Do you want to get started drinking green tea but don’t know where to begin? This guide to the best green tea shows you how to start drinking better green tea today!
Don’t settle for a bad cup of green tea. Green tea comes in a wide variety of styles with the most delectable flavors. This guide will show you how to select the best green tea and enjoy drinking green tea. I will show you:
- The best TYPES of green tea
- How to make SMARTER green tea choices
- Where to buy the BEST green tea brands
- Secrets to making the PERFECT cup of green tea
- How to make tea part of your daily HEALTHY lifestyle
It’s been said that green tea is the healthiest beverage you can drink. We’ve all heard about the health benefits surrounding green tea. It almost seems like it’s medicine. And if you’ve tried to drink green tea from a Lipton tea bag, you may think it is medicine!
Beginners often experience green tea as bitter and tasteless. That’s a result of low-quality tea leaves, incorrect brewing temperatures and steeping tea bags for too long.
What Is Green Tea?
Green tea is not a specific type of tea but a category of tea, much like white wine is a category of wine. Just as there are many different types of white wine, there are hundreds of green teas. China and Japan produce some of the best green teas.
All green tea comes from the same plant as black, oolong, white and Puerh tea, the Camellia sinensis plant. There are two primary varieties of the tea plant Camellia sinensis and Camellia asamica with many different cultivars or subvarieties. There are over a thousand different subvarieties of the Camellia sinensis plant.
Related: How to Drink Green Tea Every Day
That is why not all green tea tastes the same. The difference is also in the way it’s processed after it’s picked, the terroir it’s grown in and the time of year it’s picked. First flush or new growth tea harvested early in the growing season tends to be sweeter.
Green Tea Processing
Once the tea leaves are harvested, they are withered to reduce the moisture content. Then they are heated to stop the oxidation process.
Oxidation occurs when the enzymes in the tea leaves react with oxygen and the leaves begin to turn brown. Halting oxidation is done by oven-roasting, pan-frying, or steaming the leaves. This fixes the flavors. Next, they are rolled and left to dry.
Most Japanese green teas are steamed producing a fresh, grassy and herbal flavor. Chinese green teas are usually roasted or pan-fried producing a creamy and nutty, or melon-sweet flavor. Sometimes you may get a seaweed or pine scent.
How to Make Green Tea that Tastes Good
Brewing the perfect cup of green tea takes a little bit of knowledge. By following a few simple guidelines you can make a delicious cup of green tea every time!
No matter how high or low the quality of the tea leaves, a cup of tea can be significantly enhanced or ruined in the brewing process. Green tea is sensitive to water temperature and steeping time. No pressure here!
- Water: It’s best to use filtered water, either municipal tap or bottled.
- Measurement: For a 6-8 ounce cup use one teaspoon or 2-3 grams. Sometimes it’s best to weigh the tea when using larger tea leaves because a teaspoon won’t equal 2-3 grams.
- Temperature: Water that has barely reached a boil and then cooled a couple of minutes is ideal for green teas. Try to use 160 – 185ºF (71 – 85ºC).
- Steeping Time: Timing is essential. Use a kitchen timer or the timer on your phone works great if you’re out. Steep green teas for 1.5 to 3 minutes. You can vary this to your taste preference.
- Brewing: Place the tea leaves freely in the cup or teapot before adding the hot water. Pour the water over the leaves and make sure there is enough room for the leaves to unfurl and infuse their flavor. Avoid “tea balls” and the like. Large stainless steel infusers work well also.
Note: Allowing full expansion of the loose tea leaves is essential. This unfurling is called “the agony of the leaves” and is a crucial part of the brewing process.
Related: Brewing Tea: The Ultimate Guide
Green tea has a shorter shelf life than black tea. The average freshness life of green tea is one year when stored properly. Store tea in a sealed airtight container away from light and moisture.
When you buy high-quality green tea you don’t need to add milk and sugar. It’s just not necessary.
Great-Tasting Green Tea Types
There are many types of green tea available. Here are my favorite types of green tea from China and Japan that are well known as the best tasting green tea. It’s an excellent place to start your green tea journey.
Chinese Green Tea
China is the birthplace of tea and produces thousands of tea types. Typically small villages produce tea and sell it to local co-ops for processing. Chinese teas do not follow a standard protocol for naming their teas. This often gives way to romantic-sounding names which but tend to be a little confusing for the consumer.
Gunpowder or “pearl tea” is a Chinese green tea. Gunpower refers to high-quality tea leaves that are rolled into small pellets resembling gunpowder. The pellets unfurl when added to water. The smaller the pellets the costlier the tea. The highest grade is called “extra fine Pinhead Gunpowder”
A high-quality Chinese Gunpowder tea makes a refreshing yellow-green brew with a brisk taste. A Formosan Gunpowder green tea from Taiwan tends to be sweeter. Gunpowder green tea is the green tea used to make Moroccan mint tea.
