Green tea is everywhere in Japan, from the tea ceremonies of Kyoto to the bottled green tea found in every vending machine and convenience store around Japan. Most of this green tea is actually grown, harvested, and processed right here in Japan.  Read on for the complete guide to green tea in Japan to learn all about the history of Japanese tea, the cultural role tea plays in Japan still today, types of green tea, tea growing regions in Japan, and more. 

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The History of Japanese Tea

It is said that it was 1,200 years ago when tea came from China. But it was just drunk by rich people and didn’t become popular. With the times, it became common among the samurai class, and ordinary people became to be able to enjoy it in the Edo period. It is said that a monk brought tea seeds back from China and he spread them in Ashikubo which is a suburb of Shizuoka city. It was the beginning of Shizuoka tea. We can tell that Shizuoka prefecture has been a product area of tea from old times from references in literature. During the Meiji Restoration, samurais who lost their job cultivated Makinohara platform which was an undeveloped wilderness, and it became the best tea production place in Japan.

Many kinds of tea such as Japanese green tea, Chinese oolong tea, and Western black tea are made from the same tea tree of the Theaceae family, and the difference between them is the fermentation degree of the tea leaves!

  • Japanese tea → unfermented tea
  • oolong tea → half fermented tea
  • Black tea → fully fermented tea

While it is strongly associated with Japan nowadays, green tea actually came to Japan from China in the early 9th century. It’s believed the drink was brought across by Buddhist monks and at first was solely drunk by Buddhist monks, with the Imperial family later following suit as growing tea became more common.

It wasn’t until the 12th century, under the guidance of Eisai a Buddhist priest, that commoners were encouraged to drink it for their health. Since then, green tea has become a mainstay of Japanese cuisine, while other teas like black tea and oolong have never caught on.

Japanese green tea leaves

Cultural Role of Green Tea in Japan

Since green tea has been around in Japan for so long, it’s little surprise that the drink has become important to different aspects of Japanese culture. These aspects range from the religious, to health and wellbeing, and most noticeably in Japanese hospitality. For instance, when you visit restaurants in Japan it is typical for complimentary green tea to be served once the meal is over. Similarly, visitors to temples and gardens will often be served green tea as part of their experience there.

Perhaps the most well-known cultural activity in Japan relating to green tea is the famed Japanese tea ceremony. This longstanding ritual is a chance for a host to welcome guests in a peaceful, traditional tearoom on tatami mats. It involves preparing and serving the tea according to the “the way of tea” tradition, although there are different degrees of formality for the ceremony. Tourists can experience a Japanese tea ceremony, kimono, and all, at certain dedicated tea houses.

Japanese Green Tea Benefits

If you’ve done any research on health and wellness, or let’s be honest, see any kind of cable news program, you’ve probably heard of the benefits of green tea.  And while there are plenty of things touted by cable TV doctor shows (superfoods??) there really is some truth to the green tea claims.  

Because green tea is loaded with antioxidants that have benefits such as: 

  • Improved brain function
  • Fat loss
  • Protecting against cancer
  • Lowering the risk of heart disease. 

Other such health benefits from green tea include: 

