Selecting the best tea for beginners can be a great way of exploring the world of Japanese green tea if don’t know where to start. In this article, we’re going to cover the best tea for beginners that you might enjoy if you’re just starting to dive into the world of loose leaf green tea. What we’re looking for here is teas that most first time tea drinkers seem to enjoy. We’re going to start by ranking the top 5 best beginners teas and later we will discuss the types of teas you might want to look into if you’re just getting started. Without further ado, let’s jump in!
Top 6 of the Best tea for beginners
After traveling around Japan for the past few years, we’ve met with dozens of tea farmers and sampled hundreds of different teas. During that time, we’ve come up with a list of the best tea for beginners listed below.
#1 Bancha Masudaen
Bancha Masudaen is a strong contender for the best tea for beginners. This tea is a perfect example of using the less desirable parts of the tea plant and turning it into a good standalone tea, a recurring theme for this segment. In the case of the Bancha, it is made from the older leaves of the tea plant, which are higher in minerals and lower in caffeine.
The bancha made by Mr. Masuda in Shizuoka takes on a mild, cereal or wooden flavor that is quite pleasant. The flavor of this tea really lasts from brewing to brewing, so you can reuse the leaves 5-6 times before they loose flavor. This lowers the price tag of this already cheap loose leaf green tea even further, so you can enjoy it for just a few cents per glass!
#2 Hojicha Noike
The next tea we will be discussing on our list of the best tea for beginners is the Noike Hojicha. This is a roasted green tea, made by turning the tea leaves in a hot pan, right after they have been fully dried. While most Japanese green teas are known for their distinct sweet vegetable, or even slightly grassy flavor profiles, the roasting process converts these tasting notes into coffee, caramel or chocolate.
This makes the tea ideal for a cold afternoon, but it can also be prepared as a refreshing cold brew on a warm day. The caffeine content of this tea is on the lower end for two reasons. The first reason is that this tea tends to be made from older tea leaves, which also makes it less expensive.
The second reason is that the high heat used in the roasting process can slightly bring down the caffeine content of the leaves. Just like the genmaicha, this tea can also be prepared at a warmer temperature. The versatility of this tea makes it a great tea for beginners, but its also a flavor profile a lot of first time tea drinkers are looking for. While most Japanese green teas are fresh and invigorating, hojicha is warm and calming, which is what a lot of beginners are looking for in a cup of tea.
#3 Genmaicha Hagiricha
The third tea on our list of the best tea for beginners is the Genmaicha Hagiricha. This is a tea made by combining toasted rice with tea leaves, to produce a unique flavor profile. Most people like this tea the first time they try it, and it’s generally a difficult tea to mess up.
It’s one of the more affordable Japanese green teas, which is perfect for new tea buyers, and it is not quite as sensitive to brewing temperature. The tea is made from older, more mature leaves, which makes it less expensive, but also more tolerant of warmer water. This tea is very low in caffeine and it has a pleasant cereal note, that is quite calming both in the morning or in the evening.
#4 Latte Matcha
Another great addition to the best tea for beginners is the latte matcha. While a plain bowl of matcha is certainly an acquired taste, matcha lattes have become commonplace all around the world.
This is a good gateway tea to get you accustomed to all the flavors matcha has to offer, without being overpowered by this slightly grassy flavor. Just mix in a teaspoon or two of this powder in with some oat milk or coconut milk, stir it up and enjoy.
You may find that this is easier than making a morning cup of coffee, and the feeling you get from it should be much more balanced. If you want to level up to drinking bowls of matcha without added milk or sugar, you can go for the ceremonial grade matcha. This is meant to be naturally sweet, and is much more expensive because of all the added steps in the production process. For now, just stick to the matcha lattes and see how you like them! You can always start here and add a little less milk each time.
