Japanese Green Tea and Weight Loss

After a rich cultural history across many Asian countries, green tea has now become a popular drink in Western nations. Sellers of the herbal beverage tout a range of benefits from drinking the tea, from improved cardiovascular health to a reduction in cancer risk. Green tea may also help burn fat. Although India leads the world in tea production, exports from Japan remain high.

Japanese Green Tea

Japanese green tea has kept its reputation for high quality, having been featured in tea ceremonies such as "chanoyu" since the 16th century, with produce from the provinces of Shizuoka and Uji remaining highly prized. Around three-quarters of tea harvested in Japan comes in the form of Sencha, making it the most popular variety in the country.

Nutritional Content

Like other green teas, Japanese green tea contains a wealth of catechin compounds. A type of polyphenol, David Tolson explains how these these plant chemicals make up around 10 percent of the dry weight of the tea. The nutritional researcher, who contributes to Iron Magazine, reports how the catechins act as powerful antioxidants, in particular the highly potent EGCG compound.


EGCG, also known as epigallocatechin-gallate, and the other catechins exhibit remarkable effects in the central nervous system. They inhibit an enzyme that breaks down noradrenaline, increasing the availability of this peptide hormone. As noradrenaline triggers thermogenesis, the process through which the body oxidizes fat for heat production, the consumption of green tea can increase fat burning.


The consumption of green tea can also help to curb appetite. The catechin compounds increase the release of CCK, also known as cholecystokinin, following a meal. This intestinal hormone tells the brain that food has reached the intestines and induces a feeling of satiety. This may help people stick to their diet plans.


The scientific evidence supports the use of all green teas as a weight-loss aid. A study, which appeared in the "Phytomedicine" journal, provided volunteers with a green tea extract each day for three months. The French scientists who led the study found significant reductions in the average body weight and waist circumference.

What are the Benefits of Japanese Green Tea?

Known in Japan as "cha," green tea is a beneficial tea made solely with the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. While there are a wide variety of green teas grown throughout the different provinces of Japan, the most common variations are Sencha, Gyokuro, Kabusecha, Bancha and Tencha. In recent decades, Japanese green tea has gradually become a popular beverage in the West and is renowned for its health benefits, including fighting cancer and heart disease, reducing cholesterol and diabetes and promoting overall health.


Perhaps the most immediate benefit of green tea consumption is the intake of antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. These antioxidants, when consumed in appropriate quantities, actively eliminate free radicals in the body that may otherwise cause damage to cell membranes, promote cancer symptoms and eventually cause death. The primary polyphenol compound epigallocatechin gallate found in green tea has been linked to preventing and eliminating skin tumors. Considering the natural anti-aging qualities of antioxidants, a cup of green tea a day may be an effective method for preventing and fighting cancer cells in the body.

Weight Loss

The use of Japanese green tea extract capsules in reducing weight has been only partially conclusive. While there's no definite scientific evidence that consuming green tea can produce weight loss, the combination of antioxidant polyphenols and caffeine have been shown useful in obesity management. The chemical makeup of the Camellia sinensis leaves cause a reaction called thermogenesis in the body, stimulating fat oxidation, and, when combined with proper hydration and a regular exercise schedule, may increase the efficiency with which the body removes fat. For individuals who intend to consume their Japanese green tea servings in an extract capsule, make sure it includes both the caffeine and polyphenols that occur in the tea leaves.

Reducing Cholesterol

While many of the cholesterol-fighting properties of green tea are closely linked with its ability to reduce weight and increase fat oxidation, Japanese green tea has the unique ability to both lower total cholesterol levels and increase the HDL, or good, cholesterol levels in both animals and people. According to a clinical study reported by the University of Maryland Medical Center, men who drink green tea are more likely to have lower total cholesterol than those who do not. This is an effect that may be related to the ability of polyphenols to block the intestinal absorption of cholesterol while promoting its excretion. To add to the impressive cholesterol-fighting properties of green tea, a similar study from the same report showed that a group of male smokers who regularly consumed green tea showed a significant drop in harmful LDL cholesterol levels.

Types of Japanese Tea

The different types of Japanese tea can be rather confusing at first. It’s not really that complicated though, once you get into it. In fact the names are usually pretty descriptive and simple. “Cha” means tea. “Bancha” means ordinary tea. “Sencha” means roasted tea. And so on.


This is the most popular tea in Japan today. The name means “roasted tea” and refers to the drying that the tea undergoes. Sencha varies widely in both quality and price, mostly depending upon when it was harvested – the earlier-harvested teas are considered better. The ordinary qualities are used at home and in the office as everyday drinking tea.

The tea plants begin growing in April and the leaves are ready for plucking for Sencha in May. As soon as the leaves are plucked, they are steamed to prevent oxidisation (fermentation). Then they are rolled and dried to produce green needles.

The finished tea has a subtle sweetness mixed with bitterness and a fresh, vegetal, grassy aroma. The liquor is a light green colour in the cup.

Gyokuro (Jewel Dew)

Gyokuro is the best tea of Japan and is served to special guests on important occasions. The Gyokuro tea bushes are shaded from the sun for the last couple of weeks before the leaves are plucked and this gives the tea its special character. It is similar to a very good Sencha, but the leaves are darker, sometimes almost black, and thicker.

Gyokuro has a stronger flavour than Sencha, but also smoother and less bitter.

Bancha (Ordinary tea)

Bancha is the lowest grade of Sencha. It comes from the same tea bushes, but is plucked late in the year when the leaves are older. The size of the finished leaf is also larger than Sencha, but, when brewed, the liquor is the same colour.

Bancha is not much drunk in Japan, except among the mountain farmers, but it still has qualities of its own and some people prefer it to Sencha as it has a more robust flavour. It is also the basis for Genmaicha. It has a strong, robust, twiggy flavour like autumn leaves. Some people are very fond of it.

Kokei Cha

Kokei Cha is plucked at the same time as Bancha, but where Bancha is the leaves, Kokei Cha is the stems, which are ground into a paste and extruded like spaghetti into strands which are dried and baked. Kokei Cha is extremely low in caffeine (the vast majority of the caffeine is in the leaves, not the stems). The tea is not highly regarded in Japan and is used as a low-grade tea, but in fact it does have some excellent qualities and a full, interesting flavour. Well worth trying.


Kokei cha is made from the stems of Bancha. Similarly, Kariganecha is made from the stems of Gyokuro. Again, it has very little caffeine.


Houjicha is roasted Bancha. It is brown in colour with a unique roasted, toasted aroma. When brewed, the liquor is a light golden colour, like beer. There is hardly any caffeine in Houjicha as it destroyed by the roasting.

Genmaicha (Brown rice tea)

Genmaicha is Bancha mixed with toasted brown rice which gives the tea a nutty, savoury flavour.


Matcha is the powdered tea used in the famous Japanese tea ceremony. The very best leaves are dried in wind tunnels and then ground into a fine powder. To brew Matcha, the tea powder is mixed with hot water and whisked briskly with a bamboo whisk. This helps dissolve the tea and produces a froth which is believed by many to improve the flavour of the tea.

So there you have it – a quick guide to the rich variety of Japanese Tea. As always, the truth is in the tasting. If you have an interest in these teas, try them – and let your palate lead you to discover your own personal favourites.

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