  • Removing free radicals (activated oxygen)
    Free radicals (activated oxygen) are powerful oxidizing agents in the body which are known to cause a wide variety of diseases, aging, and wrinkles. Free radicals increase by overexposure to ultraviolet rays, aging, smoking, and too much drinking. If you want to remove free radicals that have been created in your body, you may do this by consuming foods that have strong antioxidant properties. Catechin and Vitamin C are well-known antioxidants. Japanese green tea contains both Catechin and Vitamin C. It is beneficial to drink Japanese green tea to remove these harmful free radicals.
  • Reducing cholesterol
    Too much cholesterol is known to cause arteriosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and cerebral infarction (stroke). But not all cholesterol is bad or unhealthy. LDL cholesterol is bad and HDL cholesterol is good. Too much LDL cholesterol can cause cells in the body to oxidize and cause arteriosclerosis. Catechin, which is found in Japanese green tea, blocks the formation of bad LDL cholesterol and therefore is helpful in preventing arteriosclerosis. Not only does the Catechin in Japanese green tea prevent bad LDL cholesterol from forming, but it increases good HDL cholesterol levels in the body as well.
  • Reducing fat
    Many studies have shown that ingesting Catechin promotes healthy energy consumption in the body of human beings and animals – and reduces fat in the body and digestive system. It has also been reported that Catechin absorbed into the blood stream reaches cells in the liver and works to promote fat metabolism.
  • Antibacterial and sterilizing
    Catechin has strong antibacterial and sterilizing effects on germs and bacteria. It has even been found to have the effect of sterilizing germs (NRSA) that cause infections in hospitals – so Catechin is beneficial to ward off infection and sickness in this way as well.
  • Antiviral
    Studies have shown that Catechin can also prevent viral infections. Gargling with Japanese green tea has been shown to prevent influenza and the common cold and also helps to relieve symptoms of influenza and the common cold such as sore throat, cough, and nasal congestion.
  • Preventing the influenza infection
    Hiroshi Yamada, doctor of internal medicine at Shizuoka General Hospital and professor of medicine at Shizuoka University, recently published a study regarding the effectiveness of Catechin against new influenza (2009, H1N1 type). Through his research experiments, he proved that gargling with Japanese green tea can help to prevent influenza infection. It is said that the positive effects of Catechin against influenza is the same with influenza and seasonal common influenza. In addition, it prevents the influenza infection more to ingest green tea, because Vitamin C and the other nutrients in Japanese green tea work together with Catechin. So, both gargling and drinking Japanese green tea are recommended.
  • Moderating allergies
    Catechin has an effect of moderating allergies (including airborne pollen/mold allergies and dermatitis). It is recognized that Catechin moderates the symptoms of allergies including itching and sneezing.
  • Oral care
    Catechin is an effective deodorant and general sterilizing agent. A cup of Japanese tea after a meal prevents the growth of germs, which cause periodontal disease and halitosis (bad breath).
  • Preventing cavities
    Catechin is effective in preventing dental cavities. Catechin prevents existing cavities from becoming larger by balancing the enzymes found in the cavity area. By reducing harmful acids in the mouth which can destroy the tooth enamel, Catechin also works to protect the enamel and keep your teeth healthy and strong.
  • May benefit exercise performance and recovery

Green tea extract seems to be helpful in exercise, whether it’s by improving exercise performance or enhancing recovery. While exercise has many health benefits, it’s known to produce oxidative stress and damage cells in the body. Antioxidants, like green tea catechins, can reduce cellular damage and delay muscle fatigue. 

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, while green tea is amazing and has many positive benefits you should still live a healthy life aside from just drinking green tea, and also listen to your doctor’s suggestions. 

Best Japanese green tea

Types of Green Tea in Japan

If you’re not a “tea person” you might not realize that there’s more than one type of green tea. In fact, Japan is home to close to 20 different types of green tea, each with its own subtle differences in flavor. The flavor of each type is the result of a whole bunch of factors, from whether the plant is grown in shade or sunlight, to when in the harvest is cultivated, to how it’s processed.

It’s worth noting that the plant used – Camellia sinensis – is exactly the same as that used for black and oolong tea.

The type of tea also depends on what part of the Camellia sinensis plant is used. Yes, it’s not just tea leaves that are used to create green tea in Japan, but also for instance, twigs and stems like in the case of kukicha. Then there are types that use other ingredients entirely, like genmaicha, which is made with roasted brown rice in it.

Sencha

By far the most popular type of green tea in Japan is sencha. Thanks to its balance of sweet and acidic flavor, sencha has become the standard, everyday tea in Japan. Sencha is made from the youngest leaves plucked during the first harvests and is grown in direct sunlight. The leaves are then processed by being steamed, left to dry out, and then rolled.

