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Japanese Food Article

    Ryokucha (緑茶)

    Ryokucha with tea leaves

    In Japan, green tea isn’t just a drink, it’s a whole experience. Called “ryokucha,” it comes in many flavors, from bright and grassy to smooth and frothy. Curious about this unique world? Dive in and discover the different types, brewing secrets, and even tea ceremonies! You might just find your new favorite cup.

    What is Ryokucha?

    green tea on white cup

    Ryokucha, meaning Green Tea in Japanese, is the word for Japanese green tea in general, including Sencha, Matcha, Hojicha, Bancha, and Gyokuro. Ryokucha refers to tea leaves made without fermenting them. It is a general term for dried tea leaves, tea brewed in a teapot, and tea packaged in plastic bottles. It is a type of tea made from Camellia sinensis leaves steamed or roasted to prevent oxidation. This gives green tea its characteristic bright green color and vegetal flavor. Ryokucha is a popular beverage in Japan and is often served hot or cold. Locals used this in a variety of Japanese dishes, such as sushi and tempura. Simply put, the process involves steaming and crushing the harvested tea leaves, shaping them into shapes, and then drying them. 

    Ryokucha Origin

    green tea with porcelain teapot

    According to the Japan Tea Action, tracing the history of tea, they find the name “Shennong” who was active in China around 2800 BC, about 5000 years ago. Shennong, who have laid the foundations for today’s agriculture and Chinese medicine, used his own body to investigate the medicinal properties of familiar plants. As a result, he came across as many as 72 poisons in one day, and chewed tea leaves to detoxify each time. Tea in Japan began about 1,200 years ago at the beginning of the Heian period. Envoys brought the tea to send it to Tang Dynasty or monks studying abroad. The historical book “Nihon Koki” states that “On April 22, 815, the monk Nagatada brewed tea and offered it to Emperor Saga,”. This was the first time that tea was drunk in Japan. 

    In 1191, a Buddhist monk named Zenji Eisai introduced tea seedlings from China to Japan, starting tea cultivation in Hirado City and Mount Sefuri in Saga Prefecture. Over time, tea gardens were established in other parts of Japan, particularly in Saga and Kyushu regions. During the Muromachi period, green tea became popular among samurais and merchants, and its cultivation and consumption spread throughout the country.

    Green tea was highly valued for its medicinal properties and later became an important part of Japanese culture through the traditional tea ceremony. With the registration of Japanese cuisine as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, interest in green tea is increasing. Today, Japan is known for producing high-quality green teas like matcha, which is grown in specialized tea gardens and enjoyed for its unique flavor and health benefits.

    Types of Ryokucha

    There are several types of ryokucha (Japanese green tea) in Japan, each with their unique characteristics and flavors.


    sencha type of ryokucha

    This is one of the most common types of Japanese green tea and known for its high quality and delicate flavor. Locals grow Sencha in the shade, which helps to increase the tea’s chlorophyll content and give it a vibrant green color.


    Gyokuro (玉露)

    This is a high-quality, sweet-tasting tea that locals grown in the shade like sencha. Gyokuro is popular for its rich, complex flavor profile and is often considered the “king” of Japanese green teas.


    bancha  type of ryokucha

    This type of green tea is harvested later in the season than sencha and gyokuro, giving it a more mature flavor. Bancha is known for its nutty taste and slightly bitter finish.


    Matcha (抹茶)

    Matcha is a finely ground powder made from tencha tea leaves shielded from sunlight to preserve their chlorophyll content. It has a bright green color and a strong, slightly bitter flavor. It’s traditionally used in the Japanese tea ceremony but you can also enjoy it as a latte or in other desserts and drinks.


    hojicha type of ryokucha

    This is a roasted green tea that gives off a reddish-brown color when brewed. Hojicha has a nutty, slightly sweet flavor and enjoyed in the fall season.

