Do you want to learn how to make green tea taste good? You’ve come to the right place! In this article, we are going to be teaching you how to make a better tasting cup of green tea. 🍵🍃
We’ll start by discussing how to find green tea that tastes better, and then we’ll show you how to brew a better tasting cup. Without further ado, let’s get started and brew!
11 Golden Rules on How to make green tea taste good
Here are the ultimate 11 golden rules if you want to make the perfect green tea. In this article, our tea experts are covering in detail each of these points. Keep in mind that if you respect these rules, you’ll be able to brew a superior green tea.
- Buy Better Quality Green Teas
- Use the right teaware
- Steep Briefly
- Be Mindful Of Water Temperature
- Be careful with Flavoring Add-Ins
- Make An Herbal Infusion
- Cold-brew your green tea
- Selecting a Green Tea that tastes great
- Brew Green Tea the right way and it will taste good
- Improve bitterness of green tea
- Choose the Best Tasting Green Teas
1. Buy Better Quality Green Teas
The most important part of the equation and that is the tea itself. It’s best to save money on the teaware in the beginning and invest that into better loose leaf tea. If you are getting bad tea, there is no amount of brewing tips or fancy equipment that can make it taste good.
Choose loose leaf tea
When you are beginning your tea journey, it is tempting to buy some cheap tea, but that is likely going to lead to a bad experience. If you have a Japanese-owned grocery store in your area, you are likely to find some decent quality loose leaf tea here that is not too expensive.
The same goes for Chinese-owned stores. Start by getting some loose leaf tea here and see how you like it. If you are used to preparing tea in a bag, you should notice a difference right away, even if the price is relatively similar.
Don't use teabag or make them by yourself
Are tea bags bad for you? A teabag is the first experience many of us have with tea, but in order to truly experience the world of tea, you have to go for loose leaf tea.
There are many reasons why you want to avoid teabags when it comes to the environment and preparing tea.
If you want to learn more about the topic, we wrote an entire article about the topic named Are tea bags bad for you? Yes. Read this to learn why.
2. Use the right teaware
An important thing to look for when you buy a strainer is that it gives the leaves plenty of space to open up. This will lead to dramatically better tea. The best tea strainers are the ones that have a wide, half dome shape to them. The second best is the tea strainers that are shaped like a cylinder, as those can ever so slightly constrain the leaves to a smaller area. The worst type of strainer is the small tea balls, as these really do not offer a whole lot of space to the tea.
3. Steep Briefly
When it comes to how to make green tea taste good, make sure that you respect the proper brewing times. If you brew the tea for too long, it will become bitter or distasteful. If you don't brew the tea for long enough, you will end up with a tea that is lacking flavor. By getting the brewing time just right you can get a flavorful cup of green tea with less bitterness.
Steeping for Sencha, Kamairicha and Tamaryokucha
For regular sencha, kamairicha and tamaryokucha, you can use a brewing time of one minute. This also applies to hardier teas like genmaicha, bancha, hojicha and kukicha although if those are brewed a little bit longer, it is not the worst thing in the world.
Steeping for fukamushi sencha
For fukamushi sencha, you only need 45 seconds to extract a good amount of flavor from the leaves. These teas are steamed for a longer time and during that time the cell membranes in the leaf are broken down and the leaf becomes more brittle. This causes the tea to become more broken when it is packaged, so you will end up with these smaller leaf particles. This may normally be a sign of a lower quality tea, but it is no problem when it comes to fukamushi. These smaller leaf particles have more relative surface area, so they provide cloudy green color and rich flavor to the water. Because they have more surface area, they don’t need quite as much time in order to brew.
Steeping for Gyokuro
Gyokuro tea requires the most brewing time. This tea is tightly rolled into these distinct needle shape leaves which require a full 2 minutes to unfold and fully release their flavor into the water. After the leaves are opened up after the brewing, they can be infused 2-3 more times at 20 seconds each. These later infusions can also be done for sencha, kamairicha, tamaryokucha, hojicha, bancha and more!