Matcha

Another type of green tea many people will be familiar with is matcha. This type of tea comes in powdered form and is known for its strikingly vibrant green color and its earthy, slightly bitter flavor. Matcha is grown in the shade and is steamed and then dried out, before being ground up. It is matcha that is typically used in Japanese tea ceremonies.

Growing beyond just tea, matcha has become a wildly popular ingredient and flavor in all sorts of foods, including ice cream, sweets, and pastries.

Shincha 

Shincha is made from the youngest and most tender leaves from the tea plant. It’s the highest quality green tea, and it’s picked from the first or second flush of the spring harvest season. Many tea producers claim that during the winter months amino acids build up in the leaves, resulting in a sweeter, less bitter taste.

Gyokuro

Gyokuro means “jade dew” in Japanese. It’s the highest grade of green tea in the country, and the most expensive. Introduced to the Uji region of Japan in the mid-17th century, the most important characteristic of gyokuro tea is that it’s shade-grown for as many as 30 days before harvest. Like tencha, gyokuro has a higher concentration of theanine and fructose, resulting in a smooth and sweet tea with a rich umami flavor.

Bancha

Harvested from the same plants as sencha, bancha is the lowest grade Japanese green tea, on the other end of the spectrum from gyokuro. Bancha is considered lower grade because it’s either harvested later in the season after the first or second flush (harvest) or because the leaves that are picked are lower down on the shoot. There, the leaves tend to be coarse in texture whereas the more delicate leaves near the top of the shoot are considered higher quality. That doesn’t mean that bancha tastes bad. In Japan, it’s considered an everyday tea with an earthy flavor that takes on the color of straw. Another variety of bancha harvested in the Tokushima prefecture, called awabancha, is fermented before it is dried.

Hojicha

Hojicha has a few defining characteristics that help it stand out from the Japanese green tea pack: The leaves are roasted after being harvested and steamed. Roasting removes the bitterness, imparting the tea with an earthy, smoky flavor and distinct dark red hue. Hojicha is typically harvested in Kyoto from bancha tea leaves, making it a slightly lower grade than other green teas. Because it’s low in caffeine, it’s often served during an evening meal or before bed.

Fukamushi

Fukamushi, produced in Shizuoka prefecture, means “deeply steamed.” Once tea leaves are harvested they are usually steamed from around 30 to 40 seconds — a necessary process called sassei, which halts fermentation and oxidation. However, the sencha or bancha leaves for fukamushi tea are steamed twice as long as usual (about a minute and half) before being dried. The softened leaves retain a sweeter, bolder flavor, and a texture that is sometimes described as “creamy” or “buttery.” The color is a cloudy, dark green, and it needs less time to steep. The softer leaves are also more fragile, often breaking up into particles that can gather as sediment in the bottom of the cup.

Genmaicha

What makes genmaicha stand out is that kernels of brown rice are added to the bancha leaves as they dry. Sometimes the kernels pop during this process, earning genmaicha the nickname “popcorn tea.” According to legend, a servant in the 15th century was pouring green tea for a group of warlords and dropped a bag of brown rice into one of the cups, thereby spoiling the expensive beverage. But when the samurai sipped his tea, he found that the roasted rice added an earthy, full-bodied flavor to the bitter green tea. Another theory is that green tea was a luxury only enjoyed by aristocrats in the 15th century, so when ordinary people got their hands on bancha tea (lower grade tea harvested later in the season) they preserved it by adding brown rice to dried leaves.

Guricha

Also known as tamaryokucha, this is a rare Japanese green tea. Harvested at first flush, guricha leaves are not steamed after being picked but are pan-fried, a more common technique in Chinese tea production. The leaves form a coiled shape during this process, which also sets it apart from other Japanese green teas. This clear, pale green tea is sometimes described as refreshing or light, and it’s mostly produced on Kyushu Island.

Kukicha

Kukicha consists of the byproducts of the tea production process: stems and twigs. This tea is mild and nutty in flavor and low in caffeine. Like fukamushi, it’s known for its “creamy” texture. The color of the steeped tea can sometimes be pale orange, similar to hojicha. In Kyoto, kukicha is known as karigane, which means “wild goose,” a reference to the fact that geese rest on branches floating in the sea during their migration periods.

