Tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world, and green tea, in particular, is one of the most consumed varieties, alongside black tea. Green tea has been appreciated for centuries in the Far East, and there it has been characterized as one of the most sophisticated teas you can try. Green tea is a cultural statement, a part of a tradition in many countries and today it is available for everyone to enjoy. Unfortunately, people seem to be satisfied with low-grade green tea for some reason, completely unaware that the store-bought tea is not even close to what this beverage should look, taste and smell like. And we think it is high time that changed.
If you’re one of those people who buy their green tea at a store in the mall, which by the way comes in tea bags, then this article is for you. You should be drinking the best green tea possible because that is the real deal. Everything else, bagged tea or detox green tea blends are simply cheap versions of this famous tea. Did we mention that commercially available green tea is made from the loose-leaf green tea dust and fanning? That is why we’ve decided to present you with some thorough information regarding green tea, and we’ve also compiled a list of the best green tea varieties and brands you should be buying. So, let’s get brewing!
Green Tea Overview
Green tea is a variety that comes from the Camellia sinensis tea plant. The tea leaves are dried and undergo unique processing stages which result in exceptional green tea varieties. The same tea plant is used to create other teas, like white, black or Oolong, but these teas undergo different processing stages. Green tea, on the other hand, undergoes additional drying stages to halt oxidization and preserve the green, leafy appearance. Because green tea doesn’t undergo oxidization, it has high antioxidant levels, caffeine and overall numerous healthy compounds and properties.
Speaking of health benefits, green tea is often hailed as one of the healthiest tea choices, and an excellent alternative to other sweetened or caffeinated drinks. Because of its components, green tea is incredibly healthy and can inhibit the development of numerous diseases. The compounds found in green tea include catechins which have anti-tumor, anti-cancer, fat-reducing, anti-viral and other functions, as well as flavonoids, vitamins (C, B, E), minerals, theanine, etc. Green tea is effective in treating hypertension, inflammations, infections, colds, stress, etc. However, these properties are only provided by high-quality, loose-leaf tea. The green tea in tea bags doesn’t contain nor does it release any of these functional components.
Origin and Variety
Nowadays, numerous countries embark on the green tea production adventure. You can buy or order green tea from wherever you want. However, only a few countries can really guarantee the exceptional quality of their green tea. Countries like China and Japan are globally known as the producers of the best green tea. High-quality green tea can also be found in India and Sri Lanka as of lately (Ceylon tea has been recognized as one of the best in the world). Now, it is important to know that green tea is never really the same and that it differs and varies from region to region. In China, for example, you can find hundreds of green tea varieties and all differ in regards to the region and Province where they’re grown. Moreover, manufacturing style changes as well, as some of the green tea is rolled into tight pellets or pearls/balls, loosely rolled or twisted into threads, and some are just cut or blended with dried flowers, herbs or spices. Green tea is divided according to numerous factors and manufacturing is definitely one of them. That is why there are over 200 green tea varieties, that include Gunpowder, Imperial, Hyson, etc.
How to Choose the Best Green Tea?
Knowing how to choose the best green tea yourself can be rather difficult. There are a lot of things you should know and look out for when purchasing your tea batch. Therefore, we wanted to make things easier for you and present you with the most important tips on buying green tea, online or in-person;
- Trusted tea supplier – buying green, or any tea for that matter, from a trusted and professional supplier, is extremely important. This will not only guarantee the quality of your tea, but also the price and quality consistency. Regardless of whether you’re going for online or local purchase, it is important to check the supplier for certification, fair trade, and ethical tea partnership, as well as for quality and tea origin guarantee.
- Origin of the tea – when purchasing green tea, it is always important to check for its origin. Some tea sellers tend to sell low-grade, cheap green tea as it was high-grade and expensive, claiming it originates from countries like China or Japan. Luckily, every trustworthy tea supplier will have a certain quality and origin certification for showcase and proof their tea is high-quality and originating in green-tea producing countries. If you insist on such proof and information on origin and processing, and you don’t get answers, then you should not be buying your green tea from that seller/shop or company.
- Appearance and color – when buying green tea, there are several things you need to pay special attention to; the color, the leaves and the freshness of the tea. The color of high-quality green tea should be, well, green. Because green tea does not undergo oxidization, it should retain its green color. Because the oxidization process is halted, the leaves do not turn brown or black, like they do in black tea. Therefore, if you’re buying green tea, and it is dark in color, step away as you are being sold low-grade tea that might not even be green tea in the first place. Green tea should usually be olive green, either curled, twisted or shaped into tight pearls/balls.
- Loose-leaf green tea – high-quality green tea always comes in loose-leaf form. Green tea that comes in tea bags is low-grade, low-quality tea that is made from the actual loose-leaf tea leftovers, dust and fannings. Loose-leaf green tea provides an exceptional, superior taste that is not bitter or astringent like the bagged tea is. Loose-leaf tea is also healthier and the most potent source of EGCG (catechins).
- Organic green tea – green tea is usually enhanced and protected in cultivation and production by the use of pesticides and fertilizers. These don’t have to mean that the tea is low in quality, but still should be avoided for health reasons. So, make sure the tea you buy is not contaminated by these chemicals. Buying simple, organic green tea should be easy since many tea sellers and companies emphasize when their tea is organic and when it is not. Most of the time, though, organic green tea is more expensive.
- First-flush green tea – ‘flush’ is also known as the plucking season of the tea. The first flush tea is considered to be of the highest quality, as the leaves are the youngest, most flavorful. The first flush takes place in the springtime, between February and May. So, when buying tea, make sure to check whether it is the first flush, as this might indicate its quality directly.
