Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best green teas

Every variety of tea on store shelves comes from the same species of plant, Camellia sinensis. Green teas are simply the first leaves to be harvested from this shrub in early to mid-spring. Other teas, such as oolong or black, are green teas that have been allowed to oxidize and turn brown, much like a cut apple turns brown after exposure to air.

Green teas are especially prized because they’re the least processed varieties, which means they haven’t lost many of the antioxidants and other healthy compounds tea drinkers seek. One appealing quality of this tea is its subtle but satisfying flavor profile. The gentle brewing process extracts the pleasantly astringent compounds and tannin but not the bitter flavonoids associated with darker teas. The health benefits associated with this type of tea add to its popularity.

There are many choices when it comes to green teas, so both first-time tea drinkers and experienced enthusiasts can benefit from guidance when finding their ideal blend, whether it’s in a tea bag, single-serve pod, sachet, or infuser.

green tea
Drinking a few cups of green tea per day is believed to reduce the chances of a stroke by 14%.

How to buy the best green teas

Health benefits

While green tea does offer a refreshing change from darker teas like orange pekoe and black, many people seek it out because of its perceived health benefits, both in tea form and in beauty products. While some of these claims have yet to be scientifically verified, there are some proven benefits associated with green tea and its extracts.

Because this tea is minimally processed, it still contains a significant amount of antioxidants called catechins. Antioxidants help minimize or even prevent cell damage caused by bacterial and viral infections.

Green tea has also been shown to improve blood circulation and lower blood pressure. Some studies suggest it can reduce the buildup of brain-damaging plaque and also stabilize or lower blood glucose levels.

How is green tea processed?

In the field, tea plantation workers carefully remove the tender green leaves of tea shrubs. These leaves are processed in one of two ways: steaming or pan-firing. Both methods have the same goal of stopping the oxidation process and maintaining the “green” quality of the leaves. Other forms of tea are allowed to ferment and oxidize, which gives them their distinctive brown appearance.

Steaming: Green teas grown in Japan tend to be processed by lightly steaming the leaves within a few hours of harvesting. This halts oxidation and imparts a slightly sweet, vegetal flavor profile.

Pan-firing: Green teas produced in China are often pan-fired by placing the leaves in perforated metal tumblers or pans and roasting them over a dry heat source. The process gives the finished tea an earthy, nutty flavor profile.

Types of green tea

Many green teas found on store shelves are simply marketed as the manufacturer’s brand, such as Twining’s, Lipton, or Bigelow. It would be challenging to determine the country of origin or the processing method of each tea. However, there are some common types sold in loose-leaf form in specialized tea and coffee outlets.

Two popular Chinese pan-fired green teas are Dragonwell, a classic Chinese tea with a unique flavor profile that is rarely duplicated, and Gunpowder, whose leaves have a distinctive figure-eight pattern created from the pan-firing process.

Steam-processed Japanese green teas include the very popular sencha, a variety most often served on a daily basis in Japanese households; hojicha, a fire-roasted version of sencha that contains less caffeine; and genmaicha, a blend that combines sencha with popped rice and is commonly served with meals. Japan’s most treasured green tea is called gyokuro, created by shading the processed green tea leaves to intensify their flavor and color.

green tea
DID YOU KNOW?
The slightly bitter taste of green tea comes from a high level of a natural antioxidant called tannin.
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What features should I look for in green teas?

Flavor profile

The natural flavor of pure green tea is affected by its country of origin, soil quality, time of harvest, processing, and other factors. Many tea enthusiasts prefer to brew loose-leaf tea that hasn’t been modified in any way. However, there are also many flavor profiles for those who want to experiment with other blends, such as the following:

Lemon: One popular choice is lemon honey because it adds a light citrus tone and natural sweetener to the tea.

Mint: This green tea works well as a mood lifter.

Chamomile: This tea is considered a stress reliever.

Tulsi: This herb, also known as holy basil, is often added to green teas, especially blends created in India. Tulsi is believed to contain an abundance of antioxidants and other compounds in the Ayurvedic medicine tradition.

Jasmine: For additional sweetness, a jasmine-infused tea is a great choice.

Packaging

The only way to get the freshest green tea is to pluck the leaves off the tea bush yourself and brew it immediately. Failing that, the leaves need to be packaged to protect them from the damaging effects of light, heat, and oxygen.

Bag: Many green teas destined for grocery store shelves are sold in individual tea bags. The brewing process is straightforward, but the consistency of the leaves is closer to dust and the overall quality is lower.

Pod: Single-serve pods also use lesser-quality tea dust, and the temperature on pod brewers can be difficult to lower, resulting in a less-than-ideal ideal cup.