Kabusecha

Also known as kabuse, or “covered tea,” this tea is sometimes described as the mid-way point between sencha and gyokuro. Shade-grown for as few as 10 days, kabusecha is sweeter and less grassy in flavor. Kabusecha is rarer than sencha and gyokuro, however, accounting for less than five percent of the green tea grown in Japan. The best kabusecha can be found in the Yame region.

Green Tea Plantations in Japan
Woman harvesting tea leaves

How Japanese Green Tea is Grown

Planting

From March to April is the most suitable time for planting of cuttings in the field. There are two types of planting, single-row hedge planting, and zigzag (double-row hedge) planting. In both types, the distance between two adjacent hedges is 180 cm.

In single-row planting, the distance between plants is 30-45cm. In zigzag planting, the distances between plants and rows in a hedge are 60~90 cm and 30~60 cm, respectively.

Frame Formation

The frame formation of the tea plant is shown in the figure below. The tea plant is pruned every year in spring and is skiffed in autumn of the third or fourth year after planting. These treatments increase the number of branches and plucking surface areas.

The first harvest can be done in the second year after planting but the yield is very low. Maximum productivity is reached by the fifth or sixth year after planting. Under favorable conditions by the management (pruning) in Japan, the productivity remains 25~35 years.

Pruning

10 years later after planting, tea plants are subjected to trimming and pruning in order to get following aims.

  • To refresh the vigor of an old tea plant.
  • To keep the height of the plucking surface within the bounds of easy and efficient plucking.

Because of the difference in effects between trimming and pruning, these treatments are done in different periods, the former every 2~3 years and the latter every 5 years.

Skiffing is done after every harvesting and in autumn to remove the late-emerging shoot and to keep the surface uniform for mechanical plucking.

Growth and Harvest of Tea Shoots

Generally, from April to October, tea shoots grow and harvest 2-4 times, the first crop in late April to mid-May, the second crop in late June, third crop in late July to early August, and fourth crop in mid-September in Shizuoka Pref. (see the figure on page 22). The average yield of the tea field is 8,000 kg in the first harvest, 6,000 kg in the second harvest, and 4,000 kg per hectare in the third harvest. The first crop possesses the highest quality and the highest price. The area where the third and fourth crops are harvested is decreasing because of the low price.

Plucking

Tea flushes are plucked either by hand (hand and hand-shear plucking) or mechanically. There are three types of tea plucking machines; portable machines (for one-and two-persons-type), self-propelled machines (riding-type and walking-type), and rail-tracking machines. Portable machine for two persons and riding-type plucking machines are most widely used in Shizuoka Pref. and Kagoshima Prefecture, respectively. Tea flushes for Tencha are plucked only by hand.

The amount of new shoots harvested by one person goes as follows:

  • hand plucking 
  • hand-shear plucking 
  • portable plucking machines for two persons 
  • riding-type plucking machines

Generally, tea flushes harvested by hand have high quality and make up for high-grade Sencha or Gyokuro.

Japanese Matcha
Courtesy of macha.jp

Main Green Tea Growing Regions in Japan

Shizuoka

When it comes to growing green tea, Shizuoka is the first place that should come to mind. Shizuoka is the largest grower of green tea in Japan, producing up to 40% of the nation’s consumed green tea. It’s said that green tea plantations in Shizuoka date back to 1241. The story goes that a monk named Shoichi Kokushi planted the first green tea seeds in Shizuoka that he obtained on his trip to China. The region is in a tea-growing sweet spot with Mount Fuji providing nutrient-rich soil and a natural slope that acts like an irrigation system keeping the roots of the tea bushes from becoming too moist, which can hamper growth.  

It’s no surprise that the biggest green tea-producing prefecture has massive areas dedicated to growing green tea. Looping and cascading down hills and mountains, the green tea fields in Shizuoka are breathtakingly beautiful, and open to visitors. Green tea picking and tasting experiences are offered at Shizuoka green tea farms, so for those wanting to make their next trip to Japan extra special why not take the time to visit Japan’s greenest fields?

