Sencha green tea is one of the most popular green teas in the entire world. But nowhere more so than in Japan, where it originates. It is thought that anywhere between about 60 and 80 percent of all tea produced in Japan is sencha green tea. And the majority of it never leaves the country.
It’s known for many things, including how it’s produced rather differently from other Japanese green teas, or other green teas across the globe. It’s also known for its wide ranging appearance and flavor. But what we really want to bring to your attention are it’s 5 main health benefits.
We’ll kick things off with an introduction to Sencha before an overview of green tea, and it’s various health benefits. Then, we’re going to talk about catechins, theanine, caffeine, vitamins, and other nutrients in green tea before discussing the 5 main health benefits of sencha green tea. Then we’ll wrap up with a brief summary.
And without further ado…
Introduction To Sencha
Origin And Appearance
Japanese sencha green tea is made from the upper leaves and buds of the tea bush Camellia sinensis var Sinensis. These leaves can be harvested in spring, summer or fall. The color can range from a very light green that’s almost yellow, all the way through to a deep, vibrant emerald green.
Manufacture And Taste
Unlike Chinese teas which are pan fried, Japanese teas such as sencha green tea are steamed. And this serves to give them a fresher and grassier taste, in contrast to the sweet and nutty notes you find in Chinese teas.
However, it’s also worth noting at this point that the taste of Sencha green tea depends very much on how you decide to brew it. It can be subtle or strong, with differing levels of astringency. It often has a pronounced savory note followed by a sweet aftertaste.
3 Main Types Of Sencha Green Tea
There are three main types of sencha green tea, which differ according to how long they are steamed. Asamushi sencha is a lightly steamed tea, chuumushi is medium steamed, and fukamushi sencha is steamed for even longer, for at least 60 seconds.
How Skipping Fermentation Means More Catechins
And whereas black tea and oolong tea undergo a fermentation process, Japanese sencha green tea undergoes minimal processing, and no fermentation whatsoever. And, as you may imagine, this has profound implications for not only the taste of the tea, but also its extraordinary health benefits.
The key difference in the chemical make-up of sencha green tea compared to other teas is its unusually high concentration of catechins. And later in this article we will be discussing exactly how this high concentration has arisen, and in turn what this means for its potential health benefits.
Brief Overview Of Green Tea And It’s Health Benefits
So, you may be wondering what exactly is green tea anyway and how it differs to regular tea. Green tea is made from Camellia sinensis leaves and buds and is typically produced in Asia. It’s different from black and oolong teas because it doesn’t undergo the same withering and oxidation process.
There have long been known many health benefits to green tea. Some of which have been verified in studies, and other benefits are expected but not yet proved. Healthline has identified 10 evidence-based health benefits of green tea. These are as follows:
- Contains healthy bioactive compounds
- May improve brain function
- Increases fat burning
- Antioxidants may lower the risk of some cancers
- May protect the brain from aging
- May reduce bad breath
- May help prevent type 2 diabetes
- May help prevent cardiovascular disease
- May help you lose weight
- May help you live longer
So, as you can see, the potential health benefits are quite wide ranging, and better yet, there are no known issues in drinking it every day.
Introduction To Catechins
As we mentioned earlier, Japanese sencha green tea contains a high concentration of catechins. It’s the main ingredient, in fact. Catechins are a type of chemical known as polyphenols.
When sencha green tea is made, it is steamed rather than pan fried, and it is this process that halts the oxidation process the tea would have gone through if it was being pan fried.
Catechins are very susceptible to oxidation, and this oxidation process would have greatly reduced the number of catechins present in the tea. But without it taking place, a high concentration of catechins remains present in the tea.
There are 4 types of catechins that can be found in sencha green tea, and they are as follows:
- epicatechin gallate
- epigallocatechin gallate
As the tea is left to steep (or brew) the catechin levels increase further still to about 12 to 14 percent. And if left for a second steep, this can increase to up to 15 percent.
Catechins are powerful antioxidants, and as such are associated with many health benefits.
Introduction To Theanine & Caffeine In Tea
All real teas contain caffeine. Sencha green typically contains between 15 mg and 30 mg of caffeine per cup.
This is roughly the average amount of caffeine present in green tea, though it is much less than what you’d find in a typical cup of coffee, which comes in at about 95 mg. Even so, we would still recommend avoiding drinking sencha green tea immediately before you intend to go to sleep.
As you may already know, caffeine is known for its excitation effect, making the consumer more alert after taking it than they would otherwise have been. Moreover, caffeine uses fat as an energy source rather than glucose. So the benefits of caffeine are very real.
There are also amino acids present in sencha green tea, and theanine makes up more than 50% of them.
