Green Tea: A Beginner’s Guide
There’s a lot of hype about drinking green tea for various reasons. But do you know how green tea is made, what makes it different, and how to properly make it into a satisfying beverage?
Well, even if you answered yes this post ought to be a good read anyway. So read on fellow tea lovers!
How is Green Tea Made?
All tea starts out the same way, from the same plant. The real difference comes in what happens after it’s picked.
So here’s the basic run down on how green tea is made:
1. The traditional two leaves and a bud are picked during the harvest season.
2. Once picked, the leaves are immediately dried to prevent fermentation, which stops the enzyme activity that causes the oxidation of the tea leaves. (This is the step that differs between the different kinds of tea.)
Each kind of tea is allowed to ferment and oxidize a different length of time and then the leaves are dried to stop the oxidation process. Black tea leaves are allowed to oxidize the longest amount of time while the green tea leaves the least amount of time.
This is what gives green tea its green, grassy flavor and black tea it’s bold, robust, deep flavor.
3. After drying the tea leaves are shaped. Today, most green tea leaves are shaped by machinery, but the high-end green tea is still shaped by hand. The leaves are shaped in any of the following ways: curled, twisted, pointed, rounded, and several more.
The shaping of the leaves is very important for green tea. Shaping helps regulate the amount of natural substances and flavors released and when they are. Because the leaves are shaped to allow the flavors to release slowly, you are allowed to enjoy a 3rd, 4th, 5th, or even a 6th cup of tea using the same leaves (multiple infusions).
4. Finally, there is a final drying stage (for some kinds of green tea). This is to remove any remaining moisture from the leaves to prevent any future oxidation or molding.
What Makes Green Tea Different?
There were several things hinted at above if you read closely.
First, green tea is basically left unprocessed. This allows the tea leaves to retain all of its natural flavor along with all those things most people are looking for health-wise.
Green tea is also different in how it allows for multiple infusions – so don’t go throwing out those tea leaves after the first cup. A good share of people love 4th cup of tea more over the 1st cup because the flavor is even better. This is due to the leaves being fully opened and releasing their fullest flavor.
I’m sure there are several other characteristics that make green tea different from the rest, but these are just the ones that are the biggest and that we love the best.
How Do You Make the Best Cup of Green Tea Possible?
So now that you’ve had a little back-story on green tea, how do you make it?
Making green tea is a little bit more complicated than just boiling water and throwing in a tea bag. You’re not going to get a very good cup of tea. In fact, if you make your green tea this way you’re going to get a horribly bitter cup of tea that you’re going to hate.
Read on for some simple steps to making the best cup of green tea possible. (Note: There are many different varieties and blends of green tea, each with its own set of instructions. These are just some basic steps, but the best advice is to follow your palate.)
Heat Your Water
This is the step people most people get wrong.
First you’ll want to pour fresh, cold water into a kettle to heat the water. No matter what water you use, it should taste good to you to start with – the best being filtered water. Avoid distilled water because it will cause your tea to taste flat. Also, don’t just keep reboiling the water – it will also taste flat.
Then go ahead and start heating your water.
You ABSOLUTELY DON’T want boiling water. Since the green tea leaves are left basically unprocessed, they are extremely delicate. The boiling water will bruise and damage the leaves and cause you to be drinking a very bitter brew.
Instead, you’ll want to have water that’s between 160-180°F. Until you’re used to making tea, it’s best to use a cooking thermometer to measure the temperature, but you can also just eye-ball it. The water you need is heated to just short of boiling.
Here’s the deal, if the water temp is too low then the full flavor won’t be able to be extracted out of the leaves. If the water is too hot, the brew will be bitter and astringent – which is what turns a lot of people away from green tea.
Measure Out the Correct Amount of Tea Leaves
We highly recommend using loose leaf tea for your drinking pleasure. The difference in flavor in loose tea from tea bags is just amazing and once you try it you won’t go back.
The general rule of thumb is for every 6 ounces of water you’ll want 2 grams of tea leaves.
Notice, the tea is measured out by weight and not volume. This is due to the difference in size and shape of different kinds tea leaves. If one brand of tea has small leaves the next brand may have large leaves. You’re not going to get the same quantity (and your tea will taste extremely different) if you measure by volume.
But if you must measure by volume start with 1 teaspoon full at a time for small tea leaves. For bigger tea leaves you may have to even use 1-2 tablespoons to get the same flavor.
I bet you’re wondering what you should put your tea leaves in, right? Well, there are several options. You can throw them directly into the teapot, then pour in the water for the steeping, and use a strainer to keep the tea leaves out of your tea-cup while your pour.
Or you could get a nice tea infuser. [Shameless plug: We happen to have a great one for sale over on Amazon in green or magenta in the shape of a tea leaf.]
There are many reasons people choose the tea infuser route: it’s handiness, only wanting one cup of tea at a time, ease of use, less clean-up, etc. Regardless the reason you’ll want to look for a tea infuser that has enough room to allow the tea leaves to fully unfurl and allow the flavor to release.
Steep Your Tea
Finally, just pour your heated water of the tea leaves and allow the tea to steep. Each kind of tea steeps for a different length of time.
For green tea you’ll want to allow it to steep for 1-3 minutes depending on your taste.
You know you’ve got a good brew when you get a nice cup of nice green, grassy (and somewhat floral) flavored tea. It may be slightly bitter, but not overly so and nowhere near astringent, if you’ve followed these instructions.
Remember I mentioned how you can get multiple infusions out of the same tea leaves? Yep, that’s right. Don’t throw away those leaves just yet. Go ahead and make yourself another cup. Just remember, for each additional infusion you make you’ll want to steep your tea by an additional 30 seconds or so.
(Sidenote: You can even chill your green tea after steeping for a nice cooling refreshment during those hot months.)
And Now You Know…
No matter what the reason you’ve decided to drink green tea now you know a little more about it (and how to make it correctly).
Even if you’ve tried it before and didn’t like it, we highly encourage you to give green tea a second chance. Try these brewing instructions and let us know what you think!