The health benefits of green tea have already been discussed by various sources. However, when it comes to Japanese green tea, there are various types of green tea such as sencha, hojicha, gyokuro, matcha, etc. The benefits vary depending on the method of production and characteristics of each type of green tea. This article explains the health benefits of the main types of green teas, as well as which teas contain the most of each type of benefit and how to choose teas for particular reasons or timing.

matcha, a finely ground tea powder, in a white bowl


Gyokuro, a fine-needled Japanese green tea


Hojicha - Liliku medium roasted Japanese style tea from the stems of the sencha processing


Major chemical components of Japanese Green Tea

Matcha, Sencha, Gyokuro and Hojicha; which Japanese green tea have you had? They are all green teas, but tastes are very different. And they also have different health benefits. Why is that?

Green tea has three main components that determine its taste. They are catechin, caffeine, and theanine.

Catechin is a source of astringent, caffeine is bitter, and theanine is umami and sweetness. Also, each of these components have different health benefits.

Matcha, Sencha, Gyokuro and Hojicha all contain different amounts of catechins, caffeine, and theanine due to their different production methods. As a result, not only they taste differently, but they also have different health benefits.

Now let’s look at the differences

First of all, what are the health benefits of catechin, caffeine and theanine? From the below chart, we can see that each of these three components has different benefits.

The most noticeable component of green tea is catechin. Tea catechins are a type of plant-based polyphenol found in green tea leaves. Originally, polyphenols were characterized by their strong antioxidant properties, but catechins have been gaining attention not only for their strong antioxidant properties, but also for their antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and for their ability to reduce body fat.

For theanine, with its relaxing effect, green tea has been used in meditation and an important component of tea ceremony in Japan since hundreds years ago. Also, aside from its effects, theanine gives the umami taste in tea, which is one of the most important factors in the evaluation criteria of Japanese tea.

Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, relieves drowsiness, and improves concentration. However, too much caffeine can cause side effects such as headache, increased heart rate, anxiety, insomnia, vomiting, and diarrhea.

In green tea, the caffeine content is higher in young buds, so matcha and gyokuro, which are made by picking young buds, contain higher amounts of caffeine. If you are concerned about your caffeine intake, it is best to be careful about the type of tea you drink and the timing.

Catechin, Caffeine, and Theanine Content in each type of Japanese Green Tea

As shown in the below table, gyokuro and matcha are rich in theanine, the source of umami, which gives them their rich umami profiles. Sencha is rich in catechins, which have a variety of health benefits. Sencha also contains a good amount of catechins, caffeine, and theanine, resulting in a tea with a good balance of umami, astringency, and bitter flavor. The highest caffeine content is found in gyokuro and matcha, and the lowest in hojicha. Hojicha, which is made by roasting green tea, contains almost no theanine. It is a tea that is enjoyed for its aroma rather than its umami flavor.

Choose the best tea for different situations

So far, you have learned about the main components and benefits of green tea, and which types of tea contain which components. So, how do you choose the right tea for different situations in your daily life? This is just an example, but I would like to give you my recommendations.

  • In the morning: Sencha is suitable for morning as it has a good amount of caffeine, which will stimulate your brain to help you become awake and get you ready for the day. However, because of the caffeine content, if you drink sencha straight away after getting up, it may be too strong for your stomach. Therefore, it is recommended to drink sencha with some food. Matcha is another option especially for morning mindfulness practice with an energising yet meditative experience.
  • With a meal: Sencha is recommended as sencha contains a higher amount of catechin than other Japanese tea types. Catechin is effective to kill germs from the food residue in your mouth, which may attack your teeth later. If you are seeking an alternative to coffee for light meals such as sandwich and pizza, hojicha (roasted green tea) is recommended, as hojicha has a similar aroma to roasted coffee.
  • When feeling hungry after work: If you have an empty stomach after work, hojicha is recommended because it contains less caffeine. Hojicha also has a distinctive aroma that comes from roasting, and this relaxes you and alleviates your fatigue from your work. The same applies to any occasion wherever you feel hungry like after doing some exercise and long-distance driving.
  • To relieve drowsiness: I would recommend gyokuro or high grade sencha, which are higher in caffeine, and brew them slowly in water that has cooled to around 70 degrees (158°F) . By doing so, it releases more caffeine, which stimulates drowsiness, and amino acids which are umami compounds, with less catechins which represents astringent flavor.
  • Bedtime Hojicha does not contain much caffeine and therefore it is suitable for bedtime. Furthermore, Hojicha contains the component called pyrazine. Pyrazine works to calm you down and expand your blood vessels. Hojicha also warms and relaxes your body. For all these reasons, hojicha is suitable to drink before going to bed.

The Bottom Line

As described above, different types of tea have different tastes and benefits. These differences are determined by the composition of the three main components of green tea: catechins, caffeine, and theanine. By choosing the right tea for different situations and timing, you can improve the quality of your tea time.


Japanese green tea from Liliku. Fresh leaves being infused


  • Standard Tables of Food Composition in Japan2015 – (Seventh Revised Version) by The Council for Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, Japan
  • Chemistry and Applications of Green Tea by Takehiko Yamamoto, Lekh Raj Juneja, et al. | Jul 31, 1997
  • 茶の健康効果 20選 (20 of health benefits of tea) – Japanese only –  by Japan Tea Central Public Interest IncorporatedAssociation
  • お茶の科学 「色・香り・味」を生み出す茶葉のひみつ (The Science of Tea: The Secrets of Tea Leaves that Generate Color, Aroma, and Taste) – by Masashi Omori  | May 17, 2017