Bancha

Bancha (番茶, ordinary tea) is a Japanese greenBancha tea whose main characteristic is that it’s a lower grade than sencha. While the cultivation and processing are identical to sencha, there is a difference in the quality of the leaves used.

One way that bancha is made is when the leaves are sorted after the harvest. The upper shoots of the green tea plant have a higher quality and thus are used for sencha, while the lower shoots have leaves that are courser and larger, hence they end up being bancha.

Another way that bancha is made is by harvesting the leaves at a later time, usually the third or fourth flush. The older the tea leaves, the less desirable they are. The green tea leaves of the first harvest, shincha, make the highest quality tea for a given year.

Bancha vs sencha

For the average person, its difficult to distinguish between bancha and sencha. The difference that immediately stands out would be the price: bancha is always cheaper than sencha. In fact, houjicha and genmaicha are usually cheaper than sencha because they are often made with bancha.

Bancha has a lower caffeine content because older leaves have less caffeine, and as such is less bitter than sencha. Upper tea shoots have more catechin (source of astringency, but also responsible in large part of the benefits of green tea) as compared to the lower (older) shoots. This means that bancha from a particular harvest has less catechin than sencha from the same harvest. Why? Because the lower leaves where being shielded from sunlight by the upper leaves, much like the cultivating process of gyokuro.

However, at later harvests, the catechin levels actually increase because of longer exposure to sunlight. Therefore, lower leaves from the second harvest will have about the same catechin content as upper leaves from the first harvest!

Sometimes you may see terms like ichibancha, nibancha, sanbancha and yonbancha. These refer to the time of harvest, but they are not types of bancha, although they sound the same. I will leave the topic of green tea harvests for another post.

How to brew bancha

Bancha is very easy to brew. banchaThe method is the same as for genmaicha and houjicha.

Use 3 to 4 grams per cup of bancha, and place it in the kyusu(Japanese tea pot: 急須). The following video shows a type of kyusu called dobin (土瓶). Use 120ml of boiling water per cup, pour it into the dobin, and let brew for 30 seconds.

Pour the bancha into each cup, alternating from cup to cup so that each cup gets an even mixture. The last drops are important, so pour until no more liquid comes out.

8 Responses to Bancha

  1. Rabbit says:

    I am a big fan of japanese green tea! I have been drinking about 3 years now! My favourite is bancha. Nice info my friend keep it up!

  2. chris nunn says:

    I’v been drinking bancha for over 25 years now. My method of preparation is bring to boil in small saucepan then immediately turn down to lowest simmer, leave to simmer/brew for 10 to 15 minutes before pouring into cup/mug. It has more flavour this way. I’m totally addicted and drink several mugs a day.

  3. Chris Evans says:

    A confirmed Tea drinker all my life! I have been mixing Australian Madura Tea & Bancha Tea & I do use milk (Haven’t been weaned yet) I realize it may not be as effective with milk but it is my way of at least getting some Green Tea effects Prior to using Bancha tea I used China Green tea with my method & my Blood Pressure normalized in a week! I hope that continues with Bancha tea

  4. Brad says:

    Ricardo, please advise. What is the best on-line source of bancha, best price, best service. I suspect that this wonderful basic tea is often overpriced at the big tea houses. Would appreciate your help. -Brad

    • Hi Brad

      Thanks for your question, although it’s not easy to answer.

      Big tea houses often have blends, meaning that there is more than one region involved. It’s not always overpriced, sometimes it’s quite cheap. Some bancha even comes from China.

      If you care about origin and year of harvest, I think that buying from a specialized tea shop would be best service. Also don’t forget to factor the shipping cost as well, especially when ordering from Japan. Sometimes you just have to buy more tea in the same shipment to justify that cost.

      Bancha isn’t a high end tea, and different tea farms make bancha that tastes different. So just choose one whose flavor suits you and that the cost works for you as well.

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