#5 Fukamushi Sencha Yamaga no Sato
Finally we come to fukamushi sencha yamaga no sato. Like genmaicha and hojicha, this was another great invention of the 20th century. By steaming the tea leaves for an extra few seconds, a producer can actually make the flavor of a tea smoother. The longer steaming process breaks down the cell membranes of the leaf, allowing more of it to flow into the cup. This is why you get these deep jade green glasses of fukamushi tea.
The tea is much cloudier as well, producing a richer flavor and less bitterness. A lot of fukamushi teas like the fukamushi Yamaha work great as cold brews. The cold water brings out some of their sweeter and more fruity flavor profiles, making this a refreshing drink for a hot day. This is the best tea for beginners that like cool refreshing cold brew green tea.
#6 Gyokuro Karigane Sakamoto Green Tea
Next on our list of the best tea for beginners we come to the Gyokuro karigane sakamoto green tea. Karigane is a great introduction to some of these sweet and savory flavors you might see in many Japanese green tea. A tea like gyokuro can be great for more seasoned tea drinkers, but the powerful umami flavor may be a bit overwhelming to those who haven’t had much experience with Japanese green tea.
Karigane on the other hand is much more mild. It’s made by combining the stems and leaves of the plant used to make Gyokuro. You get a little hint of this rich savory flavor, but it’s well balanced by these stems. The tea works great as a cold brew, and is also less expensive than its counterpart. Once you begin to get used to the flavor of the Karigane, you can then move up to Gyokuro later, but it serves as a good stepping stone in the world of premium Japanese green tea.
What are the tea types for beginners?
Bancha is one of the best tea for beginners. While most premium green teas like sencha, Gyokuro and matcha are made from the younger leaves of the tea plant, Bancha is made from the older leaves.
While the tea plant needs to produce a lot of caffeine to protect its younger, more tender leaves from insects, these tougher leaves produce less caffeine. The tea can also contain older tea stems, which have a tiny bit of bark on them.
The flavor of bancha is quite different as well. While sencha is stronger on these steamed vegetable taste profiles, the flavor of Bancha rests more on these notes of warm wood, cereal and popcorn. There is a slight hint of these more citrusy flavors, but they are not too sharp on the palate.
Bancha makes for a good snacking tea, as it pairs well with things like nuts and popcorn. This tea is commonly drunk after a meal to help with digestion.
Another best tea for beginners is Genmaicha. Genmaicha is made by combining tea leaves with toasted rice. Like a lot of the other teas on this list, genmaicha was invented as a way to make the tea harvest last longer.
During times of hardship, people would add the toasted rice to the tea leaves to increase their tea supply. It also can help during times of fasting, as the flavor of this tea is reminiscent of a nice warm bowl of rice. The tea has become quite popular due to its lower price tag, its warm cereal flavor and its lower caffeine content.
This is a common tea to serve at restaurants because it is well liked and low in caffeine. The leaves used to make this tea are the older leaves of the tea plant, making it similar to one of the earlier cheap loose leaf green teas we mentioned, bancha.
Hojicha is the third best tea for beginners. This is a roasted tea that was discovered in the 20th century, as tea producers again wanted to make sure they could get the most out of their harvest. This tea is also made from the older leaves of the tea plant, but they are roasted in order to give them warmer tasting notes of coffee, caramel or even chocolate.
The leaves are either turned in a roasting machine or in a large hot pan until they are all fully roasted. The leaves change from green to brown, and the color of the brewed tea now becomes a reddish brown. This tea becomes more popular in the fall and winter months, and in some parts of Japan you can even see them roasting hojicha at street markets.
The tea is still drunk in the summer and is especially enjoyed as a cold brew. The cold water extracts more of the sweeter caramel notes from the tea, making a nice refreshing drink for a hot day.
Finally on our list of the best tea for beginners we have kukicha, a tea made by combining stems with tea leaves. This tea was a discovery made by farmers, as they had to sell all the tea leaves they produced and were only left with the stems.
They found that these worked quite well when infused, and soon began experimenting with different types of stem teas. Now stem teas have become more appreciated, with some even preferring them because of their mild, straw flavor.
