Since the 15th century, the tea ceremony tradition has been maintained in Japan. The tradition comes from China at a time when this form of ceremonious tea preparation was at its demise. The complex ritual has clearly defined rules and procedures that must be followed. The mastering tea ceremony is an art that takes many years. Special tea accessories are used for the ceremony.
Most Japanese tea is grown south of Tokyo. Solely green tea is produced here − the method of drying differs from the one used in China. The Chinese neutralize the fermentation enzymes by means of heat (such as in hot woks), but in Japan, hot steam is used. The length and intensity of steaming determine the resulting look and taste of tea. Then it is dried, cleaned, and sorted. Classic Japanese Sencha comes in the form of small smooth green needles. There is a rule for Japanese tea − the darker the dried leaf, the higher quality of the tea. The smell and freshness of loose tea also tell a lot.
Tea quality and by extension the price of tea is determined by the time of harvest − quality is thus easily graded. The first flush (the best quality tea) takes place from mid-April to mid-May. The second flush takes place from the end of May and the third takes place in June. Japanese tea can be very roughly divided into Bancha, Sencha, and Gyokuro. However, these categories can overlap and not always reflect tea quality. Thanks to the content of non-oxidized polyphenols, green tea has proven antibacterial and antibiotic effects while it also lowers cholesterol levels. Quality Japanese teas contain plenty of vitamins A, B, C, E, and P as well as catechins, carotene, amino acids, and minerals such as potassium, fluorine, and zinc.