4. Be Mindful Of Water Temperature
The water temperature is one of the most important factors when it comes to how to make green tea taste good. Many people that claim their tea tastes too bitter are using hot or even boiling water to prepare it. The reason for this is that the bitter components within the tea leaf like catechins and caffeine are extracted at a higher temperature.
If you brew the tea too hot, the catechins can quickly dominate the flavor profile of your tea so that you taste nothing but bitterness. In order to extract a smaller amount of these, you can use a lower temperature like 140-160 degrees Fahrenheit. This works well for most types of Japanese green tea.
There are certain types of teas that are less sensitive to high temperatures like genmaicha, bancha, hojicha and kukicha. These teas can be brewed at 175 degrees fahrenheit and you they still will not be overtaken by bitterness. Gyokuro on the other hand is a celebration or these sweet and savory flavors, so it works best at a lower temperature, around 140 degrees fahrenheit.
5. Be careful with Flavoring Add-Ins
A lot of people like to add things to their green tea, which can be nice but just be careful. Certain flavorings can really interfere with the taste of the green tea. If you use something citrusy like lemon, for example, it can increase the more astringent components of the tea.
If you use something that has the complete opposite flavor to green tea like cinnamon or chocolate, you can end up with a really off-putting taste. These flavors will clash with the flavor of the green tea, and make it less enjoyable.
If you really want to know how to make green tea taste good with added flavorings, you can go for flavors that are neutral or neutral-sweet. For example, a plant milk like oatmilk goes very well with a ceremonial matcha and white chocolate can also be a good food pairing for a bowl of matcha tea. These have a neutral flavor that doesn’t clash with the taste and it has sweetness which will help manage the residual bitterness.
6. Make An Herbal Infusion
If you really don’t like the flavor of green tea, you can try an herbal infusion instead. Some people prefer the flavors of hibiscus, peppermint and chamomile and these can be healthy drinks to enjoy in the late afternoon or evening.
Although these are not technically teas, they are naturally caffeine free, so you can really drink them in larger quantities without worrying.
7. Cold-brew your green tea
As we mentioned before, hotter water can extract a lot of the bitter components inside the tea leaf, which can completely take over the taste of the tea. If you want to avoid extracting these more bitter components, you can use cooler water. An extreme example of this is to cold brew your green tea.
All you have to do is put 5 grams of leaves into a pitcher of water and pour in 200ml of cool or room temperature water. Then you can let the tea sit for 1-3 hours and when the time is up you can pour out your refreshing cold brewed green tea and enjoy!
8. Selecting a Green Tea that tastes great
The most important factor by far when it comes to how to make green tea taste good is to select the right tea in the first place. As we like to say, it is possible to turn good leaves into bad tea, but it is not possible to turn bad leaves into good tea. This means that both the brewing and the selection of the tea are important, but the former is meaningless without the latter.
A. Farmer and growing process
When selecting a tea, it is important to look at how and where the tea was grown. We work with dozens of farmers from all over Japan and after meeting them in person we have noticed that each one has a slightly different growing process. These farmers are experts at tea growing and they really know how to make green tea taste good. If you are interested in learning about some of the farmers we work with, you can find information on a few of them here:
Mr. Kawaji lives just outside of Kagoshima where he tends to his tea plants on this small plot of land. Here he specializes in these deep steamed Fukamushi sencha teas. These teas have a deep green color to them, and a more powerful, almost fruity flavor profile. The area benefits from a mild climate and rich volcanic soils, allowing Mr. Kawaji to grow a wide range of tea plant cultivars like Yutaka Midori which he uses to make the Fukamushi Sencha Murasaki and the Asatsuyu, which he uses to make the Shincha Kasugaen Asatsuyu.
