What is green tea?

Updated: Nov 2, 2021

Everything you need to know about green tea - what is green tea and how to brew it correctly?

Brewed green tea in the foreground and premium loose leaf organic tea leaves in the background.
Green tea in a tea cup in the foreground and loose leaf green tea leaves in the background.

Have you ever wondered why you might not be a fan of green tea? Most of the time, people brew it incorrectly (including cafes!) which results in a flat, bitter taste and is definitely not very enjoyable.

In this post we will do a deep dive into green tea:

  • What is green tea?

  • Key health benefits

  • Quick tips on how to brew green tea correctly to maximise the flavour (so you can actually enjoy it!)

Why is your green tea not that tasty?

We have heard so many times from our friends and family that ‘green tea is blah’ and that they don’t particularly enjoy it.

Well, that doesn’t surprise me because their experience is either mass-produced green tea bags from the supermarket or an over-brewed bitter drink. And just to be clear - there are some good examples of nice green tea in teabags but most of them aren’t, unfortunately, very tasty. This is because most of the time it’s a ‘tea dust’, so finely crushed leaves that don’t retain very much flavour. We believe that trying green tea only from a teabag and forming an opinion is an unfair representation of what green tea can really offer you.

Another common mistake is the wrong temperature for brewing (too hot) and over-brewing (leaving leaves or teabags in for too long) - both of these contribute to a flat, bitter taste. In fact, it is so far from what green tea should taste like that it is probably time you pour yourself a tea and appreciate how it should taste. Of course, each tea variety offers a slightly different taste.

Where does green tea come from?

Like all teas, green tea comes from a tea tree called Camellia Sinensis and is known for its health benefits, particularly when it comes to weight loss and being a source of antioxidants - it helps lowering cholesterol, reduces the risk of a heart attack, can prevent cancer etc. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that it can definitely be a wonderful source of ‘healthy stuff’ as there is a lot of studies focused on this topic. Like anything, it’s important to consume it in moderation.

Is there caffeine in green tea?

Yes, green tea has caffeine in it, however, it’s a smaller amount in comparison to coffee or even black tea. The other difference is the release time - if you drink coffee, you get a fast release (caffeine hit to be precise), whereas tea is a slow release, which means that it might take a couple of hours for it to kick in. If you are interested in a caffeine-free option there are plenty of choices available starting from a decaf green tea (special decaffeinated version that lets you enjoy the flavour of green tea without the caffeine in it).

How to make green tea?

Making green tea can be a little bit tricky and is often misunderstood. The key to a non-bitter and a lovely tasting cuppa is the right temperature and how long you need to steep it for.

Let’s start with the temperature first - most people burn the delicate leaves because they pour boiling hot water over it. There are two downsides of this practice - first of all you get less value out of the leaves (you might have lost some of the antioxidants) and it really impacts the flavour making it bitter. So instead of some nice floral notes you get this heavy bitter beverage. The right temperature is specified on the packaging and is depended on the tea type (typically between 80-95 degrees).

Now, the second point is about the length - again, depending on the tea type (and personal preference) it might be anything from 1min for a refreshing genmaicha and up to 10min for jasmine pearls. If you like it stronger keep it on for a little longer but never too long - you want to experience the full flavour without over-brewing your tea.

5 most popular green tea types and brewing tips

Remember that if you like a lighter, more subtle version stick to the minimum amount of time and if you like a little more body to your tea go for a little longer as per the indications below:

1. Long Jing - Chinese variety that gives a sweet and delicate flavour. Brewing time: 1-2 min (2nd infusion only 30-45 seconds) at 85 Celsius degrees.

2. Sencha - Japanese tea with a grassy and slightly seaweedy flavour. Brewing time: 1-1.5 min (2nd infusion almost instant, no more than 30 seconds) at 70 Celsius degrees.

2. Genmaicha - sencha green with roasted rice - balanced favour of grassy green and nutty roast. Brewing time: 30seconds - 1 min (2nd infusion almost instant, no more than 30 seconds) at 70 Celsius degree

4. Gunpowder tea - another Chinese variety with a stronger taste and subtle smokiness. Brewing time: 1 min (2nd infusion - no more than 30 seconds) at 70-80 Celsius degrees.

5. Jasmine pearls - scented green tea with jasmine - opulent taste and quite distinct strong jasmine aroma - example of a stronger tasting green tea without a grassy taste. Brewing time: 3-8 min (2nd infusion 1-2minutes) at 85 Celsius degrees.

How to get tea brewing temperatures right?

Sometimes it’s a little hard to know the exact temperature if you don’t have a thermometer but still want to ensure your brewing temperatures are right. There are two tricks that can help:

1. Adding cold water to your boiling hot water - the rule of thumb is that:

  • if you pour ¾ of your hot water and add ¼ of cold water your temperature is approx. 80 Celsius degrees.

  • if you pour ⅔ of hot water and mix in ⅓ of cold water you get approximately 70 Celsius degrees.

  • if you just want slightly colder water from boiling hot adding a few splashes of cold water makes it approximately 90 Celsius degrees.

2. Waiting for the water to cool down - this is more time consuming but if you have no access to cold water just let the water cool down a bit:

  • 30 seconds of wait will cool it down to 90

  • 1min of cooling down will make the temperature drop to 80

  • 2min will make it drop down to 70

This is obviously not a 100% accurate way to measure temperature but I find that it does the job most of the time.

Key takeaways

Green tea is worth exploring in its intact state that comes in loose leaves - you will get more flavour, better taste and of course, more health benefits considering it’s less processed and has more antioxidants. Important considerations for brewing green tea are the right temperature and length of the time you are steeping it for.

Try to brew your next green tea bearing these tips in mind and see how much of a difference it makes.

Got your own tips for making green tea?

If you come across any other cool tips or have your own hacks - please share it with us below this article, or jump on our tea forum! Let's discuss!