I used to hate green tea. It’s true! But I’m here to share how my dislike of green tea was really just my own misunderstanding and incorrect brewing. Green tea doesn’t have to taste like pee grass! Read on to find my favorite Japanese green teas, different brewing methods, and to hopefully learn from my mistakes.
I’m here today to tell you that it’s STILL WINTER even if we have an extra hour of daylight. And oh yeah, it’s still cold.as.$hit. There is not a whole lot of green around here but there is a whole lot of green going in my belly. Green tea, that is. And you guys, I love it. But that was not always the case . . . .
Me & Green Tea
Like most people with an interest in health and wellness and access to the internet, I’ve read 2740283740283 articles on how green tea will basically make you a superhuman. At some point in college (12ish years ago), I vowed to drink it all day every day because . . . super . . . human . . . powers ya’all! So, I hightailed it to the store and ponied up for some green tea bags. I took them back to my apartment, read the instructions, microwaved some water while imagining how super I was about to become, plopped the tea bag in after the timer went off, and BLEH. AM I DRINKING GRASS THAT’S BEEN PEED ON? I’m pretty sure this is pee grass.
Why the actual f*ck would anyone drink this? Oh yeah, super-human powers. Not wanting to be a regular old human, I kept drinking green tea and trying different brands, but I never really enjoyed it all that much, which probably makes sense since I just described it as pee grass.
Learning About Brew Times & Temperatures
But when I’m into something, I’m like literally ALL IN. I read all the articles and books and websites I could find. Although green tea certainly has a vegetal taste, the harsh bitterness was likely due to incorrect brewing by moi. I was brewing my tea too hot and too long. Think about it: a prime cut of steak filet is fabulous . . . assuming you don’t burn it or overcook it (or put A1 on it, but that’s another story). So I learned more about brewing times and temperatures. These vary depending on cultivar and growing/processing methods, but I’ll share those of two of my favorite varieties below.
Tea Bags vs Fresh Loose Leaf Green Tea
The green tea that’s in tea bags is usually lower quality and not as fresh as loose tea. Tea that’s in tea bags is typically broken pieces, referred to as fannings and dust, versus whole leaves. This not only affects flavor, but it also affects our exposure to catechins in green tea . . . you know, the reason we started drinking it in the first place.
Catechin concentrations are higher in the whole leaf versus dust and fannings because the smaller parts and pieces have had more exposure to light and air, which results in faster loss of nutrients. Also, catechins degrade over time, and tea bags are likely to have been stored longer.
I decided to ditch the tea bags and graduate to fresh, loose leaf tea. I should note that there are some quality green tea bags, but as I got more into green tea, the varieties, quality, and value were more prevalent among the loose leaf teas, so it was a natural choice.
Choosing Green Tea
Alas, all green tea is not the same . . . or is it? All tea (including black, white, oolong, etc.) actually comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. So, yes, technically all green tea is the same, but the different cultivars (cultivated varieties), regions, growing methods, harvest timing, and processing methods affect its flavor and aroma (and price point). These variables mean almost unending choices, and I encourage you to try and explore! I’ve learned if you don’t like the taste of one variety, try another.
My Current Green Tea Routine
As previously noted, there are so many tea varieties and you shouldn’t hesitate to try them all!! These two are just my standard favorites and regardless of what I’m trying, they always seem to make it into the rotation.
Sencha is Japan’s most consumed green tea. It’s grown in direct sunlight for its entire life cycle, which results in rapid growth, an abundance of Vitamin C, and a higher level of tannin. If you consume as much wine as I do (I meeeeean, dark chocolate), you have probably heard of tannins. Tannin is a naturally occurring polyphenol that adds bitterness, astringency, and complexity. The difference between Japanese green tea and other teas is that the leaves are steamed shortly after harvest to prevent oxidation. Because of this, the leaves’ natural green color, fragrance, and nutritional components are retained. After steaming, the leaves are rolled and dried, releasing their flavor components. The year’s first harvest is considered the finest in freshness and flavor.
Unlike Sencha, which is grown in direct sunlight, Gyokuro is grown in shade (under cloth or reed cover) for 20 days prior to harvest. Because of this, it’s typically smoother, less astringent, and more full bodied than Sencha. Because the leaves of Gyokuro are shaded from the sun, photosynthesis is notably reduced, meaning less theanine is converted into other compounds. Theanine is responsible for both umami (indescribable deliciousness; savory, rich) and sweet flavors in Gyokuro.
Here we’ll take a look at how different varieties have different brew times and temperatures. These are what I’ve found work best for me. Gyokuro is by far my favorite . . . so smooth and so fresh like 🙂 I typically enjoy hot brew Gyokuro in the morning and cold brew Sencha in the afternoon. Grassy Sencha is subdued and perfect for cold brewing, while Gyokuro should be reserved for special occasions and infusing no hotter than 155 F.
- Hot Brew
- Temperature: 175F
- Ratio: 1–1.5 teaspoons per 6–8 ounces
- First brew: 1 minute
- Second brew+: 1.5 minutes
- Cold Brew
- Temperature: 35F
- Ratio: 2–3 teaspoons per 12 ounces
- Time: 6–12 hours
- Hot Brew
- Hot Brew
- Temperature: 150 F
- Ratio: 1.5–2 teaspoons per 6–8 ounces
- First brew: 2 minutes
- Second brew+: 1.5 minutes
- Hot Brew
So how do you get the water the perfect temperature? I’m a huge fan of Bonavita kettle. I can easily adjust the temperature for any type of tea. Bonus: I also use this kettle when warming water for bread and pizza dough.
You guys, honestly, I’ve tried everything from teapots to presses to infuser balls to making my own tea bags, oh my! I’ve finally settled on my favorites for hot brew and cold brew. For hot brew, I’m obsessed with Immortalitea Tea Cup. While it’s not designed for finer tea, it doesn’t bother me that some tea falls through the strainer. It’s perfect for one person, keeps my tea warm, my hands comfortable, and it’s easy to clean. And who doesn’t love that name?!
Mason Jar + Tea Strainer
For cold brew, I like to use a good ol’ mason jar. I let the tea steep freely while the tight seal keeps the water bubbly and sparkling. When I’m ready to drink it, I simply pour through a tea strainer over any cup.
Holy Hannah, I’ve managed to talk your ear off yet again. If I left something out or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me!