what_is_bancha

Bancha has a refreshing taste and unique astringency. It is one of those less formidable teas you'll reach out for day after day because of its impeccable quality. In this article, we will introduce the excellent charms of Bancha, variations, comparisons with hojicha and sannenbancha, nutrients, ways to enjoy and some genuine Japanese products to take home with.


What is Bancha?


what_is_bancha

Bancha (番 茶) is known as “common tea” or “everyday tea”, a type of green tea whose leaves are taken from the later harvest. It is said that Bancha was named after “晩茶” in Japanese or "late tea", which are tea picked after the summer harvest. The origins of the word ‘bancha’ are also said to come from the words "bankasa" and "obanzai" from the Kyoto dialect.

Tea leaves like Bancha harvested later are typically coarser and larger. Bancha consist of tea leaves and twig tea. After being cut from the sprouts, tea leaves tend to grow larger and eventually harden. Manufacturing method of "bancha" differs by region. For instance, bancha takes on green leaves akin to sencha or brown leaves through roasting to produce roasted green tea. Therefore, both green and brown tea leaves are variations to bancha.

what_is_bancha

The picture above shows how Harimaen Tea harvested their tea leaves to make Sannenbancha.

Although Bancha shares a similar cultivation method as sencha, the tea leaves picked from the lower shoots produce a uniquely refreshing taste. Not only is the caffeine free-content of bancha safe for children and expecting mothers, it’s also appealing to those who are caffeine-sensitive.

Different places favours bancha differently. In Shizuoka and Tokyo, non-roasted bancha is common; whereas in Kyoto, roasted "Kyobancha" after steaming the tea leaves are more conventional. Because the leaves of “Kyobancha” are not processed, the original form of the leaves are retained. In Hokkaido and Nagoya, bancha is thought to be brown tea equivalent to hojicha.

Bancha is often enjoyed as an everyday tea as it helps to warm the body up, making it the perfect tea for relaxation.


Origin of Bancha


In the Meiji era, green tea was the second most exported product after raw silk. Exports were encouraged, and tea leaves that did not meet standard quality were directed to domestic consumption as low-grade products. That was the beginning for bancha.

After the Meiji era, the production of sencha became popular by the improvement of tea making techniques, and bancha became equally as famous. At that time, matcha was only exclusive for nobles, while the commoners would only drink ‘brown’ tea which were simplistically processed. Bancha was prepared by roasting tea leaves in a big pan, rubbing them on the mat, and then drying them under the sun. The tea turns dark brown when the entire process is completed. It has since become the most common drink among households.

Source: Savor Japan
Is Bancha a low-grade tea?

Bancha is made from mature tea leaves and stems from the autumn harvest. Despite being harvested from the same tree as sencha, they are usually priced lower. However, the catechins content which contributes to the various health benefits of green tea are still abundant in bancha. So in a sense, you’re paying for the same health benefits of green tea at a lower price!

The light taste and toasty aroma of Bancha makes it ideal as an after-meal tea. In Kyoto, bancha is served in traditional, long-established restaurants. Japanese people enjoy bancha due to its small amount of caffeine and tannin. Instead of regarding Bancha as a lower grade tea, it possesses a different charm as compared to mainstream Japanese green tea variations.


Taste of Bancha

The roasting process of Bancha produces a nutty and sweet aroma. Compared to sencha, bancha is easy to drink because it is exposed to sunlight for a long time and the amount of caffeine is small.

The taste is mellow, sweet and less bitter. Made of mature tea leaves and stems from the autumn harvest, Bancha makes a wonderful brewed tea.

Bancha is made through ‘non-fermentation’. The freshly picked raw tea leaves are first set aside under controlled oxidation where they are left to ferment for a fixed period of time. In order to halt or slow down oxidation, heat (or steaming) is not immediately applied. By halting fermentation, bancha becomes palatable and flavorful.

Comparison: Bancha, Sencha, Hojicha

Some may be familiar with Sencha, the representative of Japanese green tea while others have frequently came across Hojicha, a common favourite roasted tea. Let's dive into knowing them more!

Tea variety Bancha Sencha Houjicha
About Tea leaves that have grown and hardened, and tea that has been picked from autumn to early winter, but there are various types of bancha depending on the region. Most popular kind of tea among the Japanese. Tea leaves are first steamed, then hand-rolled and finally dried. Made by roasting sencha or bancha over high heat.
Nutrients Rich in catechins. Compared to sencha, it has less amino acids (umami) and caffeine (bitter taste), and has a refreshing taste. Contains various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also rich in Vitamin C to support a proper immune function. Since it is roasted at a high temperature, it has less caffeine (bitter taste) and vitamin C as well as amino acids (umami) and catechin (astringency) compared to sencha.
Taste Nutty and sweet aroma, tastes mellow. Less bitter compared to sencha. Light and refreshing aroma, balanced taste of sweetness and bitterness. Sencha is usually taken warm, but also makes a refreshing iced tea. Fragrant and refreshing. Recommended after a greasy meal or before going to bed.
Tea Leaves
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Caffeine Content in Bancha Tea

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Bancha in general contains about half the caffeine content of sencha, and is said to be less irritating and gentle on the body.


