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Yamecha is a type of tea produced in Fukuoka Prefecture

The southern part of the Chikushi Plains is located in Yame-shi, where the Chikugo and Yabegawa rivers deposit rich sediment full of composted leaves. The Chikushi Plains is a region that has been famous for its tea cultivation since ancient times. It is the largest plain in Kyūshū and is located in the southern part of Fukuoka, extending to the Chikugo and Yabegawa river basins. Yamecha is cultivated on roughly 1560 hectares of land, 90% of which is located in Yame-shi.

The climate is highly suitable for growing tea with high temperatures during the day that fall dramatically at night; a peculiar characteristic of inland regions. It receives 1600-2400mm of rain a year. 

Fog and mist are a common occurrence in the mornings and around the rivers of this region. Many Yamecha fields are situated on gently-sloping mountain faces, which are often shrouded in fog. This environment helps shield the tea leaves from harsh sunlight and produce a richer flavour.

As a result, Yamecha is high in flavour-producing compounds such as theanine, glutamic acid, and arginine. Many tests on tea cultivated in this area have shown to produce a strong, sweet body.

The natural gyokuro produced here has been prized since ancient times. Yamecha Gyokuro makes up about 45% of all gyokuro production in Japan. As a result, its growers have control over the average price of gyokuro. Yamecha Gyokuro is well known in Japan for its high quality.

1406: Tea was brought to modern day Yame-shi by Eirin Suzui, a Zen priest. Eirin founded Reiganji Temple and planted the first tea seeds in this region.

1751-1788: Wild tea on mountains in Yame became a point of interest for locals who began harvesting it for profit.

1863: Sales and demand for Yamecha increased as foreign traders in Nagasaki Prefecture began buying it.

1914-1937: Yamecha tea farms became part of a reform which encouraged higher quality products.

2001-2012: Yamecha gyokuro won the national tea fair held by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries for being the best gyokuro produced that year. It continued to win this award for 12 consecutive years. Yamecha gyokuro still wins this award frequently.


Gyokuro is a type of shaded green tea from Japan. It differs from the standard sencha (a classic unshaded green tea) in being grown under the shade rather than the full sun. Gyokuro is shaded longer than kabuse tea (lit., "covered tea"). While gyokuro is shaded for approximately three weeks, kabuse-cha is shaded for approximately one week. The name "gyokuro" translates as "jewel dew" (or "jade dew", referring to the pale green colour of the infusion). While most sencha is from the Yabukita, gyokuro is often made from a specialized variety such as Asahi, Okumidori, Yamakai, and Saemidori.

Gyokuro is prepared differently from other green teas:

  • use twice the weight in dry tea leaves for a given quantity of water (e.g. 6 to 10 grams for 180 ml, or 2 to 3 heaped teaspoons for 2 small cups);
  • use a lower brewing temperature (in the range of 50 °C–60 °C (122 °F–140 °F) instead of 65 °C–75 °C (149 °F–167 °F) for sencha; for high-end Gyokuro such as National tea jury rank, a temperature of 40 °C (104 °F) is recommended.);
  • a longer steeping duration, at least for the first infusion (90 seconds instead of 1 minute for sencha).

Since gyokuro is typically steeped at such a low temperature, sources may recommend preheating both the pot and cup to maintain the warmth of the tea as one drinks it.

Gyokuro is one of the most expensive types of sencha available in Japan. 

The greatest appellation of gyokuro in terms of both quality and quantity is Yamecha, which is produced in Yame in Fukuoka Prefecture. More than 40% of gyokuro is produced in Yame, and in the national tea jury in August 2007, Yamecha held all the ranking positions from first to 26th as the best gyokuro. 


Sencha is a type of Japanese ryokucha (green tea) which is prepared by infusing the processed whole tea leaves in hot water. This is as opposed to matcha, powdered Japanese green tea, where the green tea powder is mixed with hot water and therefore the leaf itself is included in the beverage. Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan.

Among the types of Japanese green tea prepared by infusion, "sencha" is distinguished from such specific types as gyokuro and bancha. It is the most popular tea in Japan, representing about 80 percent of the tea produced in Japan.

