How do I Make My Tea Taste Sweeter?

Have you ever wished that your green tea would be a little bit sweeter? Instead of adding sugar to the tea and altering the natural flavor, there are 5 tips you can use to make your tea taste sweeter. 

Our first tip has to do with the selection of the tea itself. Although all the comes from the same species of plant, there are hundreds or even thousands of tea plant vairieties. These varieties are called cultivars, and they are one of the many ways a tea farmer is able to control the flavor of tea produced. While most Japanese green teas are from the Yabukita cultivar, this is actually one of the more bitter varieties of Japanese tea plants used for green tea. The main reason this plant is used is because it is tougher, and more resistant to the frost of central Japan. 

In southern Japan, they are able to grow a wider array of tea plant varieties that can be a lot sweeter than Yabukita. If you are looking for a sweeter tea, go for one from the Saemidori cultivar or the Asatsuyu cultivar. Just switching up the cultivar of the tea you drink can make it a bit sweeter, but there are even more factors at work that determine the sweetness.

The second tip is to go for a shaded green tea. If a farmer wants to create a sweeter green tea, they will cover the tea plant in a special type of netting a few days before the harvest. When the tea plant is exposed to sunlight, it will begin to convert the sweet and savory theanine into more bitter catechins. In order to maintain a higher theanine content, the tea plant needs to be cut off from sunlight with these nets. The longer the plant is shaded, the sweeter it can become. Shaded sencha teas can be shaded for around a week. If the tea plant is shaded for over 10 days it is considered to be a Kabusecha. If the tea plant is shaded for a full 21 days or more, it can be used to make Gyokuro or matcha, the two most prized green teas in Japan. If you really want a sweet tea, you should try and find a Gyokuro or a Kabusecha. The Gyokuro Cha Meijin for example is made from the sweet Saemidori tea plant and it is shaded for 3 weeks prior to the harvest, giving it a nice warm sweetness.

Once you have your tea, you are going to want to make sure you brew it properly. The third tip to produce a sweeter tea is to use lower temperature water. Luckily for fans of sweet teas, the bitter components of the green tea are harder to extract. If you use water thats two hot, these bitter catechins will be extracted and overwhelm the sweeter flavors of the tea. What you want to do is use lower temperature water, or even cold brew the tea. To brew a warm Gyokuro, we recommend you use 60 degrees Celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit water. This will produce a tea with less bitterness.

A more extreme version to this is to brew the tea with cold water. This method is used by some to create sweeter and smoother teas. Just add in 5 grams of tea leaves to the bottom of a pitcher, pour in some room temperature water and let it sit for a few hours. After the time is up, you can then pour the pitcher into a glass and you will be able to enjoy a nice cool refreshing cup of sweeter green tea.

In addition to brewing at a lower temperature, you also want to make sure you are not brewing for too long. While this may not apply as much to cold brewed tea, even 60 degrees Celsius is enough to extract the bitterness if left for a few minutes too long. We recommend brewing for 2 minutes for Gyokuro and 1 minute when it comes to other types of Japanese green tea. The reason Gyokuro brews a bit longer is because it is more tightly rolled, so it needs more time for the leaves to open up and release their flavor into the water. There is also less catechins in the Gyokuro, so there is less bitterness to extract. 

The fifth and final tip when it comes to making a sweeter cup of green tea is to eat a sweet alongside with it. In Japan its not common to add sweeteners to green tea, but what is common is adding a dessert pairing. The reason for this is that adding something like sugar to the green tea disrupts the flavor, so it can’t really be appreciated. By eating a sweet alongside the tea, you are able to appreciate both but the sweet flavor lingers in your palate.

The most common pairing for green tea, particularly matcha is mochi. Mochi is made by pounding glutinous rice into a dough. It’s then often wrapped around something sweet like red adzuki bean paste. This creates a dessert that is both sweet and savory, smoothing out some of the more bitter flavors of the green tea. If you want to avoid refined sugar all together, you can use something like almond butter on a date, which can also work as a great sweet and savory food pairing.

I hope you have all enjoyed this article. If you have any questions about brewing sweeter green teas, please feel free to leave us a message in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading, we’ll see you next time.