Amacha is a Japanese herbal tea from a plant called hydrangea macrophylla. Amacha translates to “sweet tea” and if you taste this herbal tea you would instantly experience why it is named perfectly. The first time I ever tasted amacha my first sip thought was actually “Did someone just dump sugar in my cup when I turned my back for two seconds?” That might sound a bit bizarre but amacha is actually about 200 times sweeter than table sugar and it has no added ingredients or flavours.
The sweetness you experience when drinking amacha is caused by phyllodulcin, a natural sweetener that is found in the Hydrangea plant. Since amacha does not come from the Camellia Sinensis plant it is technically a tisane and has no caffeine. Despite the intense sweetness it has almost zero calories, too. It is not something you would drink every day, instead saved for special occasions and shared with others. In fact, in Japan it is traditionally served to celebrate Buddha’s birthday on April 8 (which is why you may also see it called Buddha’s tea).
This Japanese herbal tea is harvested just before flowering and before processing the leaves are quite bitter. They are then withered, hand rolled, fermented and dried. After the fermentation process, the chemical that is the source of the bitterness becomes phyllodulcin.
When it comes to steeping this Japanese herbal tea, a little goes a long way. The first time I steeped amacha I used just 1 gram of leaves per 100 ml of boiling water in a porcelain gaiwan. I found that little amount was even a bit too much sweetness for me to handle. After a bit of experimenting and researching, around half a gram of leaves per 100 ml of 100 degrees Celsius water is what I prefer. Essentially, that is approximately 2 leaves per 100 ml.
My Amacha Steeping Guidelines
You can steep the amacha leaves for as long as you’d like. Some amacha guidelines I have used in the past stated 2-4 minutes steeps. Personally, that is too strong for me as the longer you steep it, the sweeter it can get. The following is what I like to use more often.
1st steep // 30 seconds
I love pouring the water into my gaiwan and watching the amacha leaves open quickly and steeping a golden sunshine liquor. This steep reminds me a lot of a syrup with its aroma and taste. This little bit of amacha packs some serious, candied bites and is slightly floral.
2nd steep // 45 seconds
I usually find that the second steep is my favourite. It still produces a lovely light gold liquor and nectar like aroma. However, when it comes to the taste, the sweetness is softer and there are hints of aniseed that tickle the tongue.
3rd steep and further // 1 minute
The herbal tea is still quite fragrant and the sweetness is gentler in this steep and beyond. It is then that I begin to start getting more liqourice and aniseed notes. As you can tell from the image above, more infusions can be had from those beautiful leaves, too.
Overall, amacha is a unique steep to experience at least once. It may not be for everyone on its own, so you could even blend it with other teas that may need some sweetening.
If you want to try this unique Japanese herbal tea, you can find it online here (comes straight from Japan but super fast shipping). It looks like they are offering Amacha for 50% off until Feb 19 to celebrate Valentine’s Day, too! The perfect sweet tea 😉
Have you tasted amacha before? If so, share your thoughts on the Japanese herbal tea in the comments below.