Bancha: An Affordable Late-Harvest Japanese Green Tea
Not all green teas are created equal. Factors including the time of harvest, cultivars, and production methods all lend themselves to the development of unique green tea blends. Bancha is a type of Japanese green tea that is known as an everyday tea. While not the highest quality green tea, it is one of the most accessible varieties thanks to its lower price point. Learn more about bancha tea and what makes it different from other Japanese teas.
What is Japanese Bancha?
Bancha is a type of Japanese green tea that is named after the time of year it is harvested. This tea is made using leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant, which are also used for black tea and oolong tea. The tea is made from the same leaves as sencha — which is harvested during the first flush of the year — but bancha is harvested during the second flush. Bancha teas also include ichibancha, yonbancha, and nibancha, which aren't types of bancha, but rather subcategories of teas based on exactly when they are harvested. Learn more about bancha tea and how to brew it right here.
The harvesting, cultivation, and production methods are all the same for both sencha and bancha, but bancha is considered to be of lower quality. During the first flush or first harvest, the tea leaves that are plucked tend to be younger since they are removed from the upper shoots of the tea plant. Bancha green tea is produced using tea leaves that grow on lower shoots and these leaves tend to grow coarser and bigger since they are also older when harvest time rolls around.
Bancha tea leaves contain varying amounts of nutrients and healthy compounds depending on the harvest time and how old the leaves are. In general, bancha leaves contain many of the same compounds as other green teas like matcha, gyokuro, and Kukicha including tea catechins, polyphenols, and amino acids. However, bancha tends to have fewer of these healthy compounds and thus fewer health benefits compared to sencha. Bancha leaves tend to have less caffeine compared to early harvest teas. The caffeine level of bancha is typically around 10 milligrams for every eight fluid ounces.
Another difference between bancha and shincha is that bancha tends to be much more affordable than sencha leaves. Bancha is considered a lower grade of everyday tea compared to sencha. AS such, bancha tea is often consumed as an everyday tea and is not used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Japanese teas like houjicha (also spelled hojicha) and Genmaicha can be made using either sencha or bancha leaves depending on the quality of the tea producer.
How to Brew Bancha Tea
It's always a good idea to use loose leaf tea rather than tea bags when it comes to flavor. Tea bags are usually filled with low-quality tea leaves that are broken into tiny pieces and often contain the dust and fannings of tea leaves. That means you won't get all of the healthy compounds and flavor molecules you'll find in a loose tea.
Additionally, it's best to use filtered or spring water to avoid flavor alterations caused by chemical additives found in tap water. Bancha should be brewed using a water temperature around 176 degrees Fahrenheit. The steeping time should be between 45 seconds and 1one minute. You can also brew some types of bancha using boiling water and steep the tea leaves for 30 seconds before discarding. The brewing time should not be extended much longer otherwise the tea may begin to develop bitter flavors.
To make iced tea, heat water in a teapot like you would for brewing a cup of hot bancha tea. Let the tea mixture cool to room temperature before serving over ice.
Discover the Nuances in Green Tea
When it comes to green teas, there are dozens of different types and minor variations in harvesting that can create unique flavor profiles and teas. Bancha is one of the most accessible green teas for people who are looking for authentic flavor without a hefty price tag. Made largely in Japan, specifically in Kyoto and other popular tea growing regions, this tea is a great choice for tea drinkers who want value and flavor.