Know Before You Brew
Before we begin, make sure you're up on your tea vocabulary. There is much to know about these delicate leaves, so head here to learn the different types of tea before you boil your water.
When you're all set, let's learn how to make them properly.
Gyokuro, Premium Green Tea
Gyokuro (玉露, jade dew) is a special type of sencha that grows in the shade for about three weeks. You can even consider it a fine wine of the tea world; and, like a good wine, it can be expensive. To make sure your tea is worth every drop, when you brew gyokuro premium green tea, make sure the water's temperature is between 50 to 60 degrees Celsius. To cool your hot water down (without relying on a thermometer), first pour it into your teapot. Next, pour this water into your teacup—think of this process as the decanting phase. After a moment, put a teaspoonful of tea leaves (for one drink) into the pot. Pour the hot water back into the pot and steep for two minutes. And like a good Bordeaux, take the time to enjoy every sip.
Sencha, Medium-Grade Green Tea
Sencha (煎茶), which grows exposed to the sun, can be considered your run-of-the-mill green tea. When brewing sencha, the hot water temperature must be between 70 to 80 degrees Celsius. Pour the hot water into your teacup to cool it down, and temper the cup, while putting a teaspoonful of green tea leaves (for one drink) in your teapot. Return the hot water to the pot and steep for about 30 seconds.
Hojicha, Roasted Green Tea, or Bancha, Low-Grade Green Tea
When enjoying hojicha (ほうじ茶, a roasted green tea that appears reddish-brown) or bancha (番茶, a kind of sencha that's picked later and therefore of lower quality), you need to prepare boiling water. Put a spoonful of tea leaves in your teapot and pour the boiling water directly into it. Steep for about 15 seconds and pour the hot tea into your cup to sip.
Of course you can make your tea to suit your personal taste. The way to make genmaicha (玄米茶, brown rice tea) is the same as hojicha and bancha. Mineko Shiiya, author of General Knowledge of Cool Japan, says Japanese green tea leaves that you purchase from countries outside of Japan often become blended with leaves of inferior quality. So be sure to shop around at reliable vendors to enjoy the most delicious and pure green tea possible at home.