Rules For Making Green Tea
“Wow, I didn’t realize tea could taste like this!”. It gets me every time, its one of my favorite things to hear. When I send folks home with their new favorite tea I often worry about how that tea is being made. That goes double for green tea. Even though green tea is the most widely consumed tea in China and Japan it’s tricky to brew right. As I write this is the best time of year to enjoy green tea, and I’d like to impart a few rules for making green tea the best way each and every time.
Use Spring Water
I’ll take some heat for being finicky about water but I implore tea lovers everywhere to not overlook this rule. Great tea deserves great water, it’s the medium through which tea expresses itself. Imagine if a museum curator displayed a masterpiece landscape with dim colored lighting in the room. It wouldn’t do justice to the artist who worked on it. Spring water has the right amount of minerals to help accentuate the subtlety and sweetness of tea without drowning it out. Most tap water has far too much in it. Distilled water doesn’t have any minerals which leads to flat tasting tea. Spring water has been called the best water by tea experts going back to the first book about tea. Pick up some local spring water, you’ll notice a difference.
Drink Fresh Green Tea in the Spring and Summer
Always remember that tea is a seasonal drink. Tea harvesting starts as early as March and usually goes through the fall. Green tea processing keeps as much of the fresh flavor as possible. Drinking green tea in the spring lets you experience as much of that fresh but fleeting flavor and aroma as you can. Its also wonderful to look forward to the new crop each year and treat it as a special event. Green tea will slowly change over the year so experience it at its best. There will be other great teas to try in the fall and winter.
(Above: Freshly Brewed 2020 Drunken Meadow)
Use Cooler Water
This idea is one of the earliest tea brewing tips new loose leaf drinkers hear when they start exploring tea beyond the supermarket. It is sometimes accompanied by the myth that green tea is delicate and will be burned by boiling water. It’s true you should use cooler water to make green tea but it’s not because the leaves are being scalded. Hotter water will bring out more of what’s already in tea. If you use boiling water with greens it will bring out too much of the vegetal flavor. If your parents ever overcooked spinach as a kid you’ll know what this means.
Aim for 80C/175F, but don’t be afraid to experiment and find the sweet spot. No thermometer? Try this old trick of pouring boiling water into an unheated cup or pitcher and let it cool down for about a minute. A Yuzamashi is a pitcher designed to cool down boiling water quickly and can be bought from Japanese tea sellers.
Use Teaware That Doesn’t Overheat
Its important to be mindful about how much heat your tea vessel retains between infusions. Clay pots are amazing tools for brewing puer and oolong but keep it away from your green tea. Clay pots are like little ovens that will cook your tea between infusions and contribute to over brewing. When we make Chinese green tea we always use a gaiwan. This simple ceramic is a cup with a wide mouth and a lid used to hold back leaves while pouring out tea. A gaiwan will heat up and cool down quickly by letting heat out of its wide mouth. This design has the added benefit of being perfect for smelling the aroma of your tea as you drink. Well designed Japanese and Korean teapots will also have these qualities.
Check out our fresh 2020 green tea offering!
Barry Donnelly, Tea Wizard, Mad Monk Tea
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