The flavour depends upon the season and place where it is produced, but shincha, or "new tea" from the first flush of the year, is considered the most delicious. Tea-picking in Japan begins in the south, gradually moving north with the spring warmth. During the winter, tea plants store nutrients, and the tender new leaves which sprout in the spring contain concentrated nutrients. Shincha represents these tender new leaves. The shincha season, depending upon the region of the plantation, is from early April to late May, specifically the 88th day after Setsubun which usually falls around February 4, a cross-quarter day traditionally considered the start of spring in Japan. Setsubun or Risshun is the beginning of the sexagenary cycle; therefore, by drinking sencha one can enjoy a year of good health.

The ideal colour of the sencha beverage is a greenish golden colour. Depending upon the temperature of the water in which it is decocted, the flavour will be different, adding to the appeal of sencha. With relatively more temperate water, it is relatively mellow; with hot water, it is more astringent. Some varieties expand when steeped to resemble leaf vegetable greens in smell, appearance, and taste.

The tea production process by which sencha and other Japanese ryokucha are created differs from Chinese green teas, which are initially pan-fired. Japanese green tea is first steamed for between 15–20 seconds to prevent oxidization of the leaves. Then, the leaves are rolled, shaped, and dried. This step creates the customary thin cylindrical shape of the tea. Finally, the leaves are sorted and divided into differing quality groups.

The initial steaming step imparts a difference in the flavour between Chinese and Japanese green tea, with Japanese green tea having a more vegetal, almost grassy flavour (some taste seaweed-like). Infusions from sencha and other green teas that are steamed (like most common Japanese green teas) are also greener in colour and slightly more bitter than Chinese-style green teas.


Shincha, "new tea", represents the first month's harvest of sencha. Basically, it is the same as ichibancha, "the first-picked tea", and is characterized by its fresh aroma and sweetness. "Ichibancha" distinguishes "shincha" from both "nibancha" ("the second-picked tea") and "sanbancha" ("the third-picked tea"). Use of the term "shincha" makes emphatically clear that this tea is the year's earliest, the first tea of the season. The opposite term is kocha, or "old tea", referring to tea left over from the previous year. Besides the fresh aroma of the young leaves, shincha is characterized by its relatively low content of bitter catechin and caffeine, and relatively high content of amino acid. Shincha is available only for a limited time. The earliest batch, from southern Japan, comes on the market around late April through May. It is popular in Japan, but is available in only limited amounts outside Japan. It is prized for its high vitamin content, sweetness, and grassy flavour with resinous aroma and minimal astringency.


Kabusecha is sencha grown in the shade to increase amino acids, such as theanine, which contribute to its distinctive flavor. About a week before the tea leaf buds are picked in the spring, the plantation is covered with a screen to cut out the direct sunlight. This shading produces a milder tea than standard sencha. The shaded tea known as gyokuro differs from kabusecha in that it is shaded for a longer period: about 20 days.

Special nets (kabuse) are hung over the plants to obtain a natural shade without completely blocking out sunlight. Kabusecha sencha has a mellower flavour and more subtle colour than sencha grown in direct sunlight.


Matcha or macha is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea leaves. It is special in two aspects of farming and processing: the green tea plants for matcha are shade-grown for three to four weeks before harvest, and the stems and veins are removed during processing. During shaded growth, the plant Camellia sinensis produces more theanine and caffeine. The powdered form of matcha is consumed differently from tea leaves or tea bags, and is suspended in a liquid, typically water or milk.

The traditional Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha as hot tea, and embodies a meditative spiritual style. In modern times, matcha has also come to be used to flavor and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream, matcha lattes, and a variety of Japanese wagashi confectionery. Matcha used in ceremonies is referred to as ceremonial-grade, meaning that the powder is of a high enough quality to be used in the tea ceremony. 

In China during the Tang dynasty (618–907), tea leaves were steamed and formed into tea bricks for storage and trade. The tea was prepared by roasting and pulverizing the tea, and decocting the resulting tea powder in hot water, then adding salt. During the Song dynasty (960–1279), the method of making powdered tea from steam-prepared dried tea leaves, and preparing the beverage by whipping the tea powder and hot water together in a bowl became popular.

Preparation and consumption of powdered tea was formed into a ritual by Chan or Zen Buddhists. The earliest extant Chan monastic code, entitled Chanyuan Qinggui (Rules of Purity for the Chan Monastery, 1103), describes in detail the etiquette for tea ceremonies.

Zen Buddhism and the Japanese methods of preparing powdered tea were brought to Japan in 1191 by the monk Eisai. In Japan, it became an important item at Zen monasteries and from the 14th through to the 16th centuries was highly appreciated by members of the upper echelons of society. Although powdered tea has not been popular in China for some time, a global resurgence is now occurring in the consumption of matcha, including in China.

