AGELESS: AGELESS™ is a taste and freshness preserving agent produced in Japan by Mitsubishi Gas Company. It is a tiny flat square pad composed of an iron powder that works as an oxygen absorber and prevents oxidation of packaged food products. Our tea packages foil contain a AGELESS™ pad to keep your product as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Please do not consume the pad and dispose properly after use. For more technical information about the quality and the safety of this oxygen absorber, please check the Mitsubishi product page here: https://www.mgc.co.jp/eng/products/sc/ageless/
AMINO ACID: often referred to as the building blocks of proteins, are compounds organic compounds composed mainly of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. They consist of a basic amino group (―NH2), an acidic carboxyl group (―COOH), and an organic R group (or side chain) that is unique to each amino acid. Roughly 500 amino acids have been identified in nature, but just 20 amino acids make up the proteins found in the human body. Out of those 20, 11 amino acids are called non-essential (body can make from other amino acids) and 9 are called essential (body cannot produce by itself). Tea is rich in amino acids, notably in L-theanine. Green tea, black tea, and certain types of mushroom naturally contain L-theanine, which may affect the levels of certain chemicals in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine. Those latter influence mood, sleep, and emotion, and cortisol, which helps the body deal with stress.
BANCHA: a Japanese tea made with lower leaves of the tea tree branches, mostly prepared with leaves of the autumn harvest. Leaves are usually panned and left to dry. Bancha is popular in winter and considered as a lower grade of tea.
BLACK (OR DARK) TEA 黒茶: They are called black teas in China and Japan and "dark" elsewhere. Those are teas that have been naturally or artificially fermented, involving a microbial activity. While the term "post-fermented" is often used, it is technically incorrect. The most famous tea of this family is the Pu'erh. Fermented teas are rare in Japan but can be found under the names of "Kurocha", "Awabancha", "Batabatacha" and "Goishicha".
BLUE TEA (OOLONG TEA) 青茶: This is a tea that has been partially oxidized. It is not clear when they exactly appeared and there are several possible origins (Fujian, Guangdong and as far as 1000 years ago, even through the name was different). Most famous Oolong nowadays are Dong Ding Oolong, Jin Xuan, Oriental Beauty (Taiwan) and Dahongpao, Tieguanyin, Dancong (Mainland China). Oolong tea made in Japan is not common at all and tastes very differently.
CATECHINS: A family of compounds that are present in tea and belonging to the family of polyphenols. They are usually referred for their anti-oxidant properties and mostly present in green tea.
CEREMONIAL (MATCHA): "Ceremonial" is a fabricated term nowadays commonly used in English to design highest grades of Matcha. It is important to note that such a term does not exist and is not recognized in Japan. Most of overseas tea companies now use and overuse the term "ceremonial" for any kinds of products. Customers have to realize that this is just marketing and in most of the cases it is a false description of the product. The highest grades of Matcha in Japan that would indeed go to ceremonies in temples for example would be far too much expensive for the daily drinker, so beware. Price tells it all! Please check our article on Matcha in the content section if you like to know more about this topic and to appreciate criteria for quality.
CULTIVAR 栽培品種: This word is a shortened version for cultivated variety. Due to progress in agronomic science and breeding, numerous varieties have been created through selection. There are currently more than 80 registered cultivars and 20 unregistered cultivars in Japan. Cultivars are created in order to obtain specific properties (e.g. faster or slower growth, resistance to disease or to low temperatures, different flavour and taste profiles, etc).
FERMENTATION 発酵: a chemical process in food production, in which the activity of microorganisms brings about a desirable change to a food that involves an anaerobic (without oxygen) transformation. Fermentation is occurring only in Black (dark) teas by the presence of mold from the aspergillus family. The term fermentation is often misused to describe oxidation for oolong and red teas and is scientifically incorrect. Same as the term "post-fermentation" which is a poor translation bringing more confusion to a topic which is not trivial by nature. Most famous fermented teas are "Heichas" from China, the main representative being Pu'erh.
In Japan, fermented teas are rare and do not ressemble their cousins from China.
FLUSH: This is a common word in the tea community introduced from India in the 19th Century but that we usually do not use. We prefer the term "harvest" which is etymologically correct in agriculture. Harvesting periods depend on the geography and climate. There can be up to 3, sometimes 4 harvesting periods for tea (in Spring, Summer, Autumn). Best quality tea is usually harvested only once in Spring (late March to late May in Japan depending on the region) and left to rest during the rest of the year.
