sencha

Teas for Witches: the Basics

I can talk about tea literally all day (and I have because I’ve worked in a spice and tea shop for years), and there is SO much to talk about with both health and magical benefits. Teas are made from tea leaves called camellia sinensis, with the exception of herbal teas/infusions. For this, I’m going to list magical and health benefits by type of tea.

Black Tea

Feminine * Earth * Winter * Strength * Stability * Death * Expelling Negativity * Alertness * Energy

Black tea is the most fermented and oxidized of all teas. Its tea leaves look shriveled and black. It combats heart ailments, digestive problems, high cholesterol, asthma, and breast/menstrual problems. Black tea also has a lot of caffeine (47 mg, still less than coffee) and too much of it can cause acidity issues in the stomach.  

Examples: English/Irish Breakfast Tea, Assam, Darjeeling, Lapsung Souchang, Ceylon, Earl Grey

**There is a subset of black tea called Pu-erh, a post-fermented black tea. Some consider this to be the “purest” of all teas and connect it to the aether, as it is rare and valuable.

Green Tea

Masculine * Fire * Summer * Passion * Healing * Conscious Mind * Sexual Health * Love * Energy * Progress * Magic

Green tea is slightly steamed but not fermented, which maintains its green color. It has many health benefits, such as detoxifying, reducing cholesterol and weight, boosting immunity and stamina, and reducing blood glucose. It has less caffeine than black, but still some. 

Examples: Jasmine, Sencha, Matcha, Gyokurocha, Genmaicha, Hojicha, Gunpowder, Dragonwell

Oolong Tea

Feminine * Water * Autumn * Reflection * Meditation * Wisdom * Serenity * Concentration * Romance * Friendship

I always describe Oolong as being between Green and Blacks, since it is half fermented. It can help manage weight and stress, balance blog sugar levels, remove free radicals, and promote healthy skin and bones. HOWEVER, too much can actually speed up bone degradation because it sweeps away excess calcium. And beware of its high caffeine content (I used to drink Raspberry Wulong to pull all-nighters).

Examples: Milk Oolong, Formosa, Wulongs

White Tea

Masculine * Air * Spring * Happiness * Wisdom * Moon * Purification * Protection * Clarity * Cleansing * Beginnings

White tea is a little harder to find. Either the tea leaves are plucked as immature leaves and steamed, or the leaves have not been processed (there seems to be little consensus across cultures). Some have a small amount of caffeine. It’s a great antibacterial and antioxidant, and it improves the heart, oral health, and skin. Drinking a couple cups works better than one, and you can reuse the tea leaves, granted that the second cup will brew longer.

Examples: White teas come in many flavors and are usually labeled as white tea. You may need to seek out a tea shop to find some.

Herbal Tea

Magical properties depend on which herbs are used

This tea seems to be the most popular for witches on tumblr, because it is composed of dry, unprocessed herbs, seeds, fruits, or roots, and has no caffeine (as long as the herb doesn’t!). There are many recipes online as herbals are easy to make. In general, herbal tea promotes calm, reduces cholesterol and risk of heart conditions, cancers, and diabetes. Due to its lack of actual tea leaves it has less antioxidants than other teas. Some don’t even call it a tea, but dub it Herbal Infusion.

Examples: Rooibos, most Chais, Ginseng, Chamomile, Peppermint, Spearmint, Hibiscus

**Yerba Mate is an herbal tea that is notorious for its high caffeine levels (you’ve probably seen the energy drink). It also zaps one’s appetite and can become addictive, so be careful around this tea!

As always, feel free to add/message me of any corrections, and I hope you find your cup of tea!

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Wazuka, nestled deep in the mountains of Southern Uji, is a sleepy, small treasure of a town famous for its sprawling mountainsides of tea. They take such pride in their production that some of the more scenic views are even labeled! There are also multiple cafes that specialize in products made from the locally grown tea - we had kakigori (shaved ice) with two kinds of tea-based syrups (matcha and sencha are pictured, but you could also opt for houjicha or one other) and an ice tea made of half sencha, half herb tea. They also had tea-based uguisumochi, kombucha (no, not THAT kombucha) and some cakes, but not a single coffee to be found.

One thing I especially liked was the small town vibe. We did have a guide take us around the town, and while he did he was stopped by no less than half a dozen people, just to say hi and have a chat. You’d expect a place like this to be mostly older people, but I was surprised to find a lot of small families around, actually.

“A lot of people do graduate and go off to Tokyo or Osaka or wherever to find work,” our guide admitted, “but when they’re ready to start a family, a lot of them come back.”

How to make green tea

One of the most frequently heard reasons for people not liking green tea is because they think it’s a bitter tea. I’ve worked at a Japanese tea shop for a little over a year and this is something we heard all the time.

Therefore I wanted to give all of you who want to drink green tea, but don’t for this reason some tips on how to make it properly.

