Learn the correct way to brew different types of Japanese green tea. Here, I’ll show you how to extract the best flavor with quality loose tea leaves, the right water temperature, and the correct brew time. With these tips, you can make a fragrant pot of green tea at home and enjoy all the health benefits it has to offer.
Green tea is the beverage of choice enjoyed in Japan for thousands of years. According to the World Green Tea Association, 72.3% of Japanese people drink green tea several times a day and it is especially popular among people older than 50 years old. Recognized for its healing and antioxidant properties, it is no wonder why green tea is so integral to everyday life in Japan.
Here, we’ll show you how you can make the perfect cup of green tea at home.
What is Green Tea?
Did you know most tea—regardless of the color or flavor—come from the same plant called Camellia sinensis? Yes, it’s a bit surprising! The leaves are turned into green tea, black tea, or oolong tea by the levels of oxidation process during the processing method. Compared to black teas and oolong, green tea is the least oxidized as the tea leaves are steamed and dried almost immediately after harvesting. The process stops the fermentation and allows it to preserve the chlorophyll and its rich green color.
Types of Japanese Green Teas
Japanese green teas come in a great variety and grades, each with its unique characteristics. Here are the common green teas most Japanese drink daily:
- Sencha (煎茶) – The “standard” green tea is grown in the sun and has a sharp profile. The thinner, delicate leaves in the upper shoots of the tea plant are harvested for sencha. The green tea leaves are steamed, rolled, and dried into a needle shape. There are several factors that affect the quality of the leaves including where it’s farmed and when it was harvested.
- Bancha (番茶) – Bancha is the same as sencha except the leaves are closer to the stalk and larger in size. During the drying process, the larger leaves do not roll into the fine needle shape. Considered the lowest quality of tea leaves. This type of tea is used to make Hojicha (ほうじ茶), roasted green tea, and Genmaicha (玄米茶) green tea with roasted brown rice.
- Gyokuro (玉露) – Unlike most green tea, gyokuro green tea leaves are grown in the shade with specially made mats, which allows the amino acids to get stronger, producing a sweeter and richer flavor. The leaves are rolled and dried into a needle shape. It is regarded as the best in quality and flavor for making hot brewed green tea.
How about matcha (抹茶)? Many people are familiar with matcha and associate it with Japanese green tea. While matcha is a type of green tea in powdered form, it’s not typical for Japanese to drink matcha (without milk) as a daily drink.
How to Make Green Tea at Home
It’s really simple to make green tea at home. Unlike matcha (green tea powder) which requires specific bowls and whisks, you can make Japanese green tea with simply good quality water and tea leaves.
* We will not cover non-Japanese green tea such as dragonwell or flavored green tea in this post.
What You’ll Need to Make Green Tea
- Kitchen scale for weighing tea leaves and water
- Electric kettle with temperature control or a quick-read thermometer
- Teapot and teacup (Check out Musubi Kiln for beautiful teapots and tea cups; use “justonecookbook” to get 10% off)
- A timer (all phones have one)
- A fine-mesh sieve for filtering out tea leaves
- Loose-leaf Japanese green tea
How To Make Green Tea Taste Good
There are only a few factors that go into making green tea.
- Water volume and temperature
- Tea leaf amount
- Brew time
The water temperature varies depending on the type of green tea leaves you are using. If the temperature is not appropriate, the tea becomes tart and over-extracted. If you add too much water, the tea could become too diluted. To extract the perfect balance of sweetness and astringency for each type of tea, the correct process should be followed.
The Step-By-Step Instructions
Here are our recommended step-by-step instructions for brewing each type of tea. The instructions below are for 2 people:
Sencha (Standard Green Tea) – The majority of the teas in Japan are made into sencha. Great-tasting sencha has a perfect balance of aroma, sweetness, earthy flavor, and astringency. Measure 10 g (0.35 oz, roughly 2 Tbsp) of tea leaves, heat water to 80ºC (176ºF), and add 210 ml (7 oz) of hot water. Let steep for 60 seconds and immediately pour out to enjoy.
Hojicha (Roasted Green Tea) – This is one of our favorite teas to drink with a meal or with snacks as it happens to be the easiest green tea to brew. Measure 10 g (0.35 oz, roughly 2 Tbsp) of tea and add to a teapot. Boil water and add 240 ml (8 oz) boiling temp water to the teapot to brew for 30-40 seconds. Pour out and enjoy.
Genmaicha (Green Tea with Roasted Brown Rice) – Genmaicha tastes very different from hojicha but the way to prepare it is the same. Simply measure 10 g (0.35 oz) of tea leaves and add them to a teapot. Boil water and add 240 ml (8 oz) boiling temp water to the teapot and brew for 30-40 seconds.