GABA ギャバ: Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. It is related to control of anxiety and has a relaxing effect on the brain. GABA is naturally present in tea but GABA tea obtained through a specific process can contain more than 10 times the quantity of GABA in other teas. GABA process for tea was discovered in Japan by Dr. Tsushida Tojiro from the National Research Institute of Tea in 1984.
GENMAICHA 玄米茶: This is a blend of roasted brown rice with green tea leaves.
GREEN TEA 緑茶: A non-oxidized (or lightly oxidized) tea. The oxidation process has been stopped by neutralizing the enzyme responsible for that process by applying heat. Usually it is done by panning or by steaming.
GYOKURO 玉露: Can be translated as Jade Dew. This is a category of Japanese tea that is obtained by shading the tea leaves for a period of about 20 days. The shading process inhibits the photosynthesis and reduces the catechin contents, thus reducing the bitterness while enhancing the sweetness of the tea. Those are highly valued teas in Japan.
HOUJICHA (Roasted Tea) 焙じ茶: Houjicha, literally meaning roasted tea is a widespread Japanese tea typically composed of a blend of stems and leaves that are being roasted in a roaster. Several methods are possible (gas, indirect firing and electric infra-red). Houjicha are often made from tea harvested in summer and very popular. They are mainly found in bottles and consumed either hot or cold. Houjicha are typically lower in caffeine than other Japanese teas. It is believed that the roasting process at 185°C decomposes caffeine. While this might be true in the lab, this is less obvious in practice. The lower levels of caffeine can be mostly explained by using stems and big leaves as raw materials, which typically contain a fraction of the caffeine compared with Sencha or Gyokuro.
KABUSECHA かぶせ茶: Kabusecha comes from the verb kabuseru 被せる and means "covered tea". This is a tea coming from a plantation that has been covered (shaded) for about 10 days, half of the period commonly used for Gyokuro. Kabusecha is a very balanced tea offering at the same time the drinkability of the Sencha and the sweetness of the Gyokuro.
KAMAIRICHA 釜炒り茶: Kamairicha is a Japanese green tea which oxidation has been stopped by firing in a pan. The pan-firing method is commonly used in China but very marginal in Japan, which usually uses steam. The pan-firing method usually delivers improved flavours while the steam method gives a strong taste (umami). Most Kamairicha are produced in the island of Kyushu, and more accurately in Saga, Kumamoto and Miyazaki prefectures.
KARIGANE 雁が音: Karigane literally meaning "wild goose" in Japanese is a tea made from stems but from Gyokuro (shaded plantations). Karigane taste sweeter and deeper than Kukicha and is considered of higher quality.
KOORIDASHI 氷出し: ice brewed tea. Tea leaves are left to brew in water full of ice, typically using a filter bottle left in the fridge for over 16 hours. Ice brewed tea takes a long time to prepare and deliver the most gentle and refreshing teas. It is interesting to note that if done properly, 80% of caffeine content reduction can be obtained compared with a hot brew. Not all teas can be brewed this way, but Gyokuro works well.
KUKICHA 茎茶: This is a green tea made from stems and twigs (instead of leaves). It is more gentle, less powerful and a bit sweeter than Sencha. Stems contain significantly less catechin and caffeine than leaves, it is a suitable for caffeine sensitive persons. It is also used as the raw material for Houjicha. When obtained from shaded plantations made for Gyokuro, Kukicha is called Karigane.
MANDALA 曼荼羅: A Mandala (pronounced Mandara in Japanese) is a symbolic picture of the universe, the circle in a square that represents wholeness, totality, infinity, timelessness, and unity. Mandala is famously known as a spiritual and ritual symbol in many Asian cultures. It is interesting to note that the second Chinese character of Mandala "荼" (pronounced DA in Japanese and TU in Mandarin) is the ancestor of the Tea character "茶" (pronounced CHA in both Japanese and Mandarin) and was meaning medicinal herbs. Tea is like a Mandala, it helps to individually and collectively elevate our consciousness and cultivate our humanity.