Uji, Kyoto

Beyond temples and geisha, Kyoto is famous for a particular type of green tea – matcha. Matcha is made by grinding tea leaves into a powder with a special type of stone grinder. The process is rather difficult as the dried tea leaves must be ground at a certain speed in order not to create any heat which could damage the leaves. Today this process is still done by hand in some locations but many large processing factories now have machines to do the job for them.

Kyoto’s green tea is produced in the small town of Uji, where the matcha receives its name. The city is located south of Kyoto and is famous among Japanese travelers. While Kyoto doesn’t produce green tea at the same rate as Shizuoka, around 3% of Japan’s total green tea consumption, the green tea created in Kyoto is of a much higher quality with Uji matcha renowned the world over for its undeniable quality and taste.

While matcha is famous throughout the world as being a quintessential Japanese beverage there is another delicious tea produced in Kyoto. Unknown to the casual tea drinker, the roasted almost caramel-like flavors of hojicha are loved by tea drinkers far and wide. Hojicha is simply roasted green tea. The leaves are placed out into the sun, or nowadays into a roastery, and roasted until golden brown. Unlike green tea which contains almost as much caffeine as coffee, hojicha contains less caffeine and is the perfect drink for anyone looking for less kick. Next time you find yourself in Kyoto perhaps take a local train south and try a cup of the most matcha in the world.

Kagoshima, Kyushu

Located in Kyushu, Kagoshima is the second largest tea-growing region in Japan, after Shizuoka. For the longest time, Kagoshima was known as the mass producer of cheaper green teas for bulk buyers but in recent years the region has aimed for increasingly higher qualities of green tea while keeping the price relatively low. Most of the tea produced in Kagoshima is known as blended tea so everything from sencha, shibushi, hojicha, and even matcha will come out of Kagoshima’s tea bushes.

Although Shizuoka is still the largest tea-growing region in Japan, when it comes to growing tea, climate is king, and the mild and warm climate of Kagoshima gives it a slight advantage over Shizuoka allowing the first harvest of the year, sencha, to be harvested the earliest in Japan.

Other Prefectures

Ibaraki, Saitama, Shiga, Aichi, Okayama, Nara, Shimane, Yamaguchi, Nagasaki, Koichi, Gifu, Kumamoto, and Saga prefectures are also known for their tea farms. However, these prefectures generally produce less than 5% of the country’s teas. 

While tea plantations generally don’t extend much north past Ibaraki prefecture, the locality is valued in Japan. I did have a chance once of trying some of Fukushima’s local sencha productions, and it was on par with many others throughout the country.

Free Custom Google Map of Tokyo

Must-Do Tea Activities

Tea Ceremony
Courtesy of macha.jp

Attend a Tea Ceremony

Being able to experience a traditional tea ceremony is definitely a Japan bucket list item. In Wazuka, you can do this in an intimate setting with the tea harvested right from the fields you’ll see and walk through. 

Typically when attending a Japanese tea ceremony it is a more formal event where you can dress up in a kimono or yukata while learning the history of the ceremony rituals prior to enjoying your tea. After, a host will either make a cup of matcha for you or allow you to prepare it yourself with guidance.

See our guide for what to know about Japanese Tea Ceremonies.

Visit a local Café

You can have your cake and ice cream with this yummy matcha parfait!

If you don’t have time for a tour, then I highly recommend visiting one of the small cafes in Wazuka that have a variety of matcha-flavored snacks and sweets. You can find cafes all over the but here are a few we recommend!

Sky Cafe Wazuka Green Tea Cafe in Japan

Sky Cafe Wazuka

Sky Cafe Wazuka is a small cafe that resembles a treehouse! It allows you to reserve the entire space for one hour for only 500 yen. Inside the cafe, you can sip on your tea while overlooking the tea fields where your tea was carefully cared for. You also receive a few traditional Japanese sweets to enjoy with your tea.