  • Water temperature

Green tea is a fragile tea which you can’t pour boiling water on or you will burn it and it will alter the taste. The right temperature of the water depends on the tea, but let’s just say that an average green tea needs about 80-85 degrees celsius of water. A hojicha, which is a roasted green tea, can obviously take some more since it has already experienced heat, so about 90-95. But there are also more sensitive teas like the gyokuro, which you want to use about 65-70 with.
How do you know when the temperature is right? Well, traditional Japanese tea cups do not have ears, because the water is of such temperature that you can hold the cup directly. The rule of thumb is, if the water burns your skin, it will burn your tea.
Also, don’t stop your water from coming to a boil, the boiling process removes the hardening materials from the water making it better for the tea. Just be patient :)

  • Brewing time

First of all, green tea brews better when used loose than in a tea bag. If you have the time and the means to use a filter instead of a bag, use it, but if you only have bags, that’s fine as well. Green tea just loves to swim.
The brewing time is about a minute and a half. Yes, it’s that short. If you brew longer the tea will darken and become bitter.
Most green teas are of such quality that you can reuse for a second time (especially loose leafs) but be careful, the second brew should only be about 30 seconds! Depending on the quality of the tea you can re-brew 3 to 5 times!

  • Don’t sugar your tea

I understand that this is a personal opinion, but green tea is not meant to be consumed with sugar inside, but rather with sugar on the side. So have a cookie or a little piece of cake and the green tea with only compliment it.

Enjoy! ♥

The past weeks have been exciting for our IKKYU venture. Our specific design and the exceptional quality of our tea selection have received high praise from Westerner and Japanese consumers alike.

New producers will soon join our project and we can’t wait to introduce you to their wonderful green teas! In the fall, IKKYU will take part to large events, both in Japan and overseas. Stay tuned for more details soon!

Here a few popular Japanese teas per request of Vita Dolce san. The area where I live has many famous tea plantation and is known as Uji cha.

Shincha, literally “new tea”, represents the first month’s harvest of Sencha, a Japanese green tea. Basically, it is the same as ichibancha, “the first-picked tea,” and is characterized by its fresh aroma and sweetness. Use of the term “ichibancha” rather than “shincha” generally infers its difference from “nibancha” (“the second-picked tea”) and “sanbancha” (“the third-picked tea”). Use of the term “shincha” generally is to emphasize that it is that year’s earliest tea, and is timely and seasonal.

Fukamushicha: The processing of fukamushicha is the same as for sencha, except that for fukamushicha the leaves are steamed two or three times longer. As a result, the leaves become withered, and the color is also darker. However, the taste remains just as “sweet” and moderate, and the fragrance is richer and deeper. Despite the stronger aroma, fukamushicha is gentle on the stomach, and you can drink as many cups as you wish.

Sencha (煎茶) is a Japanese green tea, specifically one made without grinding the tea leaves. The word “sencha” means “decocted tea,” referring to the method that the tea beverage is made from the dried tea leaves. This is as opposed, for example, to matcha (抹茶), powdered Japanese green tea, in which case the green tea powder is mixed with hot water and therefore the leaf itself is included in the beverage. It is considered that the ideal color of the sencha beverage is a greenish golden color. Depending upon the temperature of the water in which it is decocted, the flavor will be different, and this also is the appeal of sencha.

Konacha (or “tea powder”) is the tea served at sushi restaurants, where it is called “agari.” It consists of the rejected buds and tea “dust” left over from the processing of sencha and gyokuro. It is reasonably priced and has a strong color, flavor, and aroma, making it an ideal cooking ingredient.

Gyokuro: (“jewel dew”) Rich green gyokuro is a top-grade tea. It owes its sweet, mild flavor to high levels of theanine, an amino acid generated by covering the tea bushes with a reed screen two to three weeks prior to picking. This shields the leaves from direct sunlight and results in leaves that are dark green when dried. (gyokuro is shaded for approximately three weeks). Gyokuro contains a lot of caffeine and chlorophyl. Caffeine stimulates the brain and the nervous system, while chlorophyl stimulates tissue growth, resulting in healthy skin. The name “gyokuro” translates as “jewel dew” (or “jade dew”, referring to the pale green colour of the infusion).

Kukicha consists of stems and stalks normally discarded in the production of sencha, gyokuro, and matcha teas. kukicha produced from the stalks of gyokuro is known as “karigane” and is highly prized. Kukicha made from either gyokuro or sencha is served in the same way as its base tea. The clean taste and light fragrance are sure to help you wake up feeling refreshed.

Matcha, also maccha, refers to finely-milled or fine powder green tea. The cultural activity called the Japanese tea ceremony centers on the preparation, serving, and drinking of matcha. In modern times, matcha has also come to be used to flavour and dye foods such as mochi and soba noodles, green tea ice cream and a variety of wagashi (Japanese confectionery). Matcha is a fine ground, powdered, high quality green tea and not the same as tea powder or green tea powder.

