How to brew green tea

Tea guide, Tea category, Tea brewing by Mika, 03.07.2020

Of all the tea categories, green tea is the most particular about which temperature you brew it at. Many have been scared away from green tea after tasting a cup that's been brewing too hot or too long, or it was an infuser bag tea which only rarely does justice to green tea's character. And yet, green tea can be tamed!

What's so special about green tea?

Green tea is the only category of tea that usually ends up either overly bitter and/or otherwise bland if you brew it in boiling-hot water, even if you adjust the infusion time to be short enough. The reason for that is that green tea's leaves contain the most flavor components for bitterness and astringency – namely catechins – which extract into the water very fast when the water is boiling-hot. At the same time, green tea's other flavors and aromas are naturally light. It's a stroke of luck, then, that the bitter and astringent components extract slower than the other flavors as the water temperature decreases. This allows us to balance a tea's flavor profile by using water of a specific temperature which varies from one green tea to another. Teas with a more mellow character are good in hotter water.

Brewing temperature guidelines for green teas

  • Chinese green tea: 80–90 °C (176–194 °F)
    • Buds-only teas (as in the article's picture): 80–100 °C (176–212 °F)
    • Big-leaf teas (e.g. maofeng teas and Taiping Houkui): 90–100 °C (194–212 °F)
  • Japanese green tea: 70 °C (158 °F)
    • Sencha and kukicha: 60–80 °C (140–176 °F)
    • Gyokuro: 40–70 °C (104–158 °F)
    • Matcha: 70–80 °C (158–176 °F)
    • Bancha and genmaicha: 80–90 °C (176–194 °F)
    • Houjicha: 90–100 °C (194–212 °F)
  • Korean green tea: 70–80 °C (158–176 °F)
    • Early spring teas such as Sejak and Ujeon: 80–100 °C (176–212 °F)

Do keep in mind that the above guidelines are just one recommendation based on my own observations. There's lots of room for subjectivity and independent exploration in tea, and there may be some outliers within a category.

Other noteworthy notes

The usual brewing time for green tea is 2 minutes, assuming that the dosage is 1–1½ grams of leaf per 100 ml of water. The average Chinese and Korean green tea from TeeMaa weighs 1–1½ grams per teaspoon, and Japanese teas weigh 2 grams per teaspoon. There are individual differences.

Japanese and Korean teas work very well with a slightly heavier dosage of leaves (2–3 g/100 ml), which can shorten the brewing time even to under one minute in the first two infusions. Chinese green tea is also good in gongfu style (3–4 g/100 ml, very short infusions). It's good to raise the brewing temperature (e.g. by 10 °C/18 °F) and brewing time (e.g. by 30–60 seconds) by the third infusion at latest, so that the leaves will still give enough flavors. The last infusion can even be made with boiling-hot water.

A variable temperature electric kettle is a useful tool indeed for green tea, but in its absence, you can get around 80 °C (176 °F) water when you pour 1 part cold water and then 3 parts boiling-hot water into your brewing vessel.

Text written by Mika Hannola

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