Solving Sencha Tea: Caffeine Content, History, and More
If you have been taking in an interest in Japanese teas, then you will have undoubtedly heard of sencha.
It is one of the more popular types consumed in Japan.
However, apart from this, you may not have much information.
So, if you would like to figure out the sencha tea caffeine content and what it’s all about, you have come to the right place.
Here is what you need to know…
Is Sencha the Same as Green Tea?
What confuses most people about sencha is its association to green tea.
Well, there is no need for this mix-up – sencha is a type of steamed green tea.
It is most popular in Japan, although sencha is grown in other countries as well.
However, due to differences in growing and processing, Japanese sencha tends to be pretty unique.
The History of Sencha Green Tea
These days, sencha is seen as being intrinsically Japanese.
The reality, though, is that green tea was brought over from China.
Even the processing methods were borrowed from the Chinese.
Nevertheless, it can be argued that the processing method for sencha was perfected in Japan.
Now, the word sencha – which means to “infuse” or “decoct” used to refer to green tea in general.
However, the use of the word was narrowed thanks to a tea planter known as Nagatani Soen.
He is the one who came up with a way to halt oxidation by steaming, pressing, and rolling tea leaves.
Thus, from then on out, teas that underwent this processing were known as sencha.
How is Sencha Grown and Processed?
Like most green teas, sencha is grown in the sun.
The leaves are plucked at various points during the season.
This results in first flush, second flush, etc. sencha.
First flush is considered to be the highest quality, with the quality decreasing the longer the leaves are allowed to mature.
Once the leaves have been plucked, they undergo deep steaming.
This is where the leaves are steamed for 30 seconds longer than usual.
As a result, the leaves are broken down into smaller filaments, ensuring that they brew more quickly.
Sencha Tea Varieties
As mentioned, sencha can be categorized according to when it is harvested.
At the same time, it is also identified according to the region where it was cultivated, how it is steamed, and even the specific cultivar.
Due to this, it can be a bit confusing to understand the grading system that governs sencha.
However, here are the varieties that you need to know about:
- Shincha: this is also referred to as ichiban or “new tea” – it is one of the more exclusive types of sencha. This is because it is harvested during the first flush.
- Asamushi: this is a lightly steamed type of sencha. The leaves are typically steamed for around 20 to 30 seconds. The process produces a more delicate tea.
- Chumushi: here, the sencha leaves are steamed for about 30 seconds to a minute.
- Fukamushi: the leaves can be steamed for at least a minute, sometimes longer. The result of this is more broken leaves and a deeper, darker hue.
- Powdered Sencha: this shouldn’t be mistaken for matcha. Powdered sencha is ground sencha leaves. This version has a more vegetal flavor and is often used in baking
Gyokuro vs. Sencha
Some people are a bit confused about whether or not gyokuro has any link to sencha.
Although they are both green teas, gyokuro is shade grown, while sencha is grown in the sun.
Thus, they have different flavors and nutrient levels as well.
What Does Sencha Taste Like?
The flavor of sencha can differ with the variety.
For instance, ichiban has a sweeter and richer taste.
Fukamashi, on the other hand, has an oceanic flavor, that may be likened to seaweed.
You may also find these tea as being described as “green”, “vegetal”, and “grassy”.
Does Sencha Have Caffeine?
Yes sencha, like most green teas, naturally contains caffeine.
The exact amount, however, can vary by variety as well as manufacturer.
You can find anywhere from 12 to 75mg of caffeine in a single cup.
This is why you should limit your consumption of sencha to one or two cups a day.
Drink too much and you may suffer from irritability, jitters, or sleep issues.
You should avoid drinking sencha in the late evening or night.
Sencha Green Tea Benefits
What’s really interesting about sencha is just how many healthful properties it has.
In fact, it has the following advantages for you:
Has Antioxidant Properties
Sencha is found to have excellent antioxidant properties.
As such, it plays a functional role in reducing oxidative stress in the body.
This prevents your cells and tissues from being damaged and resulting in various diseases.
So, in general, sencha is great for maintaining your general health.
May Reduce Risk of Cancer
It appears that sencha may be quite effective at reducing your risk of cancer.
This is due to a couple of reasons.
First, sencha has antimutagenic properties – it prevents cells from mutating in ways that can lead to cancer.
At the same time, sencha is shown to have anti-genotoxic properties as well.
Now, genotoxic substances are known for causing cancer, but they are different from mutagenic elements.
This means that sencha could potentially prevent various kinds of cancer.
On top of this, research has also found that sencha is specifically good for preventing biliary tract cancer.
Can Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease
Drinking sencha green tea on a regular basis could potentially reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
In particular, sencha does this by inhibiting the effect of ACE enzymes.
In addition to preventing cardiovascular disease, there is some evidence that the tea may slow the progression of the disease as well.
Now, despite popular claims, sencha isn’t directly linked to weight loss.
Thus, if this is something that you are looking for you, you would be better of checking out the best green tea brand for weight loss.
How to Brew Sencha
Now, let’s take a look at how you should brew sencha.
For most sencha types, you can heat the water to around 158°F and steep the leaves for 1 to 2 minutes.
Sincha, on the other hand, should be steeped for just 40 seconds or so.
Make sure to use water that is well below the boiling point for these teas.
Otherwise, you will risk losing the delicate flavors that they are known for.
Now, when it comes to steeping time, you can adjust it according to your taste.
You should avoid steeping it for much longer than advised, however.
Steeping sencha for too long can cause it to produce an astringent and unpleasant flavor.
How to Drink Sencha
It is best to drink sencha plain.
While you can add milk to other kinds of green tea, this isn’t recommended with sencha.
You shouldn’t add sugar either.
Not only will these additions distort the natural flavors of the tea, they will also reduce the impact of the healthy components.
As you can see, there is a lot more to sencha than most people will assume. Now, however, you know the whole story.
Dr. Dheena Sadik
Consultant Nutritionist and Dietician
Dr. Dheena Sadik is a consultant Nutritionist and Dietician. She has over a decade of experience in the health and fitness industry. However, her love for tea began long before she understood the health benefits of tea. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Dheena had the privilege of being surrounded by the world-famous Ceylon tea. This is what got her started on her exploration of the various types of tea. She has now extensively tasted and examined teas from all over the world.
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