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In the world of tea manufacturing, there are very few companies that have been selling and producing tea as long as Ippodo Tea. They were founded in Kyoto, Japan in 1717 and have been known by royalty and commoners alike as providers of high-quality tea.
Ippodo Tea Review
Ippodo Tea is generally known for its excellent Matcha green tea that spans from very simple tiers to exquisite high-quality levels. They also sell other types of green tea such as the unshaded green tea Sencha, Gyokuru green tea that is grown shaded, and Bancha that is made from second flush leaves.
Ippodo Tea Matcha
Matcha from Ippodo Tea is available in different quality, richness, and umami levels for tea drinkers with different tastes. It would be a shame to ignore their highest quality offerings since they are known as some of the richest and most consistent Matcha in the world, so be sure to consider them when browsing their selection.
Their most popular Matchas are their limited and seasonal offerings, especially their Premium Select and Kuon Matchas. Produced in limited quantities, these have the possibility of selling out, and you will not have an opportunity to purchase them again until they are released the next year — if they will be released at all!
Ippodo Kuon is specifically targeted toward the North American Matcha audience and has a rich umami flavor while still maintaining a brightness that is shown off when made as a thick koicha. Premium Select Matcha is a blend of the highest-rated harvest of Japan’s tea farmers and is the highest grade of Matcha that Ippodo sells. This amazing Matcha will vary every year based on the leaf production and specific growing conditions of the season.
Ippodo Tea Sencha
Green tea grown unshaded, also known as Sencha, can be considered a very common tea, making up approximately 75% of the tea harvested in Japan. The quality of the plants and the care in cultivation and harvesting can make all the difference, and Ippodo is very particular when choosing leaves for its Sencha.
One difference between Ippodo Sencha and the same type of tea from other manufacturers is that Ippodo rolls their Sencha leaves into thin needles during their curing and drying process. This creates a different brewing experience as the leaves unfurl and release different flavors with each subsequent brewing. The gongfu method using multiple brews can help you explore a different experience with each new gaiwan.
Their highest-rated Sencha, Kaboku, is a very rich tea with a subtle sweetness that follows the initial umami burst. When brewed at a higher level of leaf to water it does have a tendency to release some bitterness, so be sure to follow the recommendations on the packaging of 10g of leaves per pot of water and adjust as needed.
Ippodo Tea Gyokuru
When tea leaves in Japanese farms are shaded for part of the growing season, the end result is called Gyokuru tea. The shading usually lasts for around three to four weeks before harvesting and is meant to increase the amount of chlorophyll in the leaves. As such, the level of richness can be amplified, and umami especially shines.
Ippodo Gyokuru is very specialized, sometimes even more than its Matcha offerings. Their selection is limited but still covers different pricing and flavor levels. Most Ippodo tea styles have levels going from “light” to “rich,” but their Gyokuru selection does not include a “light” option.
While all of their Gyukuru teas are fantastic, the upper-mid level Kanro tea is an affordable and accessible introduction to their Gyukuru line. It has the richness of higher-tier teas while not feeling too thick in the mouth, and has a very pleasing aftertaste. Kanro will be both refreshing and flavorful when the right temperature and tea to water ratio is used to brew it.
Ippodo Tea Bancha
Bancha teas are a little different than other green teas because of the time of year the leaves are harvested. These leaves generally have less flavor, so the production process does its best to add more flavors either through roasting or by blending tea leaves with additional ingredients (Genmaicha).
Since they are considered lower quality leaves, the price of Bancha tea can be lower than the other Ippodo teas. If you like the roasted or brown rice flavors you can get from Bancha, Ippodo has a good range of affordable but quality teas to choose from.
Ippodo’s Hojicha tea is a wonderfully pleasant everyday tea with a really pleasing aroma that is sometimes hard to find in Bancha. Roasting helps the flavor shine and gives it an amber color that is rare in Japanese green teas. It is refreshing with a smaller amount of caffeine than other green teas so it can be enjoyed later in the day.
Other Ippodo Tea Offerings
Ippodo stores also supply teacups, teapots, utensils, and other items that can help you prepare and enjoy your green tea even more.
For beginners who are new to Matcha, Ippodo offers a few different Matcha Starter Kits, containing the basics you need to prepare Matcha tea. The smallest kit includes:
- Whisk (chasen)
- Whisk stand (chasen-tate)
- Ladle (chashaku)
- Package of one of their upper-mid quality Matchas that has a bold, but not overpowering flavor.
Other kits include a bowl (chawan) to mix Matcha in. While they are both useful and attractive, a beginner might consider using a regular bowl to start with.
There are many items that we really like in their teaware store. The Zojirushi Travel Flask is one of the best-insulated containers for transporting hot beverages like tea, and the Ippodo designed model is both beautiful and useful. The Matcha sieve that they sell is also very well made and goes a long way in improving the final quality of your Matcha.
History of Ippodo Tea
Originally opened as “Omiya” in 1717, the first Ippodo tea shop was close to the Kyoto Imperial Palace in Teramachi Nijo. As opposed to many different businesses who change their own name for different reasons, the name “Ippodo” (preserve one) was given to them in 1846 by Prince Yamashina to ensure that they would preserve their tea traditions.
Over the centuries, Ippodo has changed business models from importing and exporting tea in the last 1800s, to changing their focus to high-quality domestic distribution, and finally expanding into department stores in Japan. Their online shop opened in 2000, and their first street-front tea shop outside of Japan opened in New York in 2013.
Ippodo has spent much of its time in business not only selling quality teas but also providing education to their customers. In the 1990s a few different series of educational leaflets were published with information about tea. To this day, their street-front stores offer classes on the finer points of tea and tea making.
It is difficult to discuss Japanese tea without including Ippodo Tea in the mix. Their long history of developing and selling quality green tea in different forms has helped them become one of the most famous names in tea. Highlighted by their Matcha, the different teas available from Ippodo are of the highest quality available to consumers.
Photos Copyright: Ippodo Tea USA
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.