Gyokuro (Premium Shade-Grown Green Tea) – For the delicate gyokuro, measure 10 g (0.35 oz) of tea leaves and add to a teapot. Heat water to 60ºC (140ºF) and add 160 ml (6 oz) of hot water to the teapot. Brew for 90 seconds and immediately enjoy.
Health Benefits of Green Tea
Green tea contains polyphenols, EGCG, and antioxidants, which help the body fight cancer and prevent cell damage. Other benefits of drinking green tea include increasing metabolism, supporting brain functions, and reducing heart disease. That being said, we’re not promoting drinking green tea all day but consuming it in moderation.
Read more about its health benefits here.
Q: What does green tea taste like?
Quality green tea should taste fresh and aromatic, not flat or stale. And depending on the type of green tea, each has its own unique profile. Sencha has an assertive tang and gyokuro is much milder in terms of flavor and astringency. Hojicha is roasted so it’s more aromatic, sweeter, and has very little astringency. Genmaicha has roasted rice so the tea tastes very different from others with a toasty and nutty profile. It has a caramel undertone, a bit sweet, but still has plenty of green tea flavor.
Q: Is there caffeine in green tea?
Yes, gyokuro has the highest amount of caffeine, even more than matcha. Sencha has less caffeine, and hojicha and genmaicha have the least. For nighttime drinking, we would recommend only hojicha and genmaicha.
Q: How many times can I refill the teapot?
You can make tea at least 2-3 times with the same tea leaves.
Q: Do you put sugar in Japanese green tea?
No. We don’t add sugar to green tea, especially if you wish to enjoy the purity and all the goodness it has to offer. High-quality green teas have a natural earthy sweet aftertaste, so it’s important to appreciate their subtleties and the complexity of flavor.
Pro Tips for Making Japanese Green Tea
- Watch the brew time closely. Even expensive tea could taste awful if brewed too long.
- For good quality Japanese green tea, we would not recommend adding honey, spices, herbs, mint, cinnamon, lemon, or any other flavoring agents.
- We recommend using a sieve instead of a tea infuser so the tea leaves can fully absorb the water and release its full flavors. All our brewing instructions are for loose tea leaves and not for steeping green tea bags. For tea bags, please follow the package instructions.
- If you’re using a traditional Japanese teapot, you don’t have to worry about straining the tea leaves too much. Even though the holes which the tea flows through seem quite large, very few tea leaves actually end up in the cup.
- Use high-quality loose-leaf green tea from a reputable grower. We really like Ippodo’s green tea and used them for this post.
How to Best Enjoy Japanese Green Tea
You can enjoy green tea as part of your breakfast or along with your afternoon meal. It is especially cleansing after a heavy meal. We also enjoy green tea with Japanese sweets like dorayaki, taiyaki, or dango.
More Japanese Tea Recipes
How to Make Japanese Green Tea
Learn the correct way to brew different types of Japanese green tea. Here, I show you how to extract the best flavor with quality loose tea leaves, the right water temperature, and the correct brew time. With these tips, you can make a fragrant pot of green tea at home and enjoy all the health benefits it has to offer.
Servings: 1 batch (160-240 ml per batch)
For Sencha (standard green tea)
For Hojicha (roasted green tea)
For Genmaicha (green tea with roasted brown rice)
For Gyokuro (premium shade-grown green tea)
Prevent your screen from going dark
Before You Start…
Typically, Japanese teapots can hold 200–360 ml of tea.
Japanese tea cups range from 60–100 ml. Tip (optional): I highly recommend warming up the tea cups with hot water before serving in order to keep the tea hot for a longer time.
To Make the Japanese Green Tea
Use a kitchen scale to measure the loose tea leaves (here, I‘m using gyokuro). Weigh 0.35 oz sencha, 0.35 oz hojicha, 0.35 oz genmaicha, or 0.35 oz gyokuro. Then, add the loose tea leaves to your teapot. Tip: As long as you use the same variety of tea leaves, you can remember the rough amount and skip using a scale next time.
Next, heat water in a kettle to the temperature indicated above for the type of tea leaves that you’re using.
To the teapot, add the measured amount of hot water at the right temperature. I pour the hot water directly into my teapot set on a kitchen scale. Use 7.5 oz hot water (at 176ºF or 80ºC) for sencha; 8.5 oz hot water (at 212ºF or 100ºC) for hojicha; 8.5 oz hot water (at 212ºF or 100ºC) for genmaicha; or 6 oz hot water (at 140ºF or 60ºC) for gyokuro. Then, close the lid and let it steep according to the suggested brew time below. Tip: As long as you use the same variety and measurement of tea leaves, you can remember the approximate amount of water to use and skip using a scale next time.
Sencha: 1 minuteHojicha: 30–40 secondsGenmaicha: 30–40 secondsGyokuro: 90 seconds
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on April 17, 2023. It’s been republished on September 20, 2023.