Sencha Tea – the Most Popular Japanese Tea

pot with 2 cups of sencha teaSencha is a traditional Japanese green tea that is prepared using the decocting method, and therefore has different properties and a slightly different taste than the other teas prepared from the same Camellia Sinensis plant, such as Matcha or Oolong.

It is considered to be the most popular type of green tea in Japan (representing up to 80% of the total tea production of the country); drunk not only for its exquisite taste, but also for its beneficial effects on health.

Leaves processing method

The green tea leaves are picked from early April to late May; the tea made from the leaves picked at the beginning of this harvest period are used to make a special kind of Sencha, considered to be the most delicious, called Shincha or “new tea”. Sencha has a nice golden-greenish color and different mild to strong flavor, depending on the temperature of the water in which it is decocted.

After picking, the leaves are steamed for up to 20 seconds to prevent the oxidization and fermentation process and preserve the color and aroma. This steaming process is told to be the key of the final color and flavor of the drink. The more time the leaves are steamed, the easier they break down during later processing and as a consequence the tea may appear cloudy.

After steaming a cooling process follows; then the leaves are partially dried and twisted in a special machine for a couple of times making them soft and pliant and giving them their needle-shape. A third and final round of drying finishes the processing stage and the leaves are hand-sorted to remove any remaining stems.

How to make Sencha Tea?

As with other types of green tea, the flavor of your cup of Sencha will depend on three major factors:

  • the quality of the water
  • its temperature
  • the infusion time

Water quality is important since hard water will lower the intensity of the flavor. Use filtered water or boil it beforehand for over 5 minutes. For the perfect cup you should use soft, pure water that is low in magnesium and calcium ions.

Let the boiled water cool before using it, if your water is too hot when you pour it over the leaves it will release too much tannin and your cup of tea will taste bitter instead of soft and sweet. For high – quality Sencha, the ideal temperature is somewhere between 158-176oF (70-80oC).

Use one teaspoon of tea for every 8 to 12 ounces of water and steep for up to 2 minutes.

Only brew the amount of tea you are to drink right away, because the tea gets a bitter taste the longer the leaves stay in it.

Calories and nutrition facts

Nutrition Facts – serving size 8 fl oz (240ml)
Calories 5 kcal
Sodium 7.2 mg
Potassium 65 mg
Magnesium 5 mg
Cholesterol 0 mg
Protein 0.48 g
Carbohydrate 0.48 g
Iron 0.5 mg
Caffeine 30 mg

source: Food Composition Database: Department of Food and Nutrition, School of Life Studies, Sugiyama Jogakuen University

Health Benefits

Like all green teas, Sencha owes its beneficial effects to the high content of antioxidants and polyphenols. These inhibit the growth of cancer cells, neutralize the harmful free radicals, improve heart conditions and slow down the aging process.

  • Cancer prevention

The studies regarding the effects of green teas on cancer are still ongoing, but results obtained so far are quite promising. There is evidence that Sencha tea is effective in reducing tumors, inhibiting the spreading of cancerous cells, thus increasing the rate of cancer patient survival.

  • Heart benefits

Atherosclerosis and coronary artery disease can be prevented by regular consumption of  tea. This all natural drink lowers cholesterol and raises good HDL, further contributing to heart health. The way it works is it blocks the absorption of cholesterol in the blood stream and helps flush excess cholesterol out of the body at a quicker pace.

  • Diabetes

Sencha tea is believed to control blood sugar and there is some evidence that is aids in the prevention of type 1 diabetes.

  • Weight loss

The high polyphenol content increases the metabolism and helps burn body fat. Many popular weight loss products have green tea as their main ingredient and have proven to work for most individuals. Two or three cups a day will help the body burn more calories and will help you lose weight without the need of any additional dietary changes or exercise.

  • Skin care and anti-aging effect

The free radicals are the main problem our skin faces on a day-to-day basis. Caused mostly by pollution and present everywhere they speed up the aging process. Sencha helps hydrate the skin and the antioxidants it contains fight the free radicals, making your skin look shinier and healthier.

  • Boosts the immune system

The antioxidants in Sencha tea are more powerful than those in berries or citrus fruit such as lemons or oranges. These work wonders when it comes to fighting viruses and bacteria. Drinking tea on a regular basis will keep you away from the flue, the cold and other health problems caused by viruses.

Side effects

There have been no major side effects registered with Sencha. The minor ones are almost all caused by its caffeine content and always associated with over consumption. Among these, the most common are:

  • nausea
  • irritability
  • heart palpitations
  • hypertension
  • frequent urination
  • insomnia
  • tremors
  • anxiety

Cautions

Like all other Camellia Sinensis teas you should reduce consumption if you are pregnant and breastfeeding. Sometimes associated with iron deficiency and influencing the way your body uses folic acid, green teas are not recommended during this period.

Patients who are under radiation therapy are also advised to avoid green tea because its anti-oxidant characteristic – very beneficial otherwise – interferes with this radiation therapy making it less efficient. Radiation therapy kills cancerous cells through oxidation, the very process the anti-oxidants slow down, making the two quite incompatible.

Another category of people that should consume moderate amounts of Sencha green tea is the one taking special medication, such as stimulant drugs or antibiotics. The caffeine in the tea stimulates the nervous system, while the antibiotics slow down the rate your body breaks down the caffeine. If you are in this category, ask your personal physician about whether or not you can drink Sencha and the amount of tea you can drink a day.

It’s better to be safe than make your affection worse.

Conclusion

The most popular Japanese green tea, Sencha tea, has a sweet flavor and floral flagrance that will stimulate all your senses. The many benefits it offers your health add to the pleasure of drinking this exquisite tea on a regular basis. If you are a green tea enthusiast, you will definitely appreciate all Sencha has to offer, if you are just discovering this tea, you will soon feel its beneficial effects on your mental and physical health.

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