Gyokuro Kocha Sencha Oolong tea Hojicha Bancha
160mg 30mg 20mg 20mg 20mg 10mg

Source:
Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan (7th edition)

The following shows the approximate intake for pregnant women and children.

Pregnant women 200mg / day (Food Standards Agency)
300mg / day (WHO)
Children Up to 45 mg / day for children aged 4 to 6 years
Up to 62.5 mg / day for children aged 7 to 9 years
Up to 85 mg / day for children aged 10 to 12
(Health Canada)

There are various types of tea that do not contain caffeine, for instance rooibos tea. Yet Bancha is perfect for those who want to gain nutrients such as catechin derived from tea.


Is there Bancha with no Caffeine?

Sannenbancha or the three-year bancha, is a type of bancha in which the leaves and stems of green tea are picked, dried under the sun, aged for three years at room- temperature, before being roasted over slow heat to bring out the rich aroma of bancha. Sannenbancha is not only fragrant and mild in taste, this tea is significantly less bitter than Sencha and very low in caffeine.

After the aging process, caffeine and other irritants are removed, resulting in a mellow flavor. Sannenbancha contains very little caffeine and tannins, which are abundant in conventional green tea. While Sannenbancha contains little to no caffeine content, the nutrients are equal to that of bancha. Therefore, Sannenbancha appeals to those who are sensitive to caffeine, or those who desire an alternative for a goodnight’s rest.

At Kawashimaya, Sannenbancha products are caffeine-free and produced without pesticide. Since it is an organic JAS certified Sannenbancha, pregnant women and small children can enjoy it with confidence.


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Health Benefits of Bancha


Prevent coronary heart disease

Studies have found that the consumption of bancha helps to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. By lowering the triglyceride levels, risks of heart attack, stroke, and coronary heart disease are also reduced. The components in bancha help to suppress glucose absorption, thereby helping to control rise in blood sugar levels.

Source:
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
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Beauty Benefits and Anti-Aging

Bancha contains amino acids (umami ingredients), catechin, caffeine, and vitamin C. Vitamin C and catechin have antioxidant effects, and are said to be effective in anti-aging and removal of active oxygen which weaken cells in the body and cause various diseases.

Source:
Organic Facts
health_benefits_bancha


Improve Digestion

Bancha Tea acts as a natural detox agent which could aid weight loss by flushing away toxins in the body. It is also recommended for those struggling with digestive issues and cystitis by reducing fluid retention and bloating, as well as improving urinary tract health.

Source:
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
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Protection against Flu

Bancha helps to heat up your body, and the tea leaves have a strong antifungal effect against influenza and common cold. Adding umeboshi (salted plums) into warm bancha boosts the anti-bacterial effects.

Source:
US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
health_benefits_bancha

Types of Bancha

The variations of Japanese tea such as bancha are based on the harvesting time, quality, and region. Two distinct types of bancha are the non-roasted green bancha and the roasted brown bancha widely recognized as hojicha.

The non-roasted bancha has a similar taste to that of sencha, albeit less bitter. The roasted brown type of bancha, on the other hand, is called "hojicha" or "iribancha" and has a unique aroma.

Bancha contains less catechin than sencha, and is said to have antioxidants content, antibacterial or antiviral effects, improves cholesterol level, and suppresses blood sugar level.


Sannenbancha (Three-year bancha)

Sannenbancha is bancha that has been picked and roasted, aged for three years, and then undergoes a second round of roasting. It is said that the amount of caffeine is very low among variations of bancha. Characterized by its mellow, sweet taste and fragrant aroma, it is treated by macrobiotics as a "value-adding" drink that warms the body.

Autumn/Winter Bancha

Bancha is made from tea leaves harvested after summer, but among them, the one made by picking Sanbancha from autumn to winter is called Shutobancha. The characteristic of autumn/ winter bancha is that it contains a large amount of polysaccharide called polysaccharide, which has the effect of lowering blood sugar levels. If you want to extract polysaccharide, it is recommended to put bancha and water in a container and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Umeboshi Bancha (Plum Bancha)


what_is_bancha

Sannenbancha is said to be one of the best warming tea for the body. When Sannenbancha is combined with mashed umeboshi and soy sauce, "Umeboshi Bancha" is formed. This tea has the following benefits:

● Promotes blood circulation and relieves fatigue
● Activate metabolism
● Prepare the gastrointestinal tract

Umeboshi Bancha is easy to make. Simply add a teaspoon of plum brine to a cup of Sannenbancha. As an alternative to plum soy sauce, we recommend adding a whole grain of dried plum to Sannenbancha for your own rendition of "Umeboshi Bancha". As for "Soy Sauce Bancha", add 1 or 2 drops of naturally brewed soy sauce.