Location: Shishigaguchi Shirasu, Wazuka, Soraku District, Kyoto 619-1222

Hours: 10am-5pm daily

d matcha cafe Japanese matcha

d:matcha

d:matcha has a tour experience plus tea tastings with small plates, snacks, and sweets available to purchase making it a great place to stop for lunch. While we didn’t take a tour with d:matcha, we’ve heard nothing but positive remarks! If you’re looking for an all-inclusive approach (tour, meal, etc) then d:matcha is a great tour to book!

Location: Kyomachi-17 Kamatsuka, Wazuka, Soraku District, Kyoto 619-1212

Hours: 11am-4pm daily

Wazuka Cafe Japanese Green Tea

Wazukaka Cafe

Wazukaka Cafe (Wazuka Tea Cafe), located on the Wazuka tea plantation is one of the most popular cafes in the area. The menu has a large variety of teas and sweets to choose from at very reasonable prices. While I love matcha, hojicha is a roasted green tea that Logan and I both love as well.

Wazukacha Cafe has some yummy sweets made with powdered hojicha including a Swiss roll cake and a parfait. If you decide to visit Wazukacha Cafe I also recommend purchasing some tea and/or sweets to take with you!

Location: 〒619-1222 Kyoto, Soraku District, Wazuka, 和束町Shirasu, Ohazama−35番地

Hours: 10am-5pm daily

Nana's Green Tea Japan

Nana’s Green Tea

If you go to one place on your Japan travels for a HUGE Matcha-inspired menu, make it Nana’s. They are dotted all over Japan and offer modern takes on traditional tea house desserts. 

We tried the Matcha Latte Frappe with Shiratama Dumplings and Black Sesame Ice Cream. 

It was so refreshing on a warm Spring day and coupled with some Nama Matcha and Houjicha Chocolates (think delicious melt-in-your-mouth ganache!) it was a fantastic mid-afternoon treat before we tackled the crowds at San Purioland (aka Hello Kitty land).

Location: 〒182-0026 Tokyo, Chofu, Kojimacho, 1 Chome−38−1 調布 パルコ 2F

Hours: 10AM- 8:30 PM Daily

Kosoan Tea House

Kosoan Teahouse

A beautiful traditional style teahouse in the hip suburb of Jiyugaoka, this is the perfect place to have a break away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo. 

Pictured here is Matcha Shiratama Zenzai – a rich frothy Matcha with Shiratama dumplings floating within it. Enjoyed with a warming Houjicha tea. 

Location: 1 Chome-24-23 Jiyugaoka, Meguro City, Tokyo 152-0035

Hours: Weekdays: 12:30- 6:30 PM, Weekends 11AM- 6:30PM, Closed Wednesdays

Shop for Tea to Take Home

Before leaving Japan make sure you purchase some tea to take with you! It makes a great souvenir and it is something you can enjoy at home to remember your trip. You can purchase tea from Japan on some tea plantation tours or in a local cafe. But there are also local tea stores that are typically located near the cafes you can purchase from too.

Green Tea Picking
Japanese green tea field in shizuoka, Japan

Tea leaf picking/hand rolling

The history of hand-picking tea in Japan stretches back around 800 years to the Kamakura period, when tea seeds were first brought to the Kyoto prefecture from China. Traditionally, women would wear beautiful, colorful tea picking outfits, called Cha-musume (translated as “tea daughter”), and collect the leaves with care in reed baskets. In modern-day Japan nearly all tea is harvested by machine, and picking by hand is usually reserved only for very high-grade teas, such as the exquisite Gyokuro. For the last seven years, this event has kick-started each harvest season in spring, summer, and autumn, and is a great occasion to keep this wonderful tradition alive and create a sense of community amongst tea farmers and tea drinkers.

