Whether you’re a green tea novice or a seasoned expert, the world of tea holds an undeniable allure.
The aroma, flavor, and visual aspects of green tea combine to create hundreds of exciting possibilities to explore, allowing you to engage in ancient traditions from around the planet as you sip your cup of tea. There’s nothing quite like green tea flavor!
If you feel overwhelmed by all the options, or are unsure which is healthiest, you’ve come to the right place. You don’t need a Ph.D to find and enjoy the best cup of green tea–our experts have contributed their knowledge to help you discover your favorites.
And if you aren’t quite sure of the best way to prepare loose leaf green tea, look no further. Each of our suggestions includes guidance to enhance your experience, so you can become the ultimate teamaker! (Spoiler: always use hot water, NOT boiling!)
What is Green Tea?
Green tea is a “true” tea, meaning it comes from the tea plant, Camellia sinensis. (This same plant also produces black tea, white tea and oolong!) Along with the many different strains of the tea plant, varieties of green tea differ on the basis of growing conditions, cultivation methods, time of harvest, and processing. And yes, pure green tea is caffeinated, though some decaffeinated (“decaf”) versions exist.
The primary tasting notes of green tea leaves are savory, spicy, fruity, floral, and vegetal. Specific strains of tea can range from sweet, floral, and fruity, to vegetal and smoky, earthy or nutty.
In the tea-drinking tradition, smell, texture, and appearance are equally important to flavor, so be sure to engage all of your senses to enjoy your tea fully.
And when you drink green tea, remember to also pay attention to how it makes you feel, both during and after the experience. Different varieties of tea leaves can vary greatly in their stimulating or relaxing qualities, partly due to different caffeine content. You’re also likely to enhance your experience of drinking green tea if you stick to certified organic green tea brands.
How Do You Prepare Green Tea?
Green tea is a fantastic choice if you want to explore new taste sensations, but you’ll want to steer clear of these common mistakes:
- Using excessive temperatures
- Steeping loose leaf tea for too long
- Expecting low-quality green tea bags to yield high-quality tea
When you brew green tea, excessive heat or over-steeping will result in a bitter, tannin-rich tea. An instant digital probe thermometer and a simple kitchen timer are valuable tools when you’re brewing tea!
You can achieve the correct water temperature by boiling the water, then pouring it into a separate tea pot and resting it for a few minutes before adding your tea leaves.
The higher the tea grade, the lower the temperature should be, generally speaking. High-quality tea, brewed properly, is not bitter.
As a rule of thumb, steep your tea between 145 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 62-82 degrees Celsius) for one to three minutes. The length of steeping varies from tea to tea (covered in the next section) but you can experiment to find your favorite duration.
Finally, most varieties of bagged green tea you find in the grocery store will not yield high-quality tea. The small bags constrict the tea leaves during steeping, and they usually contain lower-quality, machine-processed tea leaves. Also you want to stick to green tea blends that have natural flavors only, no preservatives or additives.
For the optimal tea-drinking experience, you’ll want to go with premium loose leaves, or you can try tea crystal sachets as a more convenient option that doesn’t sacrifice any quality. We always recommend sticking to USDA organic tea, so you can be certain there are no pesticides in your cup.
The 8 Best Green Tea Varieties (And How to Prepare Them)
- Japanese Sencha Green Tea
- Matcha Green Tea
- Jasmine Green Tea
- Genmaicha Green Tea
- Gunpowder Green Tea
- Longjing (Dragon Well) Green Tea
- Gyokuro Green Tea
- Mint Green Tea
Sencha is the most popular green tea in Japan, accounting for about 80% of Japanese green tea production. In English, the literal translation is “tea that’s infused in water.”
If you’ve traveled to Japan before, you were probably served this tea at mealtime and during social events. Organic sencha (no additives) is well-loved for its sweet, grassy flavor with undertones of pine and summer fruit.
Most sencha is steamed briefly during processing, resulting in a yellow color and a vibrant flavor. Varieties of sencha that are steamed longer tend to have a dark color, with bold earthy flavors.
To make sencha from loose leaves, try steeping it at 170-175 degrees Fahrenheit (76.5-79.5 degrees Celsius) for one minute. For a mellower flavor, brew it at 165 degrees Fahrenheit (73-74 degrees Celsius) for one and a half minutes.
Matcha is a strong, full-bodied green tea made from specially prepared, finely powdered tea leaves. Most leaves used for making matcha powder are shade-grown, and the powder is labor-intensive to make, so matcha often commands a premium price.
Because you ingest this green tea powder along with the liquid, matcha is unparalleled in its nutritional value. It has an astringent, vegetal initial taste that matures into a smooth, lingering sweetness.
To prepare matcha, add a teaspoon of the powder to three to five ounces of 175 degrees Fahrenheit (79.5 degree Celsius) water in a wide-brimmed bowl and whisk it until it’s well-blended with a foamy upper layer.
Traditional matcha preparation involves a bamboo whisk called a Chasen, but you can use a kitchen whisk or even a spoon if you don’t own a Chasen. Start by whisking slowly from the bottom to break up clumps of matcha, then whisk the top half quickly with “W”-shaped strokes.
When you see foam, it’s ready to sip! For best flavor, drink matcha tea within three minutes.
