Bancha (番茶) is a type of japanese green tea. Its name can be roughly translated to “ordinary or poor man’s tea”. Bancha is of lower grade than more expensive japanese green teas such as sencha.
Bancha has an earthiness that other types of japanese green tea don’t have. It’s also low in caffeine, so it’s a great green tea to drink in the evening.
Read on to learn more about bancha and how to make the perfect cup at home.
Bancha is a type of japanese green tea. It is of lower grade than sencha, which is the most popular type of japanese green tea. Bancha is harvested later in the year around autumn.
Bancha tea leaves usually come from the lower and more mature leaves of the tea plant. These tend to be coarser and older. Also, the lower leaves are shielded by the upper ones, resulting in less sunlight, and in turn, less caffeine and catechins.
Although bancha is not the highest quality tea, it is one of the most versatile types of Japanese tea. It can be roasted, unroasted, smoked, matured, fermented, or post-fermented. This results in other Japanese green teas derived from bacha such as Genmaicha or Hojicha.
Different kinds of bancha each vary in their taste from earthy to nutty depending on where they were grown and how they are processed.
Bancha became popular in the middle of the Edo period. In Japanese, ‘ban’ means ‘everyday’, ‘common’ or ‘ordinary’, and ‘cha’ means ‘tea’. It is known as an ordinary tea because it was drunk regularly by the common people.
However, nowadays, it isn’t harvested as widely because the producers want to grow tea that yields a higher price. As such, sencha is the most popular Japanese green tea, both within Japan and abroad.
It is still a popular tea and is drunk daily in the rural mountain areas of Japan.
Further, Bancha can have a different meaning throughout Japan. In Eastern Japan, for example in the Tokyo area, bancha is understood to be a coarser tea. In western Japan, for example in the Kyoto area, most people associate bancha with roasted green tea (houjicha), which technically is roasted bancha.
With a golden yellow to a delicate green color, the aroma of freshly cut grass will remind you of a beautiful spring day.
It has a refreshing flavor, and depending on how it’s processed, it features more earthy flavors than other green teas. It features less astringency than other japanese teas, while keeping the umami and grassy notes typical of green teas.
Bancha has the same processing method as sencha (grown in direct sunlight, steamed immediately to prevent oxidation, rolled and dried), but lower quality tea leaves from lower down the plant and are harvested later in the year.
The leaves are coarser and older which is why it is sometimes referred to as ‘coarse tea’. Due to the leaves being older, bancha has less caffeine and less bitterness.
Bancha tea is harvested later on the third or fourth flush.
Like all Japanese green teas, it is steamed immediately to prevent oxidation.
Unlike other green teas which become a needle shape, bancha leaves are flat because they are allowed to grow longer and become larger.
There are two subtypes of bancha tea.
Houjicha, using roasted leaves at a high temperature over charcoal in ceramic pots. Houjicha has a lower caffeine content and a roast flavor because of the charcoal.
Genmaicha tea is bancha with brown or white roasted rice. It is also known as ‘popcorn tea’ and has a nutty flavor. Genmaicha can also be made using sencha green tea.
There are many health benefits of bancha, just like all green teas.
There is a high amount of minerals in bancha such as potassium and calcium which is great for your teeth and bones.
It is high in iron, making it a great tea if you are anemic or are menstruating. Bancha has less tannins which can affect the absorption of iron.
Bancha can aid in digestion, so it is a good tea to have with meals.
Like many teas, it may help with cancer. Studies have shown potential with conventional chemotherapeutic agents such as doxorubicin.
With a high amount of antioxidants, it reduces free radicals which can cause cell damage and lead to chronic disease. Including possibly lowering your risk of heart diseases.
Based on this study, amino acids like l-theanine, which are found in bancha, have been found to improve brain and gastrointestinal functions. They also help with the immune system and help combat cancer.
A study by the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University found that bancha had potential hypoglycemic activity. This means bancha could help with blood glucose levels and help those with diabetes.
Bancha is easy to make at home. I recommend drinking teas straight, but you can always add a bit of lemon, honey, or both for extra flavor and an added boost of Vitamin C.
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Bancha tea is low in caffeine, so you could drink it in the evening. Due to its relaxing qualities, it could aid with sleep problems.
There is around 10 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce cup which is low, considering sencha has around 30 mg and coffee has around 40 mg.
Bancha green tea is generally safe to drink but it may cause stomach upset or constipation for some people.
In rare cases it has been reported to cause liver and kidney problems.
If you consume large amounts of bancha, which would be around 8 or more cups per day, then it might cause problems because of the caffeine.
Poor in quality but not poor in taste. Bancha is a light and mellow drink perfect for drinking with meals or just before bed.
It is also a very versatile tea, as we have seen popular variations are hojicha and genmaicha. Let us know if you have tried bancha, and which is your favourite brand!