MATCHA 抹茶: a very fine powdered green tea and probably the most famous Japanese tea. Matcha, however originated in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) then disappeared... but it survived and got further developed in Japan, and was for centuries the most preferred way to consume tea. The famous SADO 茶道 ceremony perfected by Master Sen No Rikyu uses Matcha. Not all powdered green tea is Matcha. In order to be of high quality, Japanese Matcha usually meet specific criteria such as dedicated cultivars, shaded cultivation techniques, Tencha "flakes" as intermediate product, using a Matcha line manufacturing process (drying in a brick oven), and very fine grinding using finely engineered stone mills. All this accumulated know-how makes it very difficult to produce high quality Matcha in other places.
MIZUDASHI 水出し: cold brewed tea. Tea leaves are brewed in cold water, usually using a filter bottle left in the fridge for 12 hours or more.
OSHARE おしゃれ: pronounced "o-sha-re", a Japanese word often used as a qualificative for fashionable, expressing good sense and refinement. It is the most common word used by our customers to describe our Tea House in Kyoto.
OXYDATION 酸化: a general chemical natural process that oxidizes compounds and reduces others. In tea leaves, this is visible by the change of colour of the tea leaves, from green to dark red/brown. Oxidation causes the loss of catechins and the gain of xanthines, theaflavins and thearubigins. This process is often confused and wrongly described as fermentation, but it is different as oxidation requires the presence of enzymes and molecular oxygen.
RED TEA (BLACK TEA) 紅茶: called "Red" in China and in Japan and wrongly called "Black" by the British when they brought it back to England in the 17th century, this is a tea that are said to be fully oxidized. In reality, red teas are not exactly totally oxidized as oxidation continues at a very slow pace (usually years) until the tea is completely degraded.
SENCHA 煎茶: the most produced Japanese green tea. Sencha are produced throughout Japan and are known for their freshness and their grassy taste. Sencha is obtained through steaming of the raw leaves and are rich in very healthy polyphenols called catechins.
TAMARYOKUCHA 玉緑茶: Also known as "guricha". This type of tea is mostly produced in the island of Kyushu, in the regions of Nagasaki and Saga prefectures. The tea leaves are rolled differently from typical sencha. They are smaller and slightly curved in a koma shape. Those teas are quite rich in taste and have more body.
TENCHA 碾茶: Tencha is the intermediary green tea product during the production of Matcha. Contrary to sencha or other green teas, it is not rolled and the leaves are tiny and broken into flake shapes, which offers very low resistance to grinding. Tencha is usually not sold separately as a product.
UMAMI 旨味: Umami is the core fifth taste, together with sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. It was discovered in 1908 by Prof Ikeda and scientists identified umami taste receptors on the human tongue in 2002. Umami is the taste of glutamate, an amino acid that is common in products like seaweed, mushrooms, tomatoes, aged cheeses and of course green tea. The umami taste spreads across the tongue, it lasts longer than other basic tastes and provides a mouthwatering sensation. Japanese teas being produced using steam, they are richer in umami than other teas.
WAKOCHA 和紅茶: Wakocha means Japanese Red Tea. It is a fully oxidized tea, usually made from cultivars with names starting with the prefix "beni" (benifuuki, benihomare, benihikari, etc). However, sometimes other cultivars are used successfully to produce red teas with beautiful aroma and taste.
WHITE TEA 白茶: this is a type of tea that is left to dry naturally, usually in the sun and gentle heat and is just lightly oxidized. This type of tea became famous in the Fujian Province of China. While the liquor is not white but usually yellowish or orange, the dried tea leaves have white hair, giving it a silvery beautiful aspect. The most famous white teas are the White Peony BAIMUDAN and Silver Needle BAIHAO YINZHEN (made only from tips). White teas are rare in Japan but the few that we came across look promising.
YELLOW TEA 黄茶: Yellow tea is a variation of green tea but using a more sophisticated method. It is however a very rare tea produced only in China. Its manufacturing is complex and the demand is low so the quantities are also limited. It is believed that this precious tea was a tribute to the Emperor. Yellow indeed is (or was) the imperial colour in China. Yellow tea is slightly oxidized, the taste is mellow and the aroma is deep, making it a real treasure. It is said that the original method of producing Yellow tea was lost long time ago and the current manufacturing method may not deliver the same result as during the Ming Dynasty. Yellow tea is nowadays mostly produced in Hunan, Anhui and Sichuan provinces of Mainland China.