Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The difference between sencha, kabusecha and gyokuro

The appearance of sencha, kabusecha and gyokuro tea leaves looks very similar.  I can’t yet tell the difference just by the appearance.  I have to smell and taste them.  But, some experts can tell if it is sencha or kabusecha just by the hue of dry leaves.  Isn’t that impressive?  I need more training on that (^^;;

You might already know the difference of their taste and preparation among those three teas.  (If you don’t know them, please refer to the brief note at the bottom of this entry.)  Today, I want to talk a little technical stuff.   Basically, they are all made of the same tea plant and processed in the same way.  So, they all look similar.  Then, what makes them different? 

The difference is the cultivation of tea plant. 
Sencha: No covering
The tea plant is grown under the sun light for the entire time. 
Kabusecha: Light covering
Before picking the leaves, the tea plant is LIGHTLY covered with a screen to shut out the direct sunlight.
Light-blocking: 60-90% for 1-3weeks
You can make sencha-tic kabusecha or gyokuro-tic kabusecha by adjusting the degree of covering.
Gyokuro: Deep covering
Before picking the leaves, the tea plant is DEEPLY covered with a screen to shut out the direct sunlight.
55-60% for 7-10days + 95-98% for 10days = about 20days

Covering makes more umami in tea.  Main substance of umami is Theanine, which changes into Catechin (bitterness) by exposing sun light in leaf.  So, covered tea has more umami and milder bitterness.  (Japanese Tea Adviser Koza, Japanese Tea Instructor Association, 2009 May)

I think the extra effort of the farmers makes the tea premium and expensive.  Try to look at dry leaves carefully, if you can tell what they are just by their hue, you might already be an expert of Japanese tea, hahaha^^



Snecha: Most common green tea
Prepared with 70-90C (158-194F) water for 1 min
Good harmony of umami and bitterness

Kabusecha: Green tea in between gyokuro and sencha
Prepared as same as sencha
Similar flavor with sencha but has more umami

Gyokuro: Premium green tea
Prepared with very small amount of lukewarm water (40-60C/104-140F) for 2-3min
Condensed umami essence


  1. Thanks for new information Kohei!
    I love the photos in articles, cause they're so clear in detail.
    I have two questions.
    1. Japanese Tea Adviser, Koza. Is this a book or some documents? Does this adviser exists in English version?
    2.Can you advice some Japanese eshop, which do postage to the Europe? I usually order from They are perfect are reliable. But I would like to try types like Kabusecha, Mecha, Konacha and so. These types are not in the eshop i order from, even i've not found eshop with these rare(rare for non Jap. people) teas. I would like to try them so much.

  2. Hi, Miro-san,
    “Japanese Tea Adviser Koza” is the text books for Japanese Tea Adviser course. (Koza means course or class in Japanese) The course is to study about Japanese tea to become an adviser. I don’t think there is English version.
    I don’t usually buy tea from online shops. So, I don’t know any reliable shop that sell konacha or mecha and ship them to Europe. Sorry (^^;)

  3. Has anyone had any experience buying Terravita gyokuro From zooscape? Just wondering about price and quality.

  4. I have never tried Terravita gyokuro. I’ve just looked at the webpage, but I could not find good hits to tell if its quality is good from the description.

  5. I think you have reversed your shading data between kabusecha and gyokuro

    1. Hi, thank you for pointing it out. The data is not reversed. I think that my description is not so clear. Please let me explain it here again.

      My description for Gyokuor was “55-60% for 7-10days + (plus) 95-98% for 10days”. I wanted to mean that gyokuro shading has two stages. At the first stage, 55-60% of the sunlight is blocked for 7-10days. And the next stage, you use a strong screen (which blocks 95-98% of light) for 10 days. So, you cover the tea plants for about 20 days in total. Gyokuro covering is basically longer and more complicated than the covering for Kabusecha.

      Does this make sense to you? I will appreciate if you can give me an advice how to improve my original description to make it clearer?

    2. Hi Kohei San, I am drinking gyukuro for the first time whilst reading your blog. Your shading description was good and the message cleat that the farmer spends 20 days shading the tea plant.
      Arigato, Gerry from South Australia

    3. Thnaks! I hope you enjoyed your first gyokuro (^0^)/

  6. Thanks for this detailed description of various green tea.
    I am a tea farmer in Darjeeling (Rohini & Gopaldhara). We have set of Japanese green tea machinery from Kawasaki Make Japan. We also have 10 acres of tea under 'yabukita' & 'fuzimadori' cultivars. The machinery can be used to produce Sencha & longjing green tea.
    Thanks for all the info.

    1. Wow, you actually produce green tea. Yabukita is quite popular in Japan and it is one of my favorites. But, I don’t know of fuzimadori. I want to try it someday!!

  7. Hello-

    thank you very, very much for the information!!! I have one question. Is there a difference between Gyokuro Yamashiro and Gyokuro Imperial?

    1. Hi, I regret to say that I don’t know of Gyokuro Yamashiro or Gyokuro Imperial. Are they a specific brand from a certain teashop?
      I guess that Yamashiro is a name of tea production region in Kyoto. I have never tried gyokuro from there.
      I don’t know what “Gyokuro Imperial” refers to in English. It sounds premium. The *type or **material of the shade makes the difference and also ***how to grow the tea plant. People consider these aspects to make premium tea.
      Anyway, the both gyokuro sounds attractive. I want to try them, hahaha.

      *Type of shade: Properly, you built a frame for the shade. The shade will be like a tent so people can walk under the shade. For the simple style, you place the shade directory on the plant.
      **Material of shade: Traditionally, thatches are used for the shade, but nowadays black artificial mesh is popular.
      *** How to grow: Hand picking can have the tea plants to grow in natural figure. On the other hand, with machine harvesting, you trim the surface of the plants evenly. You make the tea plants into the unified artificial form. The tea plant with natural figure has better flavor with rich sweetness.

  8. Kohei, Gyokuro Yamashiro is most likely from Yamashiro-san, sold on Maiko Tea's site. Gyokuro Imperial is most likely Teavana. Definitely all product names. Would love to meet you one day (I have my own tea store, definitely needs to be more Japanese tea sellers in the world!

    1. Wonderful! I’ve visited your store. It’s a well-designed site and has nice selections. Yes, I hope that Japanese tea gets more popular, too!

  9. Good post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!
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