Mr. Noike moved from the city to enjoy a more peaceful life in the Japanese countryside. In a small town just outside of Kyoto, he grows tea in the middle of a pine forest. Here the tall trees give the tea plants partial shading throughout the day, which makes them sweeter than normal. Some of his best teas are the Matcha tea Noike, a smooth okumidori matcha and the Hojicha Noike, a roasted tea with notes of sweet caramel and chocolate.
Mr. Sakamoto is a talented farmer in Southern Japan that focuses on the production of Gyokuro, the most sought after leaf tea in Japan.
While most Gyokuro farmers use pesticides and chemicals to keep the tea plants alive during their long shading process, Mr. Sakamoto has been growing tea organically since 1985.
Before you learn how to make green tea taste good, you also need to know what flavors you like. If you prefer these warmer coffee-like flavors of a tea like the kuki hojicha, you may not enjoy these strong, grassy flavors of the sencha golden kasugaen. If you are interested in seeing how certain teas compare to others in terms of flavors, you can check out our flavor chart on the website.
If you are struggling with how to make green tea taste good, you may have not yet found the right type. Certain teas like Gyokuro and matcha tend to be very polarizing and people tend to either love or hate them. Other teas like hojicha and genmaicha tend to be well-liked but just about everyone. Make sure you are exploring different types of green teas and making a note of which ones you like and don’t like.
When you are selecting teas, you will also want to be on the lookout for pricing. Of course you don’t want to select a tea that is out of your budget, but at the same time you don’t want to get one that is too cheap. If you are selecting the cheapest matcha you can find for example, you are likely to end up with some poor quality, super bitter tea.
It is important to do some quick mental math in your head when calculating the price. If the price is $20 for 100 grams, and you use 5 grams of tea for a kyusu teapot, that means you are paying $1 per pot of tea. The leaves can then be used 2-3 more times, so you are really paying around 30 cents or less per cup of tea. This makes it much easier to understand pricing, and it can be very helpful when you are shopping for teas.
You also will want to be on the lookout for cultivars. There are two reasons why this is important. First of all, with specificity comes transparency. Companies should know which cultivar their tea comes from, and if they don’t this means that they are either sourcing it from multiple locations or that they are not getting the tea direct from source.
The second reason is that cultivars tend to share similar taste characteristics, just like wine varietals. If you know that you prefer okumidori tea, for example, you may also like different types of teas from the okumidori cultivar. Once you know what you prefer, it will be much easier to pick teas out even when you can’t try them in person.
9. How to Brew a Green Tea that taste good
Now that we’ve covered how to buy a green tea that tastes good, let’s talk a little bit about how to make green tea taste good. Here we will go through the basic brewing instructions you can follow every time you make a green tea.
A. Choose the right quantity of Green Tea
When preparing a cup of Japanese green tea, you need to make sure you get the quantity right. This we like to refer to as the “leaf to water ratio” because it is about more than just the amount of leaves, its about the relationship between the leaves and the water. We like to recommend a ratio of 5 grams of tea leaves to 150ml of water. This works for just about every Japanese green tea, but you can use more leaves if you like richer, more concentrated cups of tea.
B. Grab the right teaware for your Green Tea
When you are preparing Japanese green tea, it is important to use the right tools. The best tool for preparing the tea is the clay kyusu teapot. This teapot allows the leaves more space to open up and release their flavor into the water, and it has a built-in filter that filters out the leaves automatically as you pour.
The teapot also has a side handle which serves two important functions. First, it is hollow so it remains cool to the touch, even when there is hot water inside the teapot itself. This makes it easier to pour without burning your hands. The second benefit is that it allows you to pour out the tea using more refined movements. All it takes is just a simple turn of the wrist to pour out the tea.
C. Warm-up the water but don't boil it
Another important component to consider when beginning your tea journey is how to heat up the water. The most basic way to do this is to heat it up in a pan, although it is likely worth the investment in an electric water heater. These can heat the water up a lot faster than a pan, and because they are so affordable, they will likely pay for themselves in no time.
