A tea with much umami taste feels savory, brothy and with more body than usual.
I just can’t imagine going several days without drinking a tea that is high in umami.
When I became a regular tea drinker, I didn’t really understand why umami was important for Japanese green tea.
For example, I disliked gyokuro when I first tried it because it was way too brothy for my taste.
But now my palate has become used to it.
Umami taste and quality
In general, the amount of umami taste in a Japanese green tea is directly proportional to its quality.
The reason is that teas made from young leaves, and also shaded teas (such as matcha) have more amino acids.
However, with the arrival of single cultivar tea, the classic taste of Japanese tea is no longer the main standard to judge quality.
So it’s possible that in the future we’ll have Japanese teas that don’t have this taste as a main focus.
Green teas from other countries have umami taste as well.
But it’s normally lower than Japanese teas because of differences in tea cultivars and processing in general.
Umami taste and health benefits of green tea
I haven’t heard that umami taste can be good for your health. It’s rather neutral.
Moreover, the shading process used to increase amino acid content results in a lower amount of catechins, which are the healthy compounds in green tea.
However, catechins are bitter and astringent.
In other words, the shading process sacrifices health benefits in order to achieve a better taste.
Follow your own preferences
When I first discovered loose leaf green tea, I mostly drank genmaicha.
It’s hard for a beginner to properly appreciate a high quality tea. Some experience is required.
While I’m into umami taste, perhaps you prefer green teas that feel light and sweet, or some other variation.
Just drink the types of tea that you find delicious, even if they aren’t considered to be particularly luxurious.