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves that also are used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha' starts several weeks before harvest and may last up to 20 days, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, stimulates an increase in chlorophyll levels, turns the leaves a darker shade of green, and causes the production of amino acids, in particular theanine. Only the finest tea buds are hand-picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled up before drying as in the production of sencha, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. If the leaves are laid out flat to dry, however, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha. Then, tencha may be deveined, destemmed, and stone-ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

Grinding the leaves is a slow process, because the mill stones must not get too warm, lest the aroma of the leaves gets altered. Up to one hour may be needed to grind 30 g of matcha.

The flavour of matcha is dominated by its amino acids. The highest grades of matcha have more intense sweetness and deeper flavour than the standard or coarser grades of tea harvested later in the year.

Tencha refers to green tea leaves that have not yet been ground into fine powder as matcha, as the leaves are instead left to dry rather than be kneaded. Since the leaves' cell walls are still intact, brewing tencha tea results in a pale green brew, which has a more mellow taste compared to other green tea extracts, and only the highest grade of tencha leaves can brew to its fullest flavor. Tencha leaves are half the weight of other tea leaves such as gyokuro and sencha, so most tencha brews require double the number of leaves. About an hour is needed to grind 40 to 70 g of tencha leaves into matcha, and matcha does not retain its freshness as long as tencha in powder form because powder begins to oxidize. Drinking and brewing tencha is traditionally prohibited by the Japanese tea ceremony.

Commercial considerations, especially outside Japan, have increasingly seen matcha marketed according to 'grades' indicating quality.

Of the following terms, 'ceremonial grade' is not recognised in Japan; 'food grade' or 'culinary grade' certainly is.

  • Ceremonial grade supposedly designates tea of a quality sufficient for its use in tea ceremonies and Buddhist temples. Almost always ground into a powder by granite stone mills, it is expensive (around US$100–140 for 100 g). The unschooled drinker is unlikely to notice a large difference between ceremonial and premium grades. There is no distinct set of flavour characteristics designating the highest grade of matcha; some matchas are conspicuously sweet, some can be comparatively bitter with other characteristics to 'compensate'; the full suite of aesthetic properties such as flavour, colour, and texture are important in the grading of matcha. All must necessarily be of a quality that can support the making of koicha , the 'thick tea' with a high proportion of powder to water, since this is the form of tea that defines the traditional tea ceremony.
  • Premium grade is high-quality matcha green tea that contains the tea leaves from the top of the tea plant. Price point is around $50–80 for 100 g. Best for daily consumption, it contains the typical range of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Is characterized by a fresh, subtle flavor, usually perfect for both new and everyday matcha drinkers alike.
  • Cooking/culinary grade is the cheapest of all ($15–40 for 100 g). Suitable for cooking purposes, it is slightly bitter due to factors such as its production from leaves lower down on the tea plant, terroir, the time of harvest, or the process of its manufacture.

In general, matcha is expensive compared to other forms of tea, although its price depends on its quality.

Location on the tea bush

Where leaves destined for tencha are picked on the tea bush is vital. The very top should have developing leaves that are soft and supple. This gives a finer texture to higher grades of matcha. More-developed leaves are harder, giving lower grades a sandy texture. The better flavour is a result of the plant sending the majority of its nutrients to the growing leaves.

Treatment before processing

Traditionally, sencha leaves are dried outside in the shade and never are exposed to direct sunlight; however, now drying mostly has moved indoors. Quality matcha is vibrantly green as a result of this treatment.

Stone grinding

Without the correct equipment and technique, matcha can become "burnt" and suffer degraded quality. Typically in Japan, it is stone-ground to a fine powder through the use of specially designed granite stone mills.


Oxidation is also a factor in determining grade. Matcha exposed to oxygen may easily become compromised. Oxidized matcha has a distinctive hay-like smell and a dull brownish-green colour.


The two main ways of preparing matcha are thin (usucha) and the less common thick (koicha).

Prior to use, the matcha often is forced through a sieve to break up clumps. Special sieves are available for this purpose, which usually are stainless steel and combine a fine wire-mesh sieve and a temporary storage container. A special wooden spatula is used to force the tea through the sieve, or a small, smooth stone may be placed on top of the sieve and the device shaken gently.

