All green tea in Japan is the same kind of tea, differing only in a matter of grade and additives. As for tea-making style, it resembles much that during Tang dynasty in China, when tea was brought to China from Japan by the Buddhist monk Eisai.
Ranked with the most popular green teas in Japan, Kukicha, known also as stalk tea or stick tea, is made by collecting twigs, stalks and stems of sencha and gyokuro and processed to the emerald leaf and green stalk blend. It should be mentioned though, that this tea variation is made strictly from stalks produced by harvesting of only three leaves and one bud. Among the distinguishing features of Kukicha that make it extremely popular both in Japan and a number of other countries worldwide, are its light yellow-green color, fresh green aroma and light flavors.
For Kukicha the flavor is considered to be equally important as top quality sencha. This unique looking and tasting tea that contains stalks and stems from production of Sencha boasts a light transparent green color and a bright taste, and is seen as a wonderful example of diversity in Japanese green tea. However, despite the fact that stalks and twigs of the tea plant are its major constituent parts, Kukicha is never brown in color, since the leaves give it its unmistakable green color. Extremely flavorful, Kukicha Tea is wonderful alternative to coffee, and one of the macrobiotic diet's preferred teas. Seldom seen outside Japan, this gourmet green tea is a real treat easily recognizable among other Japanese green teas.
Closely related and brewed the same way, Sencha and Bancha are other popular Japanese green tea variations preferred in many countries worldwide. One of the most popular Japanese teas, Sencha is known for its rich emerald color, fresh qualities and pleasant sharpness among other distinguishing features. It should be mentioned though, that color, flavor and general quality of this tea varies greatly, depending on the origin, as well as season and leaf processing practices employed.
Many regions make a number of sencha's kinds, named in accordance with the type of processing used. You are sure to enjoy sencha in any Japanese restaurant or household, while this variation is starting to appear in supermarkets, specialist food shops and food stores outside the country.
Bancha is a full-flavored tea made from somewhat larger leaves than are generally available for sencha grades. Many people consider it to be one of the kinds of sencha, harvested between summer and autumn. However, bancha cannot boast delicate sweetness of high quality sencha, as well as deep refreshing flavor and rich color. Currently sencha and bancha are widely available in the West, due to the low price of these green teas.
Another popular tea variation, Genmaicha is a blend of roasted rice grain and Bancha green tea with the aroma that has the effect of lightening bitterness of lower grade sencha. The proportioning of tea to rice is of vital importance: the higher amount of rice - the more aromatic Genmai tea. Like Bancha, Genmai contains less caffeine and is also seen as a modest source of B1 vitamin.