The stems of the tea plant do not produce nearly as much caffeine as the leaves, so these kukicha teas are known for being low in caffeine. Karigane is a more premium stem tea that's made from the stems and leaves of shaded tea plants, like those used for Gyokuro. This tea takes on a much sweeter flavor, and works great as a cold brew. The karigane is also a good choice for beginners, as these savory flavors of Gyokuro tea are an acquired taste and the karigane can be a much milder version.
General tips to get started with tea
After selecting the best tea for beginners, you also need to make sure you prepare it right. Here, we made a quick guide to the most important things to know before you make your first cup of loose leaf tea.
Don't use boiled water but warm water
This is the most common mistake people make when preparing Japanese green tea or green tea in general. Green tea has a higher presence of catechins, which can make the tea really bitter when they are released. Luckily, these catechins are released at a higher temperature so you can simply brew the tea with cooler water for a smoother and sweeter drinking experience.
Use high quality water
Make sure you use filtered water when you prepare your loose leaf green tea. The calcium inside tap water can really interfere with the subtle tasting notes of the tea. When it comes to water, you want to go as neutral as possible with the flavor so nothing steals the show from the tea.
Always go for loose leaf tea instead of tea bags
The second most common mistake people use when preparing green tea is using tea from teabags. Teabags often contain incredibly low quality tea that can have a flat or bitter flavor. When you level up and go for loose leaf tea, not only do you get access to a ton more variety, you also get to enjoy a richer flavor and drinking experience.
Respect the correct steeping times
Finally, it is important to pay close attention to the brewing times. Just like hotter water can bring out more of the catechins and bitterness of the green tea, so can a longer brewing time. For most Japanese green teas, 1 minutes is more than enough for most types of Japanese green tea. For gyokuro you can use 2 minutes and a lower temperature for the best results
What is the necessary teaware for beginners?
If you’re new to the world of tea, you don’t need to invest in fancy brewing equipment, just make sure you have some great teas to enjoy. We can even provide you with a free kyusu teapot when you sign up for the monthly tea club. With the monthly tea club, we’ll send you different loose leaf teas to try each month from all over Japan. The first month, we will start out with some of our beginner flavors and move on from there. Of course you not only get to try all sorts of different Japanese green teas, but you also get the best tool to prepare them in.
The kyusu teapot is designed to prepare the best cup of Japanese green tea. It gives the leaves plenty of space to expand and release their flavor into the water. When the brewing time is up, the tea pot will automatically filter out the leaves as you pour. Get your first kyusu teapot on us by signing up for the monthly tea club!
A nice cup of tea
A teacup is another thing you will need when it comes to preparing tea, but you can just use whatever you have at home. It’s just important that you use a tea cup that can withstand hotter temperatures.
What to do if I don't know where to start?
Still don’t know where to start after reading our picks for the best tea for beginners? No problem, you can just try all of them! With our samplers you can try a few different teas and once and see which ones you like most. This way, you don’t have to commit to any one tea until you’re confident you’ll love it!
Loose leaf tea Samplers
During our travels around Japan, we have selected a list of the 30 best types of matcha, sencha, hojicha, genmaicha, kukicha, gyokuro, bancha and kamairicha. We have put all 30 of these teas together in our famous mega sampler. If you’re new, this is a great opportunity to try a little bit of everything!
In addition to collecting different types of leaf teas, we also came up with 21 different types of matcha teas we think you’ll like! These you can all try in our matcha tea sampler, a collection of all the best matcha teas we’ve found from all over Japan. These teas are made in different regions, by different farmers and from different tea plant varietals. If you really want to take a deep dive and expand your palate for matcha, this is the place to do it.
What do you think is the best tea for beginners? Which ones are you most excited to try out for the first time? Feel free to leave a comment below, and as always let us know if you have any questions throughout your tea journey. Thank you all so much for reading, we’ll see you next time.