Dragon Well (Long Jing)
Long Jing is one of Chinas best and well-known teas. Dragon Well is a roasted tea with a sweet and lightly toasted flavor of walnuts. The delicate, nutty tea is well worth seeking out. It is the type of tea you can drink all day long. One of my favorites.
There’s no mistaking the buttery yellow liquor of this tea. Dragon Well (Long Jing) Chinese green tea with its flat spear-like leaves open up to reveal two leaves when brewed. It tastes a little like toasted nuts with some vegetal notes.
If you think you don’t like green tea you haven’t tried Dragon Well!
Jasmine Green Tea
You will find two popular types of jasmine green teas. Yin Hao Jasmine is the classic Chinese jasmine green tea. Jasmine Pearls are tightly rolled little balls of green tea delicately laced with jasmine scent.
Jasmine tea is a scented (not flavored) tea. The tea leaves are placed near jasmine flowers for a short period of time while their aromatic oils gently penetrate the tea leaves. If you come across a Jasmine green tea that tastes very perfumey, it’s been flavored not scented and is most likely poorer quality.
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In China, green tea is harvested in the spring and held until August when the jasmine flowers bloom. The flowers are layered in and around the green tea. The flower petals are used for scenting and removed from the final product.
Japanese Green Tea
There are four main kinds of Japanese green tea, classified according to the leaf it’s made from, the age of the leaf and the method used for processing.
The most popular tea in Japan and the one most likely to be exported to the United States. Sencha can vary significantly in price and quality. The Japanese use high-quality sencha only on special occasions, with average quality used daily. The top two tea leaves and bud are picked as soon as they are mature, then steamed and rolled until they resemble long needles. The resulting brew is light green with a mixture of bittersweetness and a scent that is fresh and “green”.
Japanese Sencha green tea varies from average to excellent. High-quality Sencha is labeled Ichiban cha or number one tea, indicating the tea is from the first flush of the growing season. Ichiban Cha Sencha makes a smoother, sweeter and less astringent brew.
Bancha is the lowest grade of Sencha. Hojicha is made from roasted Bancha leaves, resulting in a toasted, earthy aroma and a light golden colored brew.
Japanese for gem of dewdrop, this is a high-quality tea. It’s costly and only served as a treat. Just when the spring buds are beginning to open the tea bushes are shaded from the sun for three weeks. The shading increases chlorophyll, making the leaf a darker green.
At harvest time only the buds of the first flush are picked – no leaves. Then they are carefully rolled by hand. Processed Gyokuro looks like fine pine needles, sharply pointed and flat. The resulting brew has a smooth sweet taste with a beautiful emerald green color. Shading increases theanine levels giving it a brothy character (umami), making the tea less bitter and giving it a mellow taste.
The unrolled leaves used to produce Gyokuro are air-dried and left unrolled, producing Tencha. The Tencha is then ground into fine powder to make matcha.
Matcha Green Tea
Matcha is a powdered version of green tea, made from ground Tencha. It is dissolved in hot water and whipped into a froth with a bamboo whisk. The practice of making whipped teas from powdered tea leaves originated during the Sung Dynasty and later adopted by the Japanese. The frothing created by the whipping enhances the taste.
Today the preferred matcha green tea comes from Japan. The Japanese tea ceremony uses high-grade matcha called ceremonial grade matcha green tea. Matcha means liquid jade in Japanese. Good matcha is smooth and sweet without a trace of bitterness. It’s also a very nourishing drink high in Vitamin C and antioxidants.
Genmaicha is a Japanese green tea that mixes Bancha leaves and fire-roasted rice. This light brown brew has a savory, grainy, slightly salty taste and is not only thirst-quenching but filling. The rice kernels sometimes pop open during roasting, giving Genmaicha the nickname popcorn tea.
The hearty flavors of Genmaicha green tea make a suitable alternative to coffee. I often recommend this to someone trying to switch from coffee to tea. Genmaicha is such a simple tea but for some reason, it’s one of my favorite rainy afternoon teas.
Where To Buy The Best Green Tea Online
- Adagio Teas If you’re just starting with green tea or tea in general, I love both Adagio Teas and The Tea Spot for buying quality tea online.
- Masters’ Collections by Adagio Teas – Very fine fresh specialty teas direct from the farmers.
- Palais des Thés Is a popular European tea store specializing in single estate, flavored teas, and herbal teas. Excellent tea selections.
- TeaVivre This is my favorite shop for authentic Chinese teas.
- Japanese Green Tea Company Offers authentic Japanese green tea. For 10% OFF all purchases use CODE: BETTER