One of my favorite topics when talking about tea is explaining the names of teas and teaware. There is a lot of beauty in those names and words that describe different brewing techniques. This topic is wide, but this time I will keep it down to explaining essential words you should know if you are a Japanese tea lover and want to buy tea online. Here is the essential Japanese tea vocabulary for tea types and shapes.
Japanese tea konacha (Source: Tea Chronicles ©)
The ultimate tea word – ocha
Ocha is the word you should use if you want to drink or buy tea in Japan. Ocha means tea.
Main tea types - ryokucha, kocha, uroncha
Japan is producing mainly green tea – ryokucha. Even though there are some types of Japanese white teas and fermented dark teas available, most of it is ryokucha – green tea, and most of it is steamed. Kocha is the name for black tea and uroncha for oolong tea, usually highly oxidized.
New tea - shincha
Shincha describes the first harvest of the season and refers mostly to sencha. However, you can find, for example, shincha gyokuro as well, as long as it refers to the first and freshest spring harvest of the year.
Big small, new old - sencha, bancha
Sencha is the most prized tea usually harvested in spring (though it can be harvested in summer and autumn as well) and bancha is made of older leaves in later harvests. It is more than often roasted (hojicha) or even fermented.
Different shape - tamaryokucha, kamairicha
Tamaryokucha and kamairicha have a very different shape from Japanese sencha. The difference between tamaryokucha and kamairicha is that one is steamed and the other is pan-fired.
Left-overs - mecha, kukicha, konacha
Mecha refers to buds, kukicha to stems, twigs and stalks and konacha are small particles, dust and buds. They are left-overs of green tea production.
Unrefined tea - aracha
Aracha is any tea that hasn't been through the final sorting and removing the unwanted parts of the leaf. It usually looks very messy. It is not a type of tea, but rather a form in which tea can be found.
Roasting it up – hojicha
Hojicha is any Japanese roasted green tea. Tencha can be hojicha, bancha is usually made into hojicha, as long as green tea is roasted, it carries the name hojicha.
Shaded - gyokuro, tencha, matcha
Gyokuro, tencha and matcha are all shaded teas. Gyokuro is full leaf, tencha is a step in matcha production – green tea leaves cut into small flakes, and matcha is grounded tencha.