Try Green Tea Treats

Green tea isn’t just drunk in tea ceremonies or cafes, it’s put into almost everything you can think of.  I recommend trying at least a few.  Here are the top ones:

Matcha Cookies

Matcha cookies

One of the most popular sweet products featuring powdered green tea are matcha cookies. You can try making your own matcha cookies by adding a couple or tablespoons of matcha powder to your cookie dough mixture. Popular recipes for matcha cookies often recommend adding white chocolate chips which bring an extra sweetness to the cookie to help balance out the bitterness from the matcha, but you can also make them without.

Matcha Cake Japan

Cake

Throughout cafes and patisseries in Japan, you can find an amazing choice of matcha flavored cakes to try, with their vivid green colors helping to create an elegant selection of desserts with a wow factor. You can try making your own matcha cake at home by adding the green tea powder to your recipe or buying a premade matcha cake sold by Japanese manufacturers like Muji.

Matcha Ice Cream Japan

Ice Cream

Matcha ice cream is one of the most common flavors of ice cream in Japan and is often called matcha aisu in Japanese. According to the Japanese Ice Cream Association, matcha is the third most popular flavor of ice cream among Japanese consumers. Although green tea-flavored shaved ice has long been a popular dessert in Japan, matcha ice cream only really became widely sold since the 1990s and today even international companies Häagen-Dazs produce a matcha ice cream.

Matcha Mochi Japan

Mochi

Mochi is an ancient Japanese dessert made of rice flour called mochigome. Many kinds of traditional Japanese sweets are made from mochi such as daifuku, a round mochi with sweet fillings such as red bean paste, white bean paste, or strawberries. Matcha daifuku is a very popular kind of Japanese sweet treat. The matcha can be either be added to the mochi dough to form part of the daifuku’s outer layer, or it can be included as part of a creamy ganache filling inside the daifuku with a whole strawberry inside to create a balance between bitter and sweet.

Matcha Warabi Mochi Japan

Warabi Mochi

Another Japanese confection similar to mochi but made from warabiko (bracken starch) and normally covered or dipped in kinako (roasted soybean flour). The deliciously chewy, jelly-like mochi can also be covered with bitter matcha powder and drizzled with kuromitsu or matcha sauce.

Kakigori Matcha Shaved Ice

Kakigori Shaved Ice

In addition to the above kinds of matcha desserts, there are plenty of other matcha sweet treats you can try. For example, one of Japan’s most popular traditional summer desserts is matcha shaved ice, known as kakigori in Japanese. Consumption of kakigori in Japan dates all the way back to the Heian period (794-1185), and there is even a kakigori day celebrated each year on July 25th! Matcha kakigori is shaved ice covered in green tea syrup, and often also includes condensed milk to sweeten the taste and topped with anko (sweet red beans).

Matcha Pancakes Japan

Pancakes

Japanese souffle pancakes are another dessert where matcha powder is often added to make matcha pancakes. Unlike French crepes or western style flat pancakes, Japanese pancakes are thick and fluffy, made from egg whites that have been beaten into stiff peaks before being carefully added to the batter. Matcha powder can be added to the pancake batter or just sprinkled on top of the pancakes to give this popular dessert an extra boost of flavor.

Imamiya Tea Plantation

Visit a Tea Plantation

Imamiya Tea Plantation- Shizuoka

Imamiya is renowned as one of the most scenic venues among many other green tea plantations in Japan. The fame is due to the stunning scenery with Mt. Fuji and the popularity of Mr Fuji green tea, now a registered world heritage, in the background. The rows of green tea bushes arranged lengthwise and crosswise create dynamic patterns in the impressive grandeur of nature and the scent of green tea also enhances the bracing atmosphere of this area overlooking magnificent Mt. Fuji.

Houkouen Tea Farm– Shizuoka

Another tea farm from Shizuoka, Japan. The Houkouen farm is located in Ryochoi with plantations at 350 meters near Mt. Fuji.  They grow a variety of Japanese green teas like Gyokuro, Kabusecha, Sencha, Black Tea, and Houjicha.  The tour of the plantation includes a guide to the Tea plantation, a facory tour, and a tea tasting. It’s a very popular tour so you have to request to book.  