    Japan produced the most of Ryokucha

    chart of tea taken
    出典: お茶百科

    Ryokucha or regular green tea is the most widely produced tea in Japan, accounting for over two-thirds of total production. Black tea was once grown in various regions until the 1960s, but it couldn’t compete with Indian and Sri Lankan teas in terms of quality and price. Attempts were also made to produce oolong tea during that period. But just like black tea, it wasn’t successful and is no longer produced today. Currently, nearly all Japanese tea consumers drink green tea, which is primarily steam-processed. However, some local varieties in Kyushu use a pot-roasting technique, such as Tamaryokucha.

    Various functions of ingredients contained in Ryokucha

    Tea contains tannins and catechins, which have many effects such as preventing cancer, improving diabetes, lowering cholesterol, preventing cavities, and preventing bad breath, as well as dietary fiber. It also has Vitamins B,C, and E that are good for beauty, stress relief, cold prevention, carbohydrate metabolism and has an antioxidant effect. While its flavonoid ingredients help prevent bad breath and strengthen blood vessels. The Theanine reduces blood pressure and adjusts brain and nerve function.

    Ryokucha FAQ

    What is the difference between Ryokucha and Matcha?

    Ryokucha is a general term for many types of unfermented teas, including sencha, gyokuro, bancha, and hojicha. It’s made by steaming and drying tea leaves without fermentation. Matcha, on the other hand, is a specific type of green tea that’s made differently than other greens. To make matcha, tea leaves are covered with straw or a special black sheet for 20 days to block out sunlight, then steamed and dried before being ground into a fine powder using a stone mill.

    Can I drink ryokucha if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

    While there haven’t been any studies specifically on the effects of ryokucha during pregnancy or breastfeeding, most health professionals agree that moderate consumption (less than 4 cups per day) is likely safe. However, consult your doctor first to be sure.

    How to make Ryokucha?

    Ryokucha on white cup with wooden saucer

    Tea picking

    Tea picking is held every year from late April to May. The sprouts are grown with care for a year and then harvested by hand or with machines such as plucking machines. Locals immediately transported the picked sprouts to a tea factory where processed to become delicious new tea.


    New shoots begin to oxidize the moment they are picked, so they are steamed as soon as possible to stop oxidation. It also has the effect of removing the grassy odor characteristic of fresh leaves and softening them.


    The steamed sprouts then go to the “rubbing” process. “Soju” is rough rolling, “Junen” is rolling without heating, “chuju” is rolling while drying, and “Seijyu” is rolling while shaping. ”, and carefully rubbed in four stages. Using different machines, the artisans, who are well-versed in tea, determine the best timing to bring out the flavor, including the degree of steaming, moisture level, and amount of rolling.


    After rolling, the tea leaves will be dry. If it is not dried thoroughly, you cannot store it well and may cause discolouration or other quality deterioration, so make sure to remove the moisture thoroughly at this point. Once drying is complete, “aracha,” which is the original form of tea.


    Aracha contains stems and powder, and the leaves are of irregular length, so it is necessary to remove the stems and powder and adjust the shape. Each tea wholesaler buys rough tea through bidding and “sorts” it into stems, powder, and leaves.


    Pasteurization heats the tea leaves to make them more durable during storage, and also improves the tea’s aroma called “hika.” Even a single difference in heating temperature can change the flavor of the same tea leaves, so you can’t let your guard down even for a moment during the pasteurization process.


    Gogumi or union is the process of thoroughly drying the leaves to bring out their unique flavor, and then blending the tea to create the flavor of each brand. Delicious green tea is created by combining teas from different regions, varieties, and steaming methods.

    Where to buy Ryokucha?

    HIGASHIYA (日式糖果店)

    ryokucha from

    HIGASHIYA” has a store in Ginza, Tokyo. Carefully selected delicious Japanese tea and seasonal Japanese sweets are on sale, and you can enjoy afternoon tea at the tea room. There are dozens of types of Japanese tea available, so it’s a good idea to enjoy a variety of flavors with your friends and family.

    Address: Pola Ginza Building 2F, 1-7-7 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 104-0061
    Phone number: 03-3538-323
    Hours Open: 11:00 – 19:00 (Sabo 18:00 last order) Open every day

    Ryokucha with tea leaves

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