Here’s our recommendation for the best ceremonial grade matcha:
Pique Sun Goddess Matcha
The world’s purest matcha, crafted to the highest standards of the finest ceremonial grade matcha. Designed for mindfulness. A mug full of zen.
As one of the most famous scented green teas, jasmine green tea first became popular in 17th-century China during the Qing Dynasty. Jasmine green tea is a true tea, but unlike sencha and matcha, it’s a type of flavored green tea. Green tea leaves are infused with the scent of jasmine flowers during oxidation.
The soft, smooth scent and flavor of jasmine green tea is light and grassy, with a lingering floral note. Usually, jasmine blossoms aren’t included in the final product, but in some cases they are. If you want maximum floral flavor, buy green tea with jasmine blossoms included.
Steep jasmine tea for two to four minutes at 175 degrees Fahrenheit (79.5 degrees Celsius). Longer steeping times will yield more jasmine scent and taste.
Here’s our recommendation for a high-quality jasmine green tea:
Pique Jasmine Green Tea
Catechins in full bloom. Clean energy + gut support. Exotic fragrance to transport the senses.
Genmaicha originated centuries ago when Buddhist monks supposedly mixed their green tea with browned rice that was left in the bottom of kitchen cauldrons.
This rich, full-bodied green tea combines tea leaves with popped rice kernels for a unique, toasty flavor.
If you enjoy the taste of coffee, you’ll love Genmaicha. Those with discerning palates may notice that the toasty flavor of the rice can tame the astringent qualities of the tea.
Steep Genmaicha for two minutes in water that’s 175-185 degrees Fahrenheit (79.5 to 85 degrees Celsius).
Gunpowder green tea is a form of Chinese tea where each leaf is rolled into a small pellet. It gets its English name from its resemblance to grains of gunpowder. Another name for gunpowder tea is zhū chá, which translates to “pearl tea.”
Production of gunpowder tea dates back to 7th-century China, during the Tang Dynasty. In the past, individual leaves were hand-rolled, but today only the highest-grade gunpowder tea is rolled by hand. Rolling prevents damage to the leaves during transport and helps them retain their character and flavor longer.
Most gunpowder tea is bold with a slightly smoky flavor and may have pleasing oaky notes as well.
The ideal water temperature for gunpowder green tea is 158-176 degrees Fahrenheit (70-80 degrees Celsius). You can brew it multiple times–one minute for the first and second steep, and longer for the third.
Longjing or Dragon Well tea is the most famous, highest-quality hand-produced green tea from China. It originates from Longjing Village in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province.
While the very best Longjing green tea commands exorbitant prices, you can still find excellent Longjing green tea for affordable prices.
This tea has a mellow, sweet, nutty flavor that contrasts pleasantly with its vegetal undertones and full body. You may notice hints of chestnut and sweet pea as you sip Longjing.
Steep this special tea in water that’s 167-176 degrees Fahrenheit (75-80 degrees Celsius) for one to three minutes.
Gyokuro tea is a shaded green tea variety from Japan. The literal translation of Gyokuro is “jade dew.”
Before harvest, these plants are covered for three to six weeks to boost the production of chlorophyll and other plant nutrients.
This tea is characterized by its bright, flavorful, vegetal tasting notes and creamy body. People also describe Gyokuro as having a “marine” taste resembling a hint of seaweed.
Compared to most green teas, Gyokuro requires a much lower steeping temperature. When you brew it, use water that’s 122-140 degrees Fahrenheit (50-60 degrees Celsius) for a maximum of two to three minutes, or until the leaves unfurl.
Mint green tea is a special variety of flavored green tea. It uses chopped mint to enhance the fragrance and underlying qualities of the tea leaves.
This type of green tea is refreshing and invigorating, with a sweet taste and aroma. (No sweeteners needed!) The mint is both soothing and enlivening, and enhances the stimulating qualities of tea. Without a doubt, mint green tea is one of the most delicious teas for summer, especially when served with ice.
Steep it at 170 degrees Fahrenheit (76.5 degrees Celsius) for one to three minutes, or overnight in cold water for iced tea. Or, for a more convenient alternative, try high-quality organic mint green tea crystals.
Benefits of Green Tea
Now that you know which are the best teas, you might be wondering why you should drink them – especially instead of, say, a cup of coffee? What exactly is green tea good for?
We’ve got a comprehensive guide on the amazing, science-backed health benefits of green tea here. In a nutshell, green tea contains unique polyphenols called catechins. These catechins, including EGCG, are antioxidants that help our bodies fight against free radicals. They play an important role in supporting the health of many of our biological systems.
Whether you’re looking to enhance your wellness or just expand your drinking horizons, maybe a green tea blend sampler should be on your wish list.
Green tea is a beverage like no other. It’s more environmentally friendly than coffee, has just enough caffeine for gentle stimulation, and even offers tea drinkers calming effects thanks to the natural amino acid L-theanine. And the taste of green tea can become quite addicting!
Whether you prefer light and sweet (like sencha), full-bodied and vegetal (like matcha) or bold and smoky (like gunpowder tea), the perfect tea for you awaits your discovery. There are nearly as many varieties of green tea as there are herbal tea!
If you’ve never explored carefully-prepared, high-quality, organic green tea, you’re in for a treat!