Sencha Green Tea: The Benefits and Side Effects

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Unlike matcha, or powdered japanese green tea, sencha is a Japanese green tea made by infusing whole tea leaves in hot water after they are processed. In this article we will look into the sencha tea benefits and side effects.

Sencha is the most popular kind of ryoku-cha (Japanese green tea). Although matcha, the powdered Japanese green tea, is both a traditional Japanese drink and the inspiration for many green tea snacks, there are so many types of sencha that you may be drinking it without even knowing. Unlike matcha, this type of green tea is made by infusing green tea leaves in hot water after they are processed. Some of the major types of Sencha include:

A cup and kettle of sencha green tea that utilizes roasted brown rice next to a bowl of white rice.
There are many varieties of green tea, including this type made with roasted brown rice. Image via Shutterstock

Wakamushi (lightly steamed) & Fukamushi (deep-steamed) sencha: The length of time that you steam the green tea leaves determines if the tea is wakamushi sencha (brewed for a short time) or fukamushi sencha (brewed for a long time). When the sencha is brewed this way, it changes to a thin, yellow-ish color. It is best to brew this variety in lukewarm water because boiling hot water will make the tea taste bitter.

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Gyokuro sencha (shaded green tea): Gyokuro tea plants are unique because they are kept in the shade for at least three weeks or more before harvesting. They’re also sometimes covered with straw mats one week before they’re harvested, allowing only a few rays of sunshine to pass through during that time.

Kukicha (stem tea) & Konacha (ground powder tea): Kukicha is a Japanese tea blend made of stems, stalks and twigs. Kukicha is uniquely nutty and creamy in flavor with a unique aroma.

Konacha (ground powder tea): Konacha is a green tea made from the dust, tea buds, and small leaves that are left behind after processing gyokuro or steamed sencha.

A ladle holds a konacha in front of a lot more konacha.
You may not recognize it, but this konacha is usually used for green tea in sushi restaurants. Image via Shutterstock

Bancha: This particular tea is harvested between summer and fall. It is also available in different forms like roasted, unroasted, smoked, matured, wet fermented, or dry fermented.

Genmaicha (brown rice tea): Genmaicha is made with roasted or popped brown rice. There is also a variety of genmaicha that is mixed with matcha for an interesting flavor combination. Genmaicha usually has a rich roasted aroma as well. 

Hojicha: Hojicha is a Japanese green tea that originated in Kyoto over 100 years ago. Unlike traditional green teas, hojicha is roasted after the leaves have been steamed. Along with removing all the bitterness, the roasting process gives hojicha its signature earthy aroma, reddish-brown color, and unique smoky taste.

Japanese tea is normally different from chinese tea since the leaves are not processed with much dry heat, such as frying, and are steamed thoroughly. This gives Japanese green tea a fresher flavor and a tinge of its signature grassy taste.

With the wide variety of sencha available, there are many healthy and some less healthy aspects attached to it. Let’s take a look into the health benefits and some potential side effects of sencha. First, what are the health benefits of this green tea?

Hojicha, roasted green tea leaves, in a ladle in front of more hojicha.
Hojicha is known for its smoky flavor and dark appearance. It’s rumored to be great before bed. Image via Shutterstock

Benefits of Sencha

  • Sencha has anti-carcinogenic properties due to the abundance of antioxidants in it. Antioxidants help reduce free radicals in the body. A free radical is a harmful molecule which can modify the DNA and is linked to cancer, so sencha might help to reduce the risk of cancer. Free radicals may also cause aging effects, so Sencha may also have anti-aging properties.
  • Sencha helps reduce bad cholesterol in the bloodstream and may contribute to keeping our cardiovascular system healthy. 
  • Sencha green tea may also aid in boosting the immune system. Green tea has the ability to increase T-cells in the body. These T-cells play an important role in the body’s immune system and can help reduce the chances of autoimmune diseases.
  • Sencha and other green teas also increase polyphenol levels in the body. These help in reducing inflammation.
  • Sencha has nearly 20-30 mg of caffeine in it, which can give you an energy boost! This means that sencha is an excellent alternative to coffee.
  • Sencha also helps in reducing anxiety. This is because it is full of theanine, an amino acid that helps induce relaxation.
  • Sencha reduces oral bacteria as well. This helps in maintaining overall dental health in both teeth and gums.
  • Sencha and other green teas contain a number of chemical compounds. These compounds include green tea catechins (GTCs), caffeine, and theanine which may affect brain function. These compounds have a neuro-protective effect that assists in preventing the death of nerve cells. This results in possible protection against neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzhimers and Parkinson’s disease.

Potential Sencha Tea Side Effects:

There are several possible side effects to green tea, which have been studied and researched in depth by scientists and doctors. Although these side effects are mostly associated with over-consumption, they are still important to know. These include:

Two cups of Sencha, one being poured from a white pot.
Traditional Japanese tea cups are rather small making moderation a lot easier. Image via Shutterstock
  • Stomachache: Green tea is rich in tannins, which are a set of compounds that can reduce the body’s ability to absorb essential vitamins and minerals like iron when consumed in excess. It can also increase the acidity within the stomach. If the green tea is heavily brewed, or if consumed on an empty stomach, the increase in acid can lead to digestive issues like stomach aches and heartburn. Therefore, it is best not to drink sencha on an empty stomach, and to keep the temperature of the water in a particular range to avoid brewing it too strongly. The water should ideally be between 70℃ to 80℃.
  • Loss of sleep: Sencha has the compound l-theanine which can induce calmness, lower one’s heart rate, and is overall beneficial for sleep. However, people who are sensitive to caffeine may not experience the positive aspects of this compound. Therefore, some people should avoid green tea before bed, (just like you would avoid a cup of coffee).

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