A Comprehensive Guide to Mecha Bud Tea

Mecha (芽茶), also known as bud tea, is made from the buds of the tea plant that are separated during the processing of gyokuro and high-grade sencha. Although mecha is less expensive than gyokuro and sencha, it still maintains a comparable quality. By purchasing mecha, you can enjoy high-quality tea at a more affordable price, making it a great deal. Additionally, mecha can be steeped multiple times without losing its flavor, unlike sencha, which can only be resteeped two or three times.

Cultivation and Value

Although the cultivation method for Mecha is the same as that of high-quality sencha and gyokuro, the Japanese don’t value Mecha as highly. This may be due to its potential for bitterness when oversteeped.

Appearance and Flavor

Unlike other Japanese green teas, Mecha loose-leaves are small and rolled into lumps instead of a needle shape. The buds of the tea tree are softer and higher in water content, which causes them to naturally adopt this shape after the rolling process.

The concentrated flavor of Mecha comes from the buds, which have higher levels of catechin and caffeine compared to any other part of the tea plant. Additionally, Mecha made from gyokuro leaves will have a distinct aroma, known as Ooika, which is produced during the cultivation process. Gyokuro leaves are shaded from the sun using reed and hay, giving Mecha its unique scent.

Nutrition and Quality

Young leaves of the tea trees have a high concentration of nutrients, including the astringent catechin component and theanine, responsible for the umami taste. Thus, Mecha has a fantastic double punch of astringency and umami. The quality of Mecha can be determined by the appearance of the leaves. Fresh buds with high water content will tend to round up, and buds with rounded tips indicate a high-quality, flavorful Mecha.

Nutritional Benefits

Mecha is a type of Japanese green tea that is known for its high concentration of nutrients, particularly the catechin and theanine. These compounds are more concentrated in the younger leaves of the tea tree, especially those harvested during the first or second session. Japanese green tea, including Mecha, is a powerful antioxidant that boosts the immune system, making it an essential drink for everyone.

However, Mecha contains high levels of caffeine, which can be a concern. Just like catechin, caffeine is also more abundant in the younger leaves of the tea tree. Therefore, it’s important not to drink too much Mecha at once.

What is Gyokuro-Mecha?

Occasionally, Mecha teas produced from Gyokuro leaves are labeled as Gyokuro-Mecha. However, this is an uncommon occurrence due to the challenging nature of producing Gyokuro in large quantities, and only a small portion of the Gyokuro yield is typically used to create Mecha tea. Gyokuro-Mecha has a unique aroma that resembles seaweed and is referred to as “Ooika,” which is a defining characteristic of Gyokuro tea.

Brewing Tips

Mecha is a Japanese green tea that is characterized by its small, round leaves. Compared to other Japanese teas like Sencha, Mecha is easier to brew as it doesn’t take too long to steep. The brewing process for Mecha is simple and straightforward – use boiling water and infuse for about 40 seconds. For high-grade Mecha, reduce the temperature to 70 or 80 degrees Celsius and extend the steeping time to 60 seconds. If the taste becomes too strong, make it shorter.

Unlike Sencha, which is suitable for only up to two infusions, Mecha can be infused up to three or four times, or even more. The rounded leaves take time to open and release more flavor with each infusion. However, it’s important to keep the brewing time low to avoid extracting too much caffeine, which can make the tea bitter.

To prepare Mecha, boil water and pour it into each cup. Then measure 3 grams (3/4 tsp) of Mecha per person and add it into the kyusu, a Japanese teapot. Pour the water, which should be about 80 °C (176 ºF), and let it steep for 40 seconds. Serve by alternating from cup to cup to have an even mixture.

Mecha is a versatile tea that can be enjoyed at any time of day. It has a refreshing, grassy flavor with hints of sweetness and umami. Due to its small leaves and easy brewing method, Mecha is an excellent choice for beginners or those who want to enjoy a delicious cup of tea without a lot of fuss. Whether enjoyed hot or cold, Mecha is a wonderful way to experience the unique flavors and aromas of Japanese green tea.

Manufacturing Method

Mecha, a type of Japanese green tea, is produced as a byproduct during the Aracha manufacturing process, similar to Kukicha or Konacha. During the production of Sencha or Gyokuro tea, the crude tea leaves or Aracha go through seaming, rolling, and drying. Once the leaves reach a certain level of water content, they undergo a firing process which plays a crucial role in determining the taste of the tea.

To control the proper levels of heat during firing, the different sized leaf particles are separated into 5-6 groups. The groups consisting of tea particles (Konacha), tea twigs and ebs (Kukicha), or buds (Mecha) are classified as “Demono,” which are considered by-products of the tea. The groups made up of the main part of the leaves are called “Honcha” or “Shiagecha,” and these become the Sencha or Gyokuro tea.

However, Mecha is a scarce supply due to only a small percentage being produced from the leaves. The buds separated from the leaves include not only new buds but also those that were unable to develop into leaves. Understanding the manufacturing process behind Mecha highlights the uniqueness of this tea and its value among Japanese green teas.

Leave a Reply