There are many different ways to talk about Japanese teas. Here are a few terms and descriptions to get started.
Fukamushi - "heavy steaming" of the tea leaves resulting in a bolder, creamy, richer taste. Steaming the freshly harvested young leaves nearly twice as long as in other green teas, before being rolled dry reduces any raw, grassy taste or astringency in the finished tea with only a mild aftertaste.
Asamushi - "light steaming" of the tea leaves (only 20 to 60 seconds). Asamushi tea leaves shows large needle like leaf particles and light yellowy green appearance. Asamushi tea is aromatic, maintains the sweetness aroma and taste. Example: Kirameki Sencha.
Umami or savory taste is one of the five basic tastes (together with sweetness, sourness, bitterness, and saltiness). It has been described as savory and is characteristic of broths and cooked meats, and has been used to describe teas.
The sun-grown method is just as it sounds-the teas are grown under full sun for the entire growing season. Sun grown teas are: bancha, genmaicha, guricha, konacha, and sencha.
For shade-grown teas the tea bushes are shaded for about 20 to 30 days before harvesting. Shade-grown teas are: kabuse-cha (considered a shade grown sencha), gyokuro (meaning jade dew), and tencha (to make into high quality Matcha Magnifico).
The reason behind shading the tea bushes is to increase chlorophyll production in the plants by reducing natural photosynthesis in the leaves. The increased green chlorophyll pigment changes the natural balance of caffeine, sugars and flavanols within the leaf giving the tea processors room to manipulate it, pulling out added sweetness. Also, the lack of photosynthesis increases L-theanine, an amino acid found naturally in tea that adds a unique vegetable quality to the flavor, and helps counteract some of the stimulant effects of caffeine, thus having a relaxing effect on the body. Photosynthesis reduces L-theanine and increases tannins, the compounds responsible for teas astringency.
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