Blends of matcha are given poetic names called chamei (“tea names”) either by the producing plantation, shop or creator of the blend, or by the grand master of a particular tea tradition. When a blend is named by the grand master of some tea ceremony lineage, it becomes known as the master’s konomi, or favoured blend.

Matcha is made from shade-grown tea leaves also used to make gyokuro. The preparation of matcha starts several weeks before harvest, when the tea bushes are covered to prevent direct sunlight. This slows down growth, turns the leaves a darker shade of green and causes the production of amino acids. Only the finest tea buds are hand picked. After harvesting, if the leaves are rolled out before drying as usual, the result will be gyokuro (jade dew) tea. However, if the leaves are laid out flat to dry, they will crumble somewhat and become known as tencha (碾茶). Tencha can then be de-veined, de-stemmed, and stone ground to the fine, bright green, talc-like powder known as matcha.

Hōjicha is a Japanese green tea that is distinguished from others because it is roasted in a porcelain pot over charcoal; Japanese tea is usually steamed. The tea is fired at high temperature, altering the leaf colour tints from green to reddish-brown. The process was first performed in Kyoto, Japan in the 1920s and its popularity persists today.

Hōjicha is often made from bancha (番茶, “common tea”), tea from the last harvest of the season, however other varieties of Hōjicha also exist, including a variety made from sencha, and Kukicha, tea made from the twigs of the tea plant rather than the leaves.

Hōjicha infusions have a light-to reddish-brown appearance, and are less astringent due to losing catechins during the high temperature roasting process. The roasted flavours are extracted and predominate this blend: the roasting replaces the vegetative tones of standard green tea with a toasty, slightly caramel-like flavour. The roasting process used to make Hōjicha lowers the amount of caffeine in the tea. Because of its mildness, Hōjicha is a popular tea to serve during the meal or after the evening meal before going to sleep and even preferred for children and elderly.

Bancha (番茶) is a Japanese green tea. It is harvested from the second flush of sencha between summer and autumn. Bancha is harvested from the same tree as sencha grade, but it is plucked later than sencha is, giving it a lower market grade. It is considered to be the lowest grade of green tea. There are 22 grades of bancha. Its flavour is unique, it has a stronger organic straw smell. When you think of Bancha (coarse tea), you may picture it as a low quality and nonstandized cheap tea. However, sencha (green tea), now most popular tea for drinking in Japan, became popular only from the middle of the Edo era. Before that, Bancha was the daily drinking tea for the common people and was mostly made at each house. 

Bancha is not popular in the famous tea producing areas. As the producer tried to make the price high for the tea, producing Bancha was eliminated little by little. Contrarily at the rural mountain areas, the bancha is still a daily drinking tea for the people. There, you can see how Japanese people used to drink tea and the old tea culture by looking the method of making and serving Bancha.

Genmaicha (“brown rice tea”) is the Japanese name for green tea combined with roasted brown rice. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as “popcorn tea” because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn. This type of tea was originally drunk by poor Japanese, as the rice served as a filler and reduced the price of the tea; which is why it is also known as the “people’s tea.” It was also used by those persons fasting for religious purposes or who found themselves to be between meals for long periods of time. Today it is consumed by all segments of society.

Tea steeped from these tea leaves has a light yellow hue. Its flavor is mild and combines the fresh grassy flavor of green tea with the aroma of the roasted rice. The rice adds a slightly nutty taste, and its mild flavor makes it the ideal tea to drink after a meal that includes oily or deep-fried foods, such as tempura or Chinese cuisine.

Sakurayu (桜湯) or cherry blossom tea is a Japanese beverage created by mixing pickled cherry blossoms with boiled water. This combination becomes a type of herbal tea, and has been enjoyed in East Asian culture for many generations. The main ingredient, cherry blossoms petals, are harvested when the cherry trees bloom from mid to late spring. After the calyxes are removed, the petals are then pickled in plum vinegar & salt and the product subsequently dried. The dried cherry blossoms are then stored or sealed in tea packets and sold.

In order to produce sakurayu, a few such dried, salt-pickled blossoms must be sprinkled into a cup of hot water. Once covered in hot water, the collapsed petals unfurl and float. The herbal tea is then allowed to steep until the flavor reaches its desired intensity. The resulting drink tastes slightly salty.

There is a Japanese expression “Ocha wo Nigosu”. “Ocha” is green tea, and “Nigosu” means to make unclear. So the term itself will literally translate to “tea which is not clear”. However, the meaning of this expression is to “be evasive”, “be vague”, “non-committal”, which is not appropriate for Weddings. That is why green tea are not served at weddings, and instead serve “Sakura-yu”. “Sakura” represents “Beginning”, so it’s most appropriate for weddings.