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What is Bancha?

For centuries, green tea has been a traditional staple in Japanese culture.  In fact, more green tea is consumed by the Japanese than any other drink.  There are over 20 types of green tea grown throughout Japan to fuel the country’s tea craze, one of which is Bancha.

Bancha is a type of Japanese green tea made from the larger and coarser leaves of the tea bush.  It is usually harvested later in the season than other types of tea, making it a lower grade than the closely related and higher quality sencha tea.    

If you are a tea fanatic or maybe just enjoy a cup every now and then, you might want to add Bancha to your list.  Read on for all the details about this Japanese green tea. 

What is Bancha?

Bancha is a type of green tea standard in Japanese culture.  It and its close counterpart, Sencha, are taken from the same tea bush but at different times during the harvest season.  Because of the timing of its harvest, Bancha is considered to be a lesser grade of tea.

A tea bush has a first growth of leaves which is harvested between February and May.  This first flush, as it’s called, produces the finer quality Sencha.  Once the first flush is complete, the tea bush continues to grow new shoots and leaf buds – the second flush.

From this second flush (and sometimes third or fourth) comes Bancha.  Bancha leaves are typically picked in June, August, and October.  As time passes, the leaves get tougher.  Bancha harvest also includes stems from the upper part of the bush, and sometimes oversized leaves left from the first flush.

The decreased quality of the leaves and the inclusion of upper stems in the harvest gives Bancha tea its less-than-perfect grade, making it an inexpensive tea compared to others.  

bancha green teas

What Does Bancha Taste Like?

The word that comes to mind with Bancha is astringent.  Catechin, which gives tea an astringent taste, is a natural antioxidant that increases with exposure to sunlight.  Because Bancha is harvested late in the season, its leaves have had more sunlight than those picked earlier, resulting in a tea with a stronger taste compared to other teas.

Some Bancha drinkers describe the taste as being smoky or similar to roasted nuts. It’s also been likened to grass and wet leaves. 

Bancha also has a less pleasing fragrance than other teas.  It is often described as smelling like straw or having a woodsy, earthy scent.

Because Bancha is a more robust, coarser tea, it pairs well with heavy foods and big meals.  

Does Bancha Offer Any Health Benefits?

Bancha is lower in caffeine than most teas, making it ideal to drink late in the evening. It’s also safe for children and pregnant women.  

Bancha contains more fluoride than other Japanese teas, making it a great choice to help prevent tooth decay. And if bad breath, or halitosis, is a problem, drinking some Bancha is one way to address that unpleasant issue. 

According to Laboratorio Dell’ Espresso, Bancha tea also offers other health benefits such as:

  • Acting as a diuretic: Bancha’s alkalinity helps bring the body’s pH back into balance.
  • Reducing anemia: High quantities of iron, vitamin A, and calcium offer relief from mild anemia.  
  • Aiding digestion: Bancha, like other green teas, contains a lot of antioxidants, catechins, and polyphenols, which have been shown to soothe the stomach and help with digestion.
  • Promoting urinary tract health: Cystitis, bloating, and retaining fluids can be alleviated by drinking Bancha.
  • Improving bone health: A 2009 study showed that Bancha contains natural ingredients that can slow down bone decline and even stimulate new bone growth.

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how to brew bancha

The Best Method for Brewing Bancha Tea

Bancha is best prepared by using boiling water.  This contrasts with the more delicate Sencha tea which requires slightly cooler water.   Make sure you’ve got the right sized kyusu, or Japanese teapot.

  1. Use about 1 tablespoon (2 grams) of loose tea tea leaves per person.  If you prefer, you can double the amount of tea, allowing for a second infusion.  Add the tea to your teapot.
  2. Boil about 4 ounces of water per person.  
  3. Pour the boiling water over the Bancha in the teapot.
  4. Let the tea steep for about 30 seconds.  Too long of a steeping will result in a bitter-tasting tea.
  5. Bancha’s taste grows stronger and richer during pouring. Pour in the right order to ensure each cup is delicious.  This method of pouring is called “Mawashisogi”. For the tastiest drinks, fill each cup half-full, then reverse the pouring order to fill completely.
  6. If you want a second infusion, steep for less than 30 seconds the second time. 

Bancha is Sencha’s Affordable Cousin

Bancha may not have been on your radar when it comes to Japanese green tea before reading this article. Now that you know all there is to know about this inexpensive and beneficial type of tea, it’s time to brew and enjoy a cup of Bancha.

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