Nihoncha: How do you say “Japanese tea” in Japanese?

April 26, 2013


Japanese tea in the Japanese language is nihoncha. Nihon or 日本 means Japan, and of course, cha or 茶 means tea.

Nihoncha is also often used synonymously to mean sencha in conversation since sencha is representative of Japanese tea. However, strictly speaking nihoncha refers to all traditionally Japanese teas including sencha, matcha, genmaicha, etc.

Because the tradition in Japan does not include blending sencha with other flavors (except genmaicha), Japanese would not generally think of flavored senchas as nihoncha. Recently the industry has begun to change in Japan though, especially among manufacturers. They are introducing Sakura flower sencha blends, yuzu (Japanese citrus) flavored sencha and matcha, and other blends with traditionally japanese flavors.

Why they don’t utilize more popular flavors (popular even in Japan) such as strawberry, peach, or muscat grape into sencha blends is a mystery. The tea industry is one with a long history, strong traditions, and perhaps conservatism is still present in the minds of manufacturers (those mavericks!) who are transforming the industry in Japan.

Blenders, by the way, are called chashi 茶師 and the approximate translation of this term would be “tea master”. Chashi, however, do not blend tea leaves with other ingredients in Japan. Rather, they judge, grade, and blend different sencha (or gyokuro, etc) leaves together to create the perfect taste profile for their sencha at varying prices. Blending also ensures that the tea company employing the Chashi is able to get quality, quantity, and consistency in a specific product.

Last note, while my own knowledge of Japanese tea has grown day by day over the last three years, my ability to taste the difference between two high quality senchas is very poor…too many years of drinking coffee before my nihoncha enlightenment perhaps!

regards, Ian

The post Nihoncha: How do you say “Japanese tea” in Japanese? appeared first on YUNOMI.

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