Loose: The teas sold in specialty tea and coffee outlets provide a better overall product, and they‘re often packaged in small bundles or sachets by the ounce. Brewing loose-leaf green tea can require the use of a tea infuser or tea ball to keep the leaves and water separate.

Green tea leaves are collected during the first harvest in early spring, which makes them highly desirable in terms of quality and processing.

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What accessories do I need with green tea?

Tea infuser

Loose-leaf tea generally yields the most satisfying finished product, but there is a learning curve to brewing it. Placing a measured amount of loose tea leaves in a tea infuser or tea ball is the easiest way to introduce the tea to the water without having to strain out the leaves later.

Electric tea kettle

Reaching and maintaining the ideal water temperature for brewing green tea isn’t easy, and boiling isn’t an option. An electric tea kettle has thermostatic controls that allow you to set and maintain a precise water temperature.

Tea set

The brewing and presentation of green tea is part of traditional ceremonies, and the ritual starts with a proper tea set. A set usually includes a measuring device, storage container, stirrer, ceramic cups, and teapot.

Storage container

Green tea must be stored in a way that minimizes its exposure to oxygen. There are tea canisters, tins, and boxes designed for this specific purpose, often sold in specialty tea and coffee shops. Other types of storage containers can work as long as they protect the tea from light and air.

How much does green tea cost?

Inexpensive

You can find basic green tea and blends on store shelves for $10 or less per box. These tend to be bagged, lower-quality teas whose flavor profiles aren’t known for their complexity. These commercial tea bags or single-serve pods can be a good introduction to green tea, however.

Mid-range

Loose tea sold in specialized coffee and tea outlets is generally sold by the ounce, which means the final cost per package varies. Experienced tea drinkers only purchase a few ounces of loose tea to maintain its freshness. Expect to pay between $10 and $25 for an average package of quality green tea leaves.

Expensive

There are imported and specialty green teas that are exceptionally rare or possess an exceptional amount of medicinal-quality antioxidants or other compounds. Some imported teas are also sold in bulk to restaurants, coffee shops, and retailers. These high-end teas, either loose or bagged, can cost $50 or more per package.

green tea
DID YOU KNOW?
Green tea was not available to the general public until the fourteenth century. It can be traced back nearly five millennia in China.
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Tips

  • Control the water temperature for brewing. Green tea leaves should never be boiled. They brew best in water that is between 158°F and 185°F. An electric tea kettle with a thermostat can help control the water temperature. An instant-read food thermometer is also useful.
  • Note the purchase date. Green tea leaves are best when fresh, which generally means using them within a few months after purchase. Older tea can begin to oxidize and lose its potency, so purchasing smaller amounts that will be consumed within a few months is a good practice.
  • Check the color of the brewed tea. A true green tea should look green, yellow, or light brown in the cup, not clear or dark brown. Some producers may label less-expensive loose tea leaves or tea dust as “green,” but the end result can be oxidized or bitter.
  • Put the green tea in the water. Brewing methods for other types of tea, such as black, oolong, or rooibos, call for pouring the water over the tea leaves, but green tea requires a different approach. The leaves in an infuser, tea sachet, or bag should be added to the water.
green tea
Unlike other forms of tea, such as black or oolong, green tea is dried and steamed, not fermented.

FAQ

Q. I brewed my green tea too long. Is there any way I can fix it?

A. Green tea that is brewed too long can develop some unpleasant bitter notes because of the additional tannins, but you have some options. You can add sugar, ice, and lemon to make iced tea. You can also use green tea to boost the antioxidants in a smoothie. Or you can turn the tea into a hot or cold milk tea by adding milk (or a dairy alternative) and sweetener.

Q. Why do brewing instructions recommend spring or filtered water?

A. Green tea is exceptionally delicate, and the minerals found in hard tap water can extract the compounds that make it too astringent or bitter to enjoy. Spring water doesn’t contain these minerals, and a filter removes the impurities from tap water.

Q. Should I add milk and sugar to hot green tea like I do with hot black tea?

A. Traditionally, green tea is served without milk or sweetener because of its delicate flavor profile. However, some tea drinkers add honey, lemon juice, or a small amount of sweetener to lesser-grade teas to reduce the bitterness.

Q. I have never tried green tea. Should I start with a sampler kit or pick one flavor at a time?

A. Green teas have a complex flavor profile, especially the higher-end loose-leaf varieties. You might want to select one tea that sounds appealing and drink it exclusively for a week to develop a sense of it. A variety of different green teas might be too overwhelming to appreciate fully.

 

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