Obuchi Sasaba Tea Plantation-Shizuoka

The best time to visit there is May before the tea leave picking starts. There is still remaining snow on the tip of the mountain, which creates an amazing contrast with green tea leaves, blue sky, and white snow.

During the season, the spot is hugely popular among photographers and can be pretty crowded especially early May in Japan is Golden Week (long holiday weekend). It’s highly recommended to visit in early morning.

The tea plantation is owned by locals and totally private land, so make sure not to enter the plantation nor disturb locals. As long as you are there to take photos quietly, there would be no problem for them.

Makinohara Plateau- Shizuoka

The word “green tea” easily reminds most Japanese of Shizuoka Prefecture. Among other places here in Japan’s largest green tea-producing prefecture, the area around Makinohara Plateau stands out for its volume of shipment to all around the nation. The rows of roundish green tea bushes neatly lined up like baumkuchen amidst the vast field make a wonderful scenery.

Ujitawara-cho- Uji

Uji Green Tea, or Uji Cha, is a high quality brand of Japanese green tea with rich aroma. Ujitawara-cho is a town with a long history and said to be the birthplace of Japanese green tea. With many green tea shops lining up along the streets, you can enjoy the taste and scent of tea everywhere in this town. The curving lines of the terrace fields, greenery and the blue sky here make very picturesque scenery.

Wazuka-cho- Uji 

Wazuka-cho is a representative Uji green tea producing area in Kyoto. The production method here has long been succeeded over generations since around the 12th to 14th century. The view of green tea bushes arranged neatly along the gently sloping hillside reminds you of a downy carpet or, more artistically, the inside of a Colosseum. The scenery is so extraordinary to look at that you will almost lose the sense of time.

Tea Festival

Attend a Japanese Tea Festival 

Tea Festivals come in various formats and are not traditional (when compared to the tea ceremony), but are great for serious Japanese green tea lovers.  Most of the time these events have exhibitions that display the rich tea culture in Japan. The Japan Tea Festival, for example says that for two days you can touch the taste and aroma of various teas from Japan such as black tea, green tea, and oolong tea. The Global Japanese Tea Association has a good list of tea festivals. The dates are currently incorrect but the links to each festival work so you can check the correct dates (with some help from Google translate or a dictionary).

If you’re a lover of green tea, a trip to Japan should definitely be on your travel bucket list. These Japanese tea experiences are just one of the ways you can explore Japan and its rich culture.  Check out some of our other posts about Japan and make sure to let us know what your favorite thing in or about Japan is in the comments below.  


Are you ready for Japan?

  • Book Your Flights– To find the cheapest flights, flexibility is a must. Some great options are Google Flights for the calendars to find the cheapest options, Skiplagged, and Skyscanner. For more options see our resources page. For Japan, check flights for both Tokyo Airports (Haneda and Narita), as well as Osaka (Kansai).
  • Find Transportation- Buy your JR Pass for your bullet train and inter-city travel before you leave home. Research a Suica card, the public transportation card you can either buy before or as soon as you arrive.
  • Book Your Accommodation– Look at Booking.com, Hotels.com, or Expedia for hotels in Japan. You can also look at AirBnB or VRBO as we’ve had great luck finding inexpensive, large, and clean homes to rent.
  • Book Tours and Experiences- Check Klook or Viator for some of the best tours and attractions for a great price for experiences like Tokyo Skytree, TeamLab Borderless, and Universal Osaka. For Tokyo Disney Resort, check my guide here.
  • Stay Connected– Order a pocket WIFI for airport pickup if you’re with a family or group, or order a SIM card just for your phone. Check out our guide to staying connected here.
  • Buy Travel Insurance- I always recommend World Nomads for insurance. It’s better to protect yourself in case of mishaps. Learn more about World Nomads in this FAQ post.
  • Pack Your Bags– Check out my packing lists, or my favorite travel gear to help you remember all of the essentials.
  • Learn About Japan– Learn about Japan with guidebooks like Lonely Planet, or, shameless plug, search around my site for more info.

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BlogThe Complete Guide to Green Tea in Japan