer to collect the leaves, and cups to drink out of. For these instructions, it is suggested to use 60 to 100 ml of water and 3 g of tea leaves for every serving.
- Bring some water to a boil. It is recommended to use spring water for the tastiest results.
- When the water is boiling, fill each of the tea cups with some of the hot water. Allow the water to cool in the cups until it reaches a temperature somewhere between 158°F to 176°F. (This step is important as it also preheats the cups.)
- While the water is cooling, place the correct amount of tea leaves into the teapot.
- When the water has cooled to the correct temperature, empty the cups into the teapot and allow the leaves to steep for 40 seconds.
- When the time is up, strain the tea leaves and pour little amounts of tea into each cup. Do not fill one cup up and then move on to the next. Rather, place small equal amounts of tea into each cup, repeating this process until all the cups are full and the teapot is empty. Serving this way ensures each cup will have the same amount of flavor.
Appearance, Aroma, and Flavor
The extended steaming time affects the appearance, taste, and smell of the Fukamushicha-Sencha tea. When fully cured, the leaves resemble bits of grass after a lawn has been mowed. Not only does it weaken the aroma, it also creates a tea that is a little cloudy and light green. Even though it is not clear or highly aromatic like other green teas, it has a unique flavor. It is often described as sweet and richer in taste when compared to other sencha teas.
Nutrition & Caffeine
This green tea has zero calories, carbs, proteins, and fats. Since the leaves of the Camellia sinensis are naturally caffeinated, this tea isn’t caffeine-free. Although it can vary depending on how it is brewed, one serving of this tea has somewhere between 27 mg to 41 mg of caffeine.
Unlike other Japanese green teas, which are steamed for 30-90 seconds to stop the oxidation process, Fukamushicha-Sencha tea is steamed for 120 seconds. This “deep steam” alters the leaves, making them brittle and fragile, but it does enrich the ending brew’s flavor.
Unlike other green teas that are said to be grassy and acidic, this green tea variety is known for being sweeter and richer in flavor. Although the brew is cloudy and not clear like other green teas, it is often said to have a better flavor than other types of sencha.
If you are a green tea lover or a tea enthusiast in general, Fukamushicha-Sencha tea is something you should definitely try. Be careful with brewing, however. It is a little touchier than other green teas due to the extra steaming time the leaves undergo while being cured.