Most Japanese teas are made from well handled leaves and much of their elegance and style is due to the processing: steaming immediately after plucking and then air drying. Bancha or Sencha are the everyday green tea drinks of Japan. Ban 2 GO is one of the highest grades of Bancha. The tea leaves to produce Bancha are generally plucked after the new season and tend to be somewhat more coarse. This however gives the tea its unique character and visual appearance. Since the leaves used to make Bancha are more coarse and contain some stalks and stems the resulting tea generally contains less caffeine or tannin then the finer grades of Japanese tea. Also the cup tends to be somewhat milder. Because of the proceeding factors Bancha, parents in Japan often give this tea to their children.
Japanese tea gardens look quite different from tea plantations in other parts of the world. The bushes are cultivated in long rows and trimmed so the row has the appearance of a long dome. In Shizuoka Prefecture it is said that the tea gives the impression of smooth waves of green, undulating over the landscape. This curved form of the tea bush gives the largest plucking table (the area where the new shoots used in high quality tea production grow is called the ‘plucking table’ – not only in Japan but in other parts of the tea growing world as well). It is on the long regularly shaped plucking table that the pickers take the leaves and the new buds. In the early season plucking is only done by hand, but once the first few weeks pass, mechanical plucking is the preferred method. The Japanese have been very innovative in this aspect by developing a curved machine that is handheld but clips the tea bush with automatic scissors that look like electric hair clippers.
Tea has always had a place in Japanese life. It has been used to show respect to honored guests, as a medicinal drink to aid digestion after meals and in the “tea ceremony” whose rules were laid down by Rikuyu. Recent research has revealed numerous chemical and mineral components in green tea. Japanese green tea contains the following components: Theanine, Catechins (polyphenols), Flavonoids, Vitamins C, B1, B2, Niacin, Caffeine, Amino Acids and Minerals F, Zn, Mn, Cu, and Se.