But in contrast to caffeine, theanine has a relaxing effect, since they tend to induce alpha brain waves, putting the consumer in a more relaxed state. As such, the presence of theanine in sencha green tea serves to inhibit the caffeine excitation.
Theanine supports mental function and is used by some to treat the likes of anxiety, cognitive impairment and stress, although the science on this is not robust.
Vitamins And Other Nutrients In Green Tea
Sencha green tea contains several micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, and in good concentrations, too.
The most prominent vitamin in sencha green tea is vitamin C, and it contains a higher concentration of vitamin C than any other tea on the globe. It contains 150% of the amount of vitamin C found in red peppers, and to put that into perspective for you, red peppers contain the most vitamin C of all the vegetables.
There are several health benefits of vitamin C. They have long been known to be good for your skin, which is largely down to its role in the production of collagen within the body. And it’s also a powerful antioxidant, and as such has many potential health benefits through this aspect also. (More on antioxidants a little later.)
Sencha green tea contains between 5 and 7 percent minerals, which are important for biological regulation. These include the likes of potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, zinc and copper.
But that’s not all. Sencha green tea also contains saponin which has antibacterial and antiviral properties, fluoride which prevents tooth decay, and chlorophyll which has a deodorizing effect.
Benefits Of Sencha Green Tea
For the purposes of this article, we’re going to concentrate on the top 5 health benefits of sencha green tea. Sencha green tea is high in antioxidants, improves skin health, and immune health, boosts alertness and energy, and can also be used in weight management.
Let’s explore each of these in a little more detail…
1. High In Antioxidants
Free radicals are unstable molecules that occur naturally in the body, and can be left to cause untold cellular and genetic damage if left unchecked. They can be found within all the systems of your body.
But, antioxidants can prevent this damage by neutralizing these unstable molecules. And due to its high concentration of catechins, which are a powerful antioxidant, sencha green tea can help neutralize more of these harmful free radicals.
Moreover, the high concentration of vitamin C present in sencha green tea means an even higher dose of healthy antioxidants.
And it is through this high concentration of antioxidants that sencha green tea derives most of its health benefits.
2. Skin Health
The benefits of drinking green tea on skin health are many fold…
As we mentioned earlier, there’s a high concentration of vitamin C present in sencha green tea, which is important for the production of collagen within the body. Collagen helps skin cells to adhere to one another, and thus prevents your skin from sagging, and reduces the appearance of wrinkles, to keep you looking younger for longer.
Vitamin C is also known to prevent acne breakouts, and can help to repair inflamed and damaged skin.
Moreover, the antioxidant properties of sencha green tea also serve to hydrate the skin as well.
3. Immune Health
As we mentioned earlier, the high concentration of antioxidants found in sencha green tea can enter all the various systems of the body to neutralize dangerous free radicals. This includes your body’s immune system.
But that’s not all. Green teas such as sencha also have antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Green teas are particularly effective at protecting against illnesses that enter through the nose and mouth. This includes the likes of the common cold, influenza, and strep throat.
4. Alertness And Energy
As we mentioned earlier, sencha green tea features a mild dosage of caffeine, coming in at 15 to 30 mg per cup. This may not sound like a particularly large dosage to many caffeine consumers in the Western world, but we can assure you that the effects are real.
Moreover, because sencha green tea also features theanine (as we discussed earlier) this serves to slow the absorption of the caffeine, thereby inhibiting the effects of the caffeine, so that you don’t get the accompanying jittery feeling experienced by those who are sensitive to caffeine, or the awful crash you sometimes get when the caffeine stops working.
5. Weight Management
Drinking sencha green tea is known to burn calories, and, as we touched up on earlier, caffeine uses fat as an energy source rather than glucose. It is also thought to increase your metabolism, and help you lose weight safely and naturally.
It is not surprising then that green teas such as sencha have been suggested for those taking part in weight loss diets. However, it is hard to judge the effectiveness of sencha in weight loss due to the multiple contributing factors.
However, one meta-analysis has found that green tea has a small positive effect on maintaining body weight.
So, we can safely conclude that drinking Japanese sencha green tea on a regular or even frequent basis can have many great health benefits.
This is not least due to its particularly high concentrations of antioxidants derived from both its catechins and from vitamin C. This alone has many health benefits, as it sweeps up and neutralizes dangerous free radicals roaming about the body.
Other health benefits derived from drinking sencha green tea include improved skin health, through multiple means, improved immune health through its antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. Not to mention its small but real benefit in weight management. And this is just scratching the surface.
Moreover, it manages to achieve all these great health benefits without giving you any of the adverse effects from the caffeine, all thanks to the presence of sencha’s 50 percent plus concentration of theanine, which serves to counteract the effects of jitteriness and crashing you normally get with caffeine, simply by slowing the absorption of the caffeine.
In fact, you get to feel simultaneously alert and relaxed.