The manufacturing method is almost the same as that of sencha (green tea of middle grade), but its ingredients include tea leaves harvested after the summer (sanbancha [third picked tea leaves], yobancha [fourth picked tea leaves]), tea leaves gathered when branch is shaped for next cultivation (shutobancha [tea leaves picked in autumn and winter]), large leaves (senryu) removed during the sencha manufacturing process.
Since it is made from mature leaves as opposed to sencha which uses young leaves, it contains more tannins and less caffeine. The taste is light and refreshing, but has bitterness. The harvesting period and manufacturing method differ in some regions. It is commonly drunk as hojicha, dried and roasted for savory flavor.
Moreover, the word 'bancha' often refers to 'hojicha' in Hokkaido and the Tohoku region.
In Ishikawa Prefecture, 'bancha' refers to bocha, which is roasted tea stems.
Origin and history
There are two theories mentioned below regarding the origin of the name 'bancha.'
As used in words like bangasa (coarse oilpaper umbrella) and obanzai (Kyoto-style home cooking), 'ban' has meaning as 'ordinary' or 'everyday,' and bancha was named as such to mean tea which is not high grade but rather drunk routinely.
Since it is harvested in a late season, after ichibanca (first picked tea leaves) and nibancha (second picked tea leaves), it was first called '晩茶' (bancha; lit. 'late tea'), which was later changed to '番茶' (bancha; lit. coarse tea').
It is said that until the mid-Edo period, the majority of the commonly sold tea was bancha according to modern standards. Sencha appeared later when production methods and quality had been refined. Modern bancha is manufactured based on the production method of sencha but it was only relatively recently that sencha production methods became standardized. Because of this, traditional bancha of various regions have differing manufacturing methods, ranging from those like herbal teas which consist only of leaves which have been dried naturally, to fermented teas like those from China.
Nikkan Bancha (Sun-dried Bancha) from Yoshino
Bancha made in the Yoshino region of Nara Prefecture since ancient times. It is also known as 'Tenpiboshi Bancha' (sun-dried Bancha). Picked tea leaves are thoroughly steamed, then completely dried in the sun for over a day if being dried for a long time before being roasted to completion. Compared to tea leaves that have been crumpled while being dried in a machine, it has a better fragrance, less bitterness and a lighter taste. Also, a characteristic of this method is that the leaves retain their shape.
Because of this, this bancha should actually be considered as a kind of 'Hojibancha.'
Nikkan Bancha from Mimasaka
Bancha made in Mimasaka-cho and Sakuto-cho in Aida-gun, Okayama Prefecture.
It is also called 'Mimasaka Bancha.'
In hot days during midsummer (mid-July to mid-August), tea leaves cut by the branch are boiled in a large iron pot. The boiled tea leaves are spread on woven mat, and dried under the sun with the cooking water sprinkled on them.
Because of tea incrustation resulting from the sun-drying of the leaves sprinkled with cooking water, they develop an amber color and are also known as 'Tenpiboshi Bancha.'
(from Traditional dishes (Okayama Prefecture) < Local production and consumption < Chugoku-Shikoku Agricultural Administration Office)
Kageboshi Bancha (Shade-dried Bancha)
Bancha made in Katsuyama City, Fukui Prefecture. There is Kageboshi Bancha which is made by cutting tea branches in autumn with a sickle, weaving them with rope like a bamboo screen and hanging them from the eaves. It is lightly roasted and boiled in a pot before being drunk, and is used in the same way as herbs.
Oni mo juhachi, bancha mo debana (lit. As even an ogres at eighteen is desirable, so coarse tea at its first infusion is delicious) meaning that everything is good in its season.
According to the "Kojien" dictionary, the characters for 'debana' should be '出花' as opposed to '出端,'
These characters express the aroma produced at the first brew of tea. In contrast, '出端' is used meaning the beginning of a story and the like. In this proverb, 'oni' refers to a female ogre, or ugly girl, and the variations 'Musume (lit. young girl) juhachi, bancha mo debana' and 'Hana (lit. flower) mo juhachi, bancha mo debana' are widely used.