Once you start making tea everyday, it will probably be worthwhile investing in an electric kettle that has temperature control, otherwise you can simply use a cheaper thermometer and switch the kettle off when it gets to the right temperature.
If you have a water filter at home, definitely use filtered water when you brew your tea. Unfiltered water can contain minerals like calcium and magnesium that can really affect the flavor of the tea. You should notice a difference right away when you switch to using filtered water, and it will really allow you to pick up on some of the more subtle notes of the tea.
D. Let your Green tea infuse
Once you have put the tea leaves into the teapot and poured the water in, there is nothing left to do but wait. This should only take one minute for most Japanese green teas. The important thing is to leave the teapot undisturbed during the brewing. If you move it around, you will agitate the tea leaves and release some of their bitterness into the water.
F. It's tea time, cheers!
Now that you have learned how to make green tea taste good, it is time to enjoy! Pour out the tea into your favorite glass and have a nice tasting. Remember, don’t throw your leaves out after just one brewing.
You can reuse the tea leaves 2-3 more times with a brewing time of 20 seconds each. An important part of the tea preparation process is watching how the flavor evolves from brewing to brewing. Some people even prefer the later brewings of the tea, claiming that they have more flavor to them.
Why does green tea taste bitter?
As we mentioned before, catechins are the antioxidants in green tea that give it the bitter flavor. While a small amount of bitterness can really round out the taste of a green tea, in a larger quantity it can completely take over the taste of the tea and ruin it. As a result, one of the keys to how to make green tea taste good is to reduce the amount of bitterness.
10. Easy ways to improve bitterness of green tea
I. Switch to loose leaf tea
The is no better change you can make than switching from teabags to loose leaf tea. Once you make the switch, you will not only notice an improvement in flavor, but you will also have access to much more variety. Teabags are made out of very low quality leaves and they tend to be extremely bitter. If you want a sweeter tea, try out some premium loose leaf green tea instead!
II. Steep with cooler water
Using cooler water is probably the easiest way to reduce the bitterness in your green tea. You can even try cold brewing your tea for a rounder, sweeter flavor. This method will not work with low quality teabag tea, so make sure you get some good loose leaf tea to experiment on.
III. Add less leaves
If you use too much tea, it can also create a more bitter flavor. More leaves in the pot means more catechins to extract, so if you prefer using a higher leaf to water ratio, you have to be extra careful with your brewing parameters.
IV. Don’t over-brew
Of course the longer you brew the tea, the more catechins you will extract. This isn’t so much of a problem when it comes to cold brewing, but even at a temperature of 140 degrees, you can make the tea bitter if you brew it too long. Make sure to respect the brewing time, and you’ll get less bitterness in your cup.
V. Drink while it’s still hot
One of the best things about Japanese green teas is that it is ready to drink right away. When you prepare tea with hotter water, you have to wait for it to cool down but with Japanese green tea, it tends to come out of the teapot at just the right temperature. Try and drink it right away because if there are any leaf particles in the tea, they can “brew” inside the teacup and make the tea more bitter overtime.
VI. Turn it into a latte
Some people just don’t like the taste of plain matcha, and that’s okay! If matcha lattes are your path forward into the world of tea, that is no problem. The important thing is that you are enjoying tea and discovering the unique flavors. Overtime, you may find that you need less and less sweetener as your taste buds change. It’s all part of the journey!
11. Choose the Best Tasting Green Teas
Here are a list of the different Japanese green teas you might like.
Gyokuro is shaded for 3 weeks before the harvest to really maximize the sweet flavor. This tea has a strong savory or brothy characteristic to it, as well as a thick mouthfeel. The tea is high in caffeine and theanine, making it a great source of energy for the morning time.
Sencha is the most popular type of green tea in Japan, making up 70% of the total consumption. This tea is also the broadest category, encompassing different shading and steaming methods and completely different flavor profiles. This tea has a medium to high caffeine content, and a nice vegetal flavor.