If the sieved matcha is to be served at a Japanese tea ceremony, then it will be placed into a small tea caddy known as a chaki. Otherwise, it can be scooped directly from the sieve into a chawan.

About 2-4 g of matcha are placed into the bowl, traditionally using a bamboo scoop called a chashaku, and then about 60–80 ml of hot water are added.

While other fine Japanese teas such as gyokuro are prepared using water cooled as low as 40° C, in Japan matcha is commonly prepared with water just below the boiling point, although temperatures as low as 70–85 °C or 158–185 °F are similarly recommended.

The mixture of water and tea powder is whisked to a uniform consistency, using a bamboo whisk known as a chasen. No lumps should be left in the liquid, and no ground tea should remain on the sides of the bowl. Because matcha may be bitter, it is traditionally served with a small wagashi sweet (intended to be consumed before drinking), but without added milk or sugar. It usually is considered that 40 g of matcha provides for 20 bowls of usucha or 10 bowls of koicha:

Usucha, or thin tea, is prepared with about 1.75 g (amounting to 1.5 heaping chashaku scoop, or about half a teaspoon) of matcha and about 75 ml (2.5 oz) of hot water per serving, which can be whisked to produce froth or not, according to the drinker's preference (or to the traditions of the particular school of tea). Usucha creates a lighter and slightly more bitter tea.

Koicha, or thick tea, requires significantly more matcha (usually about doubling the powder and halving the water): about 3.75 g (amounting to 3 heaping chashaku scoops, or about one teaspoon) of matcha and 40 ml (1.3 fl oz) of hot water per serving, or as many as 6 teaspoons to ​34 cup of water. Because the resulting mixture is significantly thicker (with a similar consistency to liquid honey), blending it requires a slower, stirring motion that does not produce foam. Koicha is normally made with more expensive matcha from older tea trees (exceeding 30 years), thus, produces a milder and sweeter tea than usucha; it is served almost exclusively as part of Japanese tea ceremonies.

 It is used in castella, manjū, and monaka; as a topping for shaved ice (kakigōri); mixed with milk and sugar as a drink; and mixed with salt and used to flavour tempura in a mixture known as matcha-jio. It is also used as flavouring in many Western-style chocolates, candy, and desserts, such as cakes and pastries (including Swiss rolls and cheesecake), cookies, pudding, mousse, and green tea ice cream. Matcha frozen yogurt is sold in shops and can be made at home using Greek yogurt. The Japanese snacks have a matcha-flavoured version. It may also be mixed into other forms of tea. For example, it is added to genmaicha to form matcha-iri genmaicha (literally, roasted brown rice and green tea with added matcha).

The use of matcha in modern drinks has also spread to North American cafés, which introduced "green tea lattes" and other matcha-flavoured drinks after it became successful in their Japanese store locations. As in Japan, it has become integrated into lattes, iced drinks, milkshakes, and smoothies.

As matcha is a concentrated form of green tea, it has been long reputed by enthusiasts for centuries that matcha possesses stronger health benefits associated with green tea, and such effects have not been scientifically proven until recently. Caffeine is more concentrated in matcha, which Japanese Zen monks have used to stimulate awakeness, but the main matcha constituent expected to have a stress-reducing effect is theanine. Theanine is the most abundant nonprotein amino acid in green tea and is what gives matcha its umami flavor. The preparation of matcha requires the tea leaves to be protected from sunlight, resulting in reduced biosynthesis of theanine into catechin and a higher concentration of theanine than in traditional green tea brewing.

Theanine's stress-reducing effects were tested at Japan's University of Shizuoka, School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, where studies show that lab mice that consumed more than 33 mg/kg of matcha had significantly suppressed adrenal hypertrophy, a symptom that shows sensitivity to stress. The School of Pharmaceutical Sciences also tested the stress-reducing effects on university students and confirmed that students who ingested 3 grams of matcha in 500 ml of room-temperature water had reduced anxiety (state-trait anxiety inventory or STAI), than students who consumed placebo. Green tea leaves also contain the catechin, epigallocatechin gallate, an antioxidant found to be able to mildly prevent cancer, diseases, and aid in weight loss.

As mentioned before, matcha is a higher concentration of green tea and contains caffeine, so the health risks associated with caffeine, such as increased heart rates, can also apply to matcha if overingested. Green tea leaves also absorb metals from soil, such as aluminum, which can accumulate in the body and cause neurological damage. The study of matcha's health effects is also limited, so further investigation is required.

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