Gyokuro vs Tencha – What are they and what are the differences?

June 23, 2020

Gyokuro vs Tencha – What are they and what are the differences?

What do you really know about Gyokuro and Tencha? A quick quiz!

In part, this is a test of what you really know about green tea production and some of the subtle yet important differences out there. Before we dive into the article’s topic, I want to present a quick question: What do you know about tencha? Do you know what the difference is between tencha and gyokuro? Have you even heard of tencha? Where, without giving a hint, does matcha come from? Chances are you have either come across of enjoyed gyokuro. And perhaps you understand some of the differences that make gyokuro unique. This article is a reply to some of these questions and a challenge for you to expand the world of tea that you currently enjoy. Let’s take a few moments to dive into gyokuro and tencha and find out what differences and similarities are out there! 

What is gyokuro?

Yes, gyokuro is that often higher priced yet darker green tea that leaves a brighter green look in your mug. While gyokuro tea comes from the same plant, camellia sinesis, as tencha and sencha, etc. it is often distinguished by the way the plants are altered pre-harvest. Approx. 3 weeks prior to the plucking of the leaves, the tea plants are covered to prevent most of the sunlight from reaching its leaves. Why? This process of blocking the sunlight alters the biochemical composition of the plants. Theanine moves from the root to the stem and leaves of the plants. Catechins normally would neutralize the bitterness that comes from theanine via sunlight, however, in gyokuro the theanine remains with its subsequent bitterness. Blocking the sunshine also produces dimethyl sulfite which cements the smell of seaweed found in gyokuro. Lastly, gyokuro’s color as noted above is particularly dark. This is because chlorophyll, which is normally limited by sunlight, is allowed to flourish as the tea plants are shaded.

Gyokuro leaves are then steamed and kneaded soon after the leaves are harvest. This process is replicated in the production of sencha. The kneading helps break down the cell walls of the original leaves and allows the leaves to be fused into water much easier.

Hot tea

Tencha, I’ve never heard of that before.

Tencha are the leaves used to making matcha. Ten means “mortar” and cha, of course, refers to “tea” (genmaicha, sencha, etc.). Tencha has a strong connection with gyokuro in both the way its grown and its flavor profile. In terms of growing, tencha is also shaded for approx. 3 weeks and then harvested. The theanine leaves are similar and help give both tencha and gyokuro the smooth and mellow taste. Once harvested, tencha leaves are stemmed like gyokuro. However, tencha leaves are then dried and not kneaded. This is primarily to ease the removal of steams and to help attain a flat leave for matcha production. If one were to make matcha out of the recently picked tencha leaves, the tencha is then de-stemmed and graded. This process includes deveining and destemming the leaves in order to ensure quality. The remaining leaves are graded and grounded slowly on a stone mill, which of course is where the name “matcha” is derived, meaning “ground tea”.

Can I brew tencha leaves?

Beyond the creation of matcha, tencha leaves can also be brewed. In fact, tencha maintains its freshness longer than matcha which may be a brewing consideration. Unfortunately, unlike gyokuro, it is not as easy to extract the tencha flavor profile. Higher grade and higher quality tencha must be selected. The color is pale green and echoes a similar gyokuro-style. Surprisingly is has a stark difference vs matcha. Oddly enough as well, tencha leaves are substantially lighter than gyokuro leaves. This means when steeping this type of tea, you may notice floating leaves, and its recommended you press those leaves down and perhaps add additional leaves. Additionally, tencha is not a tea ceremony tea. This may be, for some even more of a reason to try it out!

Yes, there's more to add to your tea collection!

We began with a series of questions and journeyed our way through two popular production teas. There are some quite unique similarities and differences between the two teas. If you are ever in Japan and see fields covered in semi see-through coverings then chances are it's one of these two teas. More immediately, next time you are in search of matcha or gyokuro, perhaps it may be time to pick up some tencha as well. The differences are noticeable and who knows, maybe these teas are simply an added bonus to your collection.

Buy Premium Gyokuro Tea


Related Articles You May Be Interested


Get Free Bonus Content

Green Tea and Matcha Books for Bonus

If you have ever thought that Green Tea is an “acquired taste” or that it is “too bitter” to enjoy, we’re here to change your mind! We want everyone to experience the health benefits of Green Tea and show you that this can be an amazing, refreshing, and delicious drink when made correctly. With just a few tips on how to brew this powerful leaf we can change your mind about the taste and enjoyment of drinking Green Tea.

Don’t miss out on the health benefits of tea!

  • Improve health
  • Increase brain function
  • Regulate weight
  • Lower your risk of cancers
  • Reduce risk of heart disease
  • Lowers risk of diabetes

We know that you will love this tips to brewing tea and getting the most flavor and elegance out of every cup.  Sign up for Free Japanese Green Tea Club and get this great informative manual on brewing green tea. You will learn what it is that makes it one of the most popular beverages in the world.

Sign up for Free Green Tea Club for to Get The Two Books for Free.


Unsubscribe anytime. It's Free!

What is GREEN TEA CLUB?

Sign up free to Green Tea Club to get tips and exclusive articles about how to use your matcha and green tea for a healthy lifestyle. Green Tea Club is hosted by Kei Nishida, Author of Cook with Matcha and Green Tea and CEO of Japanese Green Tea Company.

Get free E-book "Green Tea Science – 12 Scientific Tips for Brewing Green Tea To Taste Better" By Kei Nishida - Value $9.99

Get free E-book "Matcha Lover's 21st Century Recipe Collection" By Kei Nishida (42 pages recipe book)  - Value $9.99

Get immediate access to 10% Off coupon for your first order and access to Exclusive Coupons and Specials - Value $50+

Monthly Giveaways - Value $50+

Access to New Green Tea Recipe and Health Articles - Value $50+

Unsubscribe anytime. It’s free!

What do you think about the article? Please comment below or reply me privately here!





Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.


Also in Japanese Green Tea and Health

Virtual Japanese Green Tea Tour - What is it?
Virtual Japanese Green Tea Tour - What is it?

May 07, 2021

I was so excited to be one of the first people to join the Virtual Green Tea Tour, a new and magical tour offered by Arigato Japan that has been the pioneer for English-speaking Japanese tours for many years, featured by the New York Times Travel Shows, CNN Travel and more.
In this article (and a bit of video), I want to share with you a small segment of the virtual tour.  Read on and watch the video of the piece of the actual tour here.

View full article →

6 Tea Shops In Tokyo You Don’t Want To Miss
6 Tea Shops In Tokyo You Don’t Want To Miss

May 05, 2021

I’ve compiled a list of the 6 best places to buy and drink green tea in the nation's capital, some of which you absolutely shouldn't miss! And don’t even think of drinking green tea from your hotel’s room and calling it quits.

View full article →

Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea - 10 battles you don't want to miss
Japanese Green Tea vs Chinese Green Tea - 10 battles you don't want to miss

May 03, 2021 3 Comments

Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea both come from the same plant: Camellia Sinensis. However in many ways the similarities stop there. From when and how they're processed to the benefits they serve, Chinese green tea and Japanese green tea differ. Which one is "better" is the subject of this battle, comparing each on 10 ranging criteria.

View full article →

Steeping Guide
Steeping Guide