#3 Kabuse Sencha
Kabuse sencha is a long shaded sencha tea, somewhere in between a sencha and a gyokuro. This tea has less of these brothy and savory notes compared to gyokuro, but a lot more of this light sweetness vs a typical sencha. If you are a fan of lighter and sweeter teas without bitterness, this is a good one to go for.
Tencha refers to long shaded tea leaves that have had their stems removed. This is almost never used in its loose leaf form, but rather it is ground up to make matcha.
#5 Ceremonial Matcha
Ceremonial Matcha is made from ground up tencha leaves and it is the only tea that is still prepared in this powdered form. This tea has become famous for its use in the Japanese tea ceremony, where it is prepared according to a strict set of rules and principles. Like gyokuro, this tea can have an intense savory flavor, and even some tasting notes of seaweed, which some tea drinkers really enjoy. Matcha tea also has a very high caffeine content, which is why many people use it as a substitute to coffee.
Shincha is the first tea to be harvested in the spring of each year. Like gyokuro, matcha and sencha, his tea is made from the top buds and sprouts of the tea plant, which are the richest in nutrients and the sweetest in flavor. This tea has a nice balance between these sweet and tart flavors that are typical for a Japanese green tea.
Hojicha is a roasted tea, and even though the color of the leaves and the liquid make it look more like a black tea, it is actually a type of green tea. Unlike other Japanese green teas, the tasting notes fall more on these warmer notes of coffee, caramel or chocolate. This tea can be quite enjoyable, especially during the colder months.
Kukicha is a tea made from the stems and leaves of the tea plant. The stems give the tea a lower caffeine content and a mild, hay like flavor. If the stems and leaves come from a shaded tea plant, the tea is considered to be a karigane, which has a sweeter flavor, with these pleasant floral notes.
While most Japanese green teas are made from the younger tea leaves, bancha is made from the older tea leaves and stems of the tea plant. These more mature leaves are lower in caffeine, higher and minerals and they give a much more earthy or woody flavor to the tea. The flavor of this tea pairs quite well with mixed nuts and popcorn, and it can be a good tea to drink with or after a meal to help with digestion.
Genmaicha is made by combining green tea leaves with roasted rice. The roasted rice lowers the caffeine content and adds a nice starchy or cereal flavor to the green tea. This tea began as a way to make peoples tea supplies last longer, but now it is beloved all around the world.
Kamairicha is a rare pan-fired Japanese green tea. This tea is partially roasted, making the flavor somewhere in between a sencha and a hojicha. This pan-firing technique is more common with Chinese green teas, but in a few areas around Japan, it is still made using this method. This technique makes the flavor of kamairicha more similar to that of a Chinese green tea.
Congratulation! You know How to make a green tea that taste good
Now that you have made it through this entire guide, you should have an idea of how to make green tea taste good. Before you go, we have a few last words for you.
1. Taste is subjective
Nobody knows your taste better than you. While it is helpful to follow guides like this, you know better than we do when it comes to what tea tastes good to you. Make sure you are following your own taste buds and sticking to things that you know you enjoy rather than what others tell you that you should enjoy.
2. Always read, apply and respect the manual
Just like with any skill, there is a combination of study and practice that is on going. It’s important for you to try this all out for yourself, but also keep on reading about tea, how to prepare it and where it comes from. You’ll find that it can be a fun and rewarding hobby.
3. Never stop testing
There is so much variety in the world of tea and the best thing you can do is start exploring. If you are brand new to tea, start out with the bare necessities and continue upgrading along the way. Your tea journey will be an on-going one, with a lot of experimentation along the way. Don’t be shy to try new things or to make mistakes, eventually you will find the tea and the routine that works best for you.
When you are ready to upgrade and truly experience the world of tea, it is best to start with a sampler so you can try a variety of teas and see which you like most. We offer a few samplers on our website where you can experience all the different teas we have found during our travels around Japan. These are produced with love and care by the dozens of talented farmers we have the great privilege of working with.