Green Tea- Fixing Bitterness, learning to brew properly

Green Tea in taster Cups

Green Tea- Fixing Bitterness, learning to brew properly.

Don’t be surprised, you are not the only one who has struggled to love green tea because it tastes bitter. Or perhaps it doesn’t? Let’s do a tea tasting session shall we? In this session I will explain you on how to steep a perfect cup of green tea without bitterness.

This content is divided into the following sections for better knowledge sharing:

  1. How does green tea leaf taste like?
  2. How is green tea supposed to taste like?
  3. Why do must people struggle to like green tea?
  4. Factors that determine a good cup of green tea
  5. Tea tasting session: How to fix the bitterness and find the taste that your palate likes?

Okay, lets begin with the first topic:

How does green tea leaf taste like?

Tea leaves

Here, I am talking about the leaf from the tea plant. Growing up, we had a small tea garden in our backyard where we used to play and knowingly or unknowingly, I caught a habit of picking young tea leaves and chewing them. Perhaps the caffeine got me hooked but I liked the taste of the green leaves. So, how does it taste like? A young shoot of Green Tea leaf tastes very lightly earthy and floral. If you chew a grown-up tea leaf then it will be more earthy and strong, perhaps most palate cannot handle it. But the young leaves which actually make good green tea, they are very delightful to chew, yet won’t give the same taste that processed tea does. It is because the polyphenols are not fully released.

How is green tea supposed to taste like?

 

Tough question isn’t it. And frankly those who are habituated to drinking teas from the tea bag will not know. It is because tea bags contain lower grade teas. The problem with mass manufactured tea bags is that they mostly contain tea dust, the lowest grade residue from tea production. These teas go bitter pretty quickly because they quite quickly release the tannins and steeping time for these is very short.

  • Good green teas on the other hand, they taste lightly earthy and if these teas are made from young shoots and manufactured with proper technique, they will have some floral taste and they will give a sweet after taste after 10-15 seconds of every sip.
  • You will be able to feel that on the bottom of the tongue and on the roof of the mouth, this is called palate.

Why do must people struggle to like green tea?

Fact being told, not everyone will love green tea. Health benefits aside, green teas obviously have the residue of the earthy taste. If you don’t like earthy/vegetal or grassy taste, you might not like most green teas. Most people struggle to like green tea. Secondarily, not all people know how to steep tea properly. I am not just talking about green tea, but tea in general.  Steeping green tea is tricky. Those who drink bagged green tea to reap the health benefits, are not fully enjoying what pleasant tea drinking experience green teas can give.

Factors that determine a good cup of green tea

There are basically two factors that determine a good cup of green tea. First is:

  1. Selection of good loose leaf green tea
  2. Implementing proper brewing technique
  1. Selection of good loose leaf green tea

If you are familiar with how good and flavorful teas are made, you already know that two leaf and a bud tea from a young plant grown at higher elevations yield good teas. Now the plant species also determines the taste of the tea. In case of lighter teas, the Chinese variety plant, which comes from young plantation at higher altitudes give flavorful tea leaves which are transformed into good teas. The teas should have more shoots/tips and should be fuller in leaf. Once you steep the tea, remaining leaves will show their true origin/nature.

 2. Implementing proper brewing techniques

If you really want to enjoy drinking green tea, you will have to learn proper brewing techniques. Best if you have a steeping tea pot and a ceramic glass. A good steeping pot made up of clay ensures that the tea is infused properly, without the water losing temperature. A proper infusion ensures release of essential tea oils, which contribute to the aroma and the taste of the teas.

There are two crucial aspects of this. The first being temperature and the second being time. After all, preparing food and drinks is chemistry.

Broadly speaking, different types of teas require different steeping temperatures. This information comes from best practices from all cultures gathered over hundreds of years.

  • For green tea water temperature of 85-90 degrees is suggested as the ideal temperature to steep the tea.
  • Every tea is unique, and every palate is unique. That is why, steeping time needs to be regulated.

 Tea tasting session: How to fix the bitterness and find the taste that your palate likes.

Okay, now we are there! The tea tasting session. I will explain step by step along with some pictures.

Step 1: Gather your tea pot and cup.

Ideal pot to steep green tea is a ceramic or clay pot. I prefer ceramic because it prohibits the taste of material of the pot itself to leech in and also limits the loss of heat during steeping. Also grab a cup or cups depending upon how many people you are trying to serve. I suggest getting some (X3) small glasses to taste the steeped teas at certain time differences.

Step 2: Select your loose leaf or specialty Green Tea

As I have mentioned before, good teas are made up of good raw leaves. In this session, I have used “Himalayan Pearl Specialty Tea”.

Step 3: Measure the tea

In this case, I have used around 4 grams of Pearl Tea per cup of green tea. Check for suggested amount on the information provided on the website or the packages.

Step 4: Boil water in a Pot

Use a separate pot to boil the water. Always use fresh water.

Step 5: Pour the boiled water into a cup and let it cool down

We have to do this so that the water temperature drops below 90 degrees. In order to do that you will have to leave the water on the cup for around 2 minutes.

Step 6: Add the tea leaves to the pot

Add the tea leaves to the tea pot, add water and cover the tea pot.

Step 7: The tasting begins

Run the timer on the side, after 1.5 minutes pour a small amount of tea on your taster. Repeat the same action in 2.5 and 3 minutes. You can actually start sampling on 1 minutes and on the every 30 second mark, more the intervals better it is. Anyways for this session, ensure that you pour the left over tea immediately after 3 minutes. 

Now, to taste the tea, first clean your mouth with some fresh water. Sip the first taster cup, and make a swirl action with your tongue in your mouth. What you are looking for is light earthy taste. Some green teas like “Himalayan Pearl” are also floral. After 30 seconds of tasting, you should be able to feel the sweet after taste of the tea.  Repeat the process with each taster cup.

In this case (during my tasting session):

  • Tea Poured on 1.5 minutes was light, but gave that earthy taste, no sweet after taste

  • Tea poured on 2.5 minutes was fully developed, had earthy and floral taste, gave a sweet after taste

  • Tea Poured on 3.5 minutes mark was bitter, strongly earthy, also gave the sweet after taste.

So from the above tasting, I can conclude that best steeping time for Himalayan Pearl for my palate is 2.5 minutes. This technique ensures that you do not over steep the green tea and the tea is always upto your liking.

Step 8: Check the quality of the leaves

At the end of each steeping session, it is a good practice to check the quality of loose leaf. See how the tea leaves have unfurled. The tea leaves below shows a shoot and a leaf. This is how a good whole loose leaf tea looks like.

 I hope this blog gave you some information about  green tea and how to fix bitterness by learning to brew properly. Have a great tea journey!

 

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Bhaskar Dahal

2nd Gen Tea Entrepreneur

Founder and C.E.O, Nepal Hills Tea Inc. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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