Have you ever heard someone declare “I hate green tea”? To some of us diehard tea drinkers, this is like saying “I hate air” or “I hate sunshine”. That’s because we know how intricate and rewarding the flavors of a properly steeped green tea can be. We also know that the person making this declaration very likely had some poorly prepared green tea as an early experience and has never gotten over it. Sort of like that perm I got years ago and came out looking like a poodle. (The ammonia smell still makes me cringe whenever I walk past a hair salon.)
There are right ways and wrong ways to steep green teas. It can vary by the type of green tea you’re having and your personal taste. In fact, a bit of experimentation could be needed on your part to get just the right taste from your green teas.
The first error the novice makes is the water temperature. Using boiling water seems to be hard-wired into our brains. Sadly, such high temperatures assault the green tea leaves, taking a sledgehammer of heat to the leaf cells and totally bursting them into what can best be described as a vegetal mess.
The second error is steeping the leaves too long. Some green teas can endure 3 minutes while others need only 30 seconds to a minute. Senchas are usually in the latter category, needing only a short steep time. Hubby and I totally oversteeped one awhile ago and ended up with a vegetal, spinachy, bitter mess. (Not wanting to waste it, we heated more water and simply thinned the tea out. It wasn’t perfect tasting, but it was drinkable.)
Another reason that someone might declare “I hate green tea” could be the green tea he/she had. There are some low-grade green teas out there, and some even get presented as a more high-grade green tea. Gunpowder (160˚ F and 2 minutes steeping) and Chun Mee (175° F and 1 to 2 minutes steeping) are more low-grade, while Dragonwell (180° F and 1 to 3 minutes steeping) and Gyokuro (120-140° F and 90 seconds steeping is recommended) are more high-grade. Proper steeping will bring out the best in each, but there is still a big difference between the low-grade and the high-grade green teas when it comes to aroma and flavor. They will be less bitter, less vegetal, more subtle and more soothing in flavor and aroma.
So, next time you hear someone say “I hate green tea,” let the tea geek in you take over and educate them, perhaps inviting them to a private tasting. But then again, it might be better if she/he remains ignorant so there’s more green tea for the rest of us. Hm… decisions, decisions!
See Jessica Hodges’ article on the difference water quality can make!
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