How to Brew Bancha?

Bancha has been used as a folk remedy tea handed down for generations in Japan. One example is "Umeboshi Bancha", which is made by adding dried plums, soy sauce, and ginger to relieve hangovers.

There are three ways to make bancha: simmer in a kyusu, boil, and water. Kyusu is a japanese teapot used for brewing tea.

<How to put in a Kyusu>

1. Put 1 teaspoon (4g) of tea leaves per serving in the Kyusu.
2. Pour boiling water, close the lid, and steam for 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Pour evenly into the bowl and pour out.

<How to boil>

1. Put hot water in a pot and boil it, then put tea leaves in it. As a guide, the amount is about a pinch of tea leaves (about 15g) for 1.8 liters of hot water.
2. Boil over low heat for about 15 minutes.
3. Strain with a tea strainer and pour into a storage container.

<Watering method>

1. Put the tea leaves in a clean storage container and pour water. As a guide, the amount should be about 30g of tea leaves per liter of water.
2. Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.
* This method is recommended when you want to extract the active ingredient polysaccharide. The amount of active ingredients however does not change after heating.


Bancha has the nutrition of green tea as well as the effect of warming the body. We reckon it’s the best tea to have when winding down.

FAQ about Bancha

What is Bancha?
Bancha (番 茶) is a type of green tea whose leaves are taken from the later harvest. Tea leaves like Bancha harvested later are typically coarser and larger. Although Bancha shares a similar cultivation method as sencha, the tea leaves picked from the lower shoots produces a uniquely refreshing taste. The caffeine free-content makes bancha entirely safe for children, expecting mothers, and appealing to many caffeine-sensitive people. Bancha is often enjoyed as an everyday tea.
Is bancha caffeinated?
Yes, Bancha contains 10g of caffeine/100g. However, it is low in caffeine, almost half of that in sencha. Bancha is loose leaves and twig tea blend.

For caffeine-sensitive people, non-caffeinated bancha is also available. Try Sannenbancha, a three-year bancha whose caffeine and other irritants are removed after the aging process. Sannenbancha contains very little caffeine and tannins, which are abundant in conventional green tea. While Sannenbancha contains little to no caffeine content, the nutrients are equal to that of bancha.
Can I serve bancha for the whole family?
Bancha has less caffeine than sencha. The estimated intake of caffeine for children aged 4 to 6 are about two glasses a day whereas pregnant women can consume 200mg- 300mg per day.Read more about this here.
What is Sannenbancha?
Sannenbancha or the three-year bancha, is a type of tea in which the leaves and stems of green tea are picked, dried under the sun, aged for three years at room- temperature, before being roasted over slow heat to bring out the rich aroma of bancha. Sannenbancha is not only fragrant and mild in taste, this tea is significantly less bitter than Sencha and low in caffeine.
Where to buy bancha?
Outside Japan, you can buy bancha at Japanese grocers, select delicatessens, local co-ops or health stores. Besides, bancha can be found in Asian grocers that carry Japanese foodstuffs. However, the most convenient way is to buy it online. In Japan, you can get bancha at regular supermarkets or department stores. For an authentic experience, look for bancha grown and harvested in Japan.

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How do you store bancha?
● Store in a cool and dry place before and after opening. Avoid direct sunlight, heat, and moisture.

● Freshness is important in tea. Please consume after opening as soon as possible.

● Any kinds of tea are susceptible and could change in quality due to temperature, humidity, and light. Please ensure to use an airtight container to store the tea after opening and store it in a cool, dark place.

● Tea leaves have the property of absorbing odors, so be careful of scents when storing them in the refrigerator. We recommend storing in the freezer for long-term storage, but be cautious of water droplets when taken out. However, it is best to drink as soon as possible so you can enjoy the freshness of the tea.
How is bancha beneficial to my health?
Consumption of bancha helps to prevent chronic diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Bancha not only reduces risks of coronary heart disease, but also helps to control rise in blood sugar levels. Additionally, bancha acts as a natural detox agent which could aid weight loss and digestive issues. The tea leaves have a strong antifungal effect against influenza and common cold.
How can I brew delicious bancha?
Bancha can be prepared in the kyusu (japanese teapots designed for tea-brewing) or the kettle. Alternatively, three points are crucial to enjoy bancha to the fullest. They are the water type, boiling material and heat control.

● Water
Use purified water instead of mineral water when brewing as mineral content may affect the end result.

● Boiling Material
Use a kettle made of clay to retain the original taste of the tea.

● Heat Control
Heat water over medium heat. After adding bancha to the boiled water, reduce heat to low and slowly simmer until the tea changes to desired color.

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