Perhaps you have tried green tea and decided you don't like it — it's too harsh, too grassy, or even bitter. Well, perhaps you just need a better brewing method! The perfect cup of green tea is flavorful, not too bitter, and one that speaks to your palate. Brewing it doesn't have to be complicated, but there are some things to consider if you want to be able to fully appreciate this delicate tea.
This tutorial is for green tea. (For a description of different varieties of green tea, see What You Should Know About Green Tea.) Although all green teas have some things in common, there are many variables — type of tea, leaf size and shape, harvesting season, etc. — and therefore there is no ONE standard for how to brew green tea. Think of this as a guide, and then follow your own palate.
As a general rule of thumb, use 2 grams of tea leaves per 6 ounces of water. Measuring by weight is preferable because tea leaves come in different shapes and sizes. If you want to measure by volume, start with 1 teaspoon. For larger leaves, you may want to use up to 1 to 2 tablespoons.
The water you use is perhaps just as important as the tea leaves. Whether it's tap, filtered, or spring water, it should taste good. Avoid distilled water, which can taste flat. Start with fresh, cold water that has not been previously boiled.
Heating the water to the optimal temperature will draw out the right balance of amino acids, which contribute flavor and sweetness, and tannins, which contribute bitterness and astringency. If the water temperature is too low, it may not extract the full range of flavors. If the temperature is too high, the tea will taste overly bitter and astringent.
As a general rule of thumb, let the water come just short of boiling. Depending on the particular tea the ideal temperature can range from 160°F to 180°F, which you can measure using a thermometer, or simply eyeball it.
The Steeping Time
As a general rule of thumb, steep the tea from 1 to 3 minutes. The exact amount of time will depend on the particular tea and personal preference. Small leaves generally infuse more quickly than large leaves. You may wish to taste the tea at the 1-minute mark and then every 30 seconds.
Infusers and Strainers
Keep in mind that you want room for the tea leaves to unfold and release their flavors. Green tea can expand many times in size, especially if the leaves are rolled. For this reason, a roomier basket-style infuser or filter (made of glass, metal, or cloth) is usually preferable to the ball-style of infuser. You can also brew the tea leaves directly in the pot or cup and strain them out as you pour.
Place the water in a tea kettle and heat it to 160°F to 180°F. Alternatively, bring the water to a boil and then let it rest until it cools to the correct temperature. If you do not have a thermometer to measure the specific temperature, heat the water to just short of boiling. Traditionally Japanese green teas and spring teas are brewed at lower temperatures (160°F to 170°F) and standard Chinese green teas at higher temperatures (170°F to 180°F).
How To Brew Green Tea
Makes 1 cup (multiply as desired)
What You Need
6 ounces water, plus more if pre-warming the pot or cup
2 grams or about 1 teaspoon loose leaf green tea
Kettle to boil water
Scale or measuring spoon
Filter or strainer
Tea cup for serving
Heat the water: Place the water in a tea kettle and heat it to 160°F to 180°F. Alternatively, bring the water to a boil and then let it rest until it cools to the correct temperature. If you do not have a thermometer to measure the specific temperature, heat the water to just short of boiling. Traditionally Japanese green teas and spring teas are brewed at lower temperatures (160°F to 170°F) and standard Chinese green teas at higher temperatures (170°F to 180°F).
Pre-warm the teapot or cup (optional): Pour a small amount of boiling water into the pot or cup. When the pot or cup is warm, pour out the water.
Measure the tea leaves: Using a scale, measure 2 grams of tea leaves. Alternatively, measure 1 teaspoon of tea leaves.
Place the leaves in the teapot or cup: Place the tea leaves in the pot or cup, either directly or in an infuser.
Pour the water: Pour the water over the tea leaves.
Cover the teapot or cup: Place the lid on the teapot, or if using a cup, cover it with a lid or a small saucer.
Steep the tea: Depending on the particular variety, the tea should steep for 1 to 3 minutes. Small leaves generally infuse more quickly than large leaves. Set a timer for 1 minute. Taste the tea at 1 minute and then every 30 seconds until it is to your liking.
Stop the infusion: As soon as the tea is ready, remove the leaves by lifting out the infuser or pouring the tea through a strainer.
Reusing tea leaves: Whole tea leaves can often be steeped 2 to 3 times, producing new flavors with each subsequent brew. Traditionally the water temperature is increased slightly for Chinese green teas and decreased slightly for Japanese green teas.
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(Image credits: Emily Han)