- Green tea commercial blends – when buying green tea, you might come across varieties which include other herbs and spices; there are green tea varieties with (allegedly) lemon, ginger, honey, etc. You should avoid buying these green tea products since they basically do not even contain green tea, as the spices are used to mask that fact. Stick to plain green tea, or if you want to buy a blend, check with trusted tea sellers where tea blends are specially taken care of.
Best Green Tea and Brands to Buy 2020
1. Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea is a traditional Japanese green tea variety. It is completely unique, especially when it comes to its appearance. Unlike other green tea that comes in the whole-leaf form, Matcha green tea comes in the powder form. The reason for that lies in the fact that the tea is made from finely ground, high-quality green tea leaves. The best Matcha is made from leaves that were harvested young (first flush), but it can also be made from more mature, late-season leaves. When it comes to Matcha quality, it is important to know that there are three main grades; Ceremonial Matcha (highest grade and best quality), standard Matcha (high quality), and cooking grade Matcha (low quality, mature leaves, intended for cooking). The taste of high-quality Matcha is delicate and vegetal, and the color is usually a very vibrant and bright green. If your Matcha has a darker green shade, chances are it is not good. Here are the best tea brands we recommend you buy your Matcha from;
- Encha Ceremonial Pure Organic Matcha– we recommend you start your Matcha journey with organic, high-grade Matcha. Encha is a brand that provides probably the best Matcha on the market; it is made from premium quality leaves that were turned into a finely ground and smooth powder. The color of the powder is a vibrant green, and the taste is incredibly rich and delicate. The price of this Matcha $22.95 per 30g.
Sencha is the most popular tea in Japan, as it accounts for 80% of tea production in this country. Unlike Matcha, where the powder is mixed with hot water, Sencha whole leaves are steeped in hot water. This green tea has an exceptionally unique flavor, and is incredibly healthy; Sencha can have anti-cancer activity and can boost the immune system in no time due to a high concentration of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. There are also many Sencha varieties you can choose from; the varieties differ in the steaming time and process (Sencha processing stages), as well as in flavor profile and aroma. The best-known Sencha varieties include Futsu Mushi, Fukamushi-cha, Kabuse-cha, Gyokuro, etc. Here’s the brand we recommend you buy your best Sencha green tea from;
- High-Grade Crude Sencha Green Tea – Gokuzyo Aracha – this brand provides Sencha green tea that has been harvested and produced in Japan. The tea is made from properly selected, high-quality leaves that were hand-picked by the trained masters themselves. The freshly harvested leaves have been steamed right away, and then dried. Because of this, the leaves are gentle, elegant and the flavor profile is very intense, delicate and overall very unique. The price of this Sencha is currently $29.99 for 3.5 oz.
3. Gunpowder Chinese Green Tea
Gunpowder is a form of Chinese green tea known for its unique appearance. The leaves of this tea are rolled into small, tight pellets that actually resemble grains of gunpowder, hence the name. The tea also has a bold, smoky taste, which also leads to its name. Gunpowder is one of the oldest green tea varieties, dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Nowadays, Gunpowder is recognized as one of the best quality green tea; the smaller the pellets, the higher the quality. The pellets can be rolled by hand (which usually increases the price), but also by a machine. Either way, this green tea very special. Its main varieties include Pingshui, Formosa and Ceylon Gunpowder, as these are the highest in quality and have characteristic flavor and aroma profile. Gunpowder yields a full-bodied cup of tea, that is earthy, nutty and smoky. The color of the brew is usually of a rich honey-amber color, while the pellets themselves are of deep green color. Here’s where you can buy the best Gunpowder tea;
- Teavivre Organic Gunpowder Green Tea (Zhu Cha)– this brand provides Chinese Gunpowder green tea that has been handpicked from the Fujian tea plantations and Wuyang tea garden. It is a rich Gunpowder variety, that is slightly smoky in flavor and aroma, and leaves a sweet and pleasant aftertaste. The color of the brew is clear, light-yellow, which indicates excellent quality. This makes it perfect for people who are just starting out their Gunpowder adventure. This brand also provides organic Gunpowder, so you don’t have to fear that the tea has been covered in pesticides or fertilizers. The price of this Gunpowder tea is currently $9.90 for 3.5 oz.
4. Longjing or Dragon Well Green Tea
Longjing, also known as Dragon Well is Chinese, pan-roasted green tea. This green tea is mostly produced by hand and is globally appreciated for its exceptional, consistent quality. The tea usually has very gentle and sweet flavor and aroma, and after the infusion, you can actually eat the tea leaves. Dragon Well is also recognized for its health benefits and high concentration of catechins, amino acids, and Vitamin C. Because of all these properties, Dragon Well green tea can be rather expensive, however, the prices do vary in accordance to variety and grade. The best way to recognize high-quality Dragon Well is by looking at the leaves; high-quality Dragon Well leaves are uniform in appearance, shape, and color; low-quality Dragon Well has varieties in color, shape, and shade of green after the infusion. So you don’ have to worry about the quality, here’s where you can purchase the best Dragon Well green tea;
- Adagio Dragon Well Green Tea – Agadio is a brand that is known for its high-quality, organic tea. Their Dragon Well is probably one of the best on the market. It originates from Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province in China. The tea is high in quality, which can be seen in the appearance of the tea, as well as the wonderful and smooth taste and aroma. This Dragon Well can be described as having sweet, rounded flavor with hints of freshly roasted white corn. It has a buttery, nutty texture and a pleasant, dry finish. The price of this tea starts at $24 for 3oz and $74 for 16 oz.
More Tips on Buying the Best Green Tea
Here are some other tips you should be aware of when buying green tea;
- Check whether the company or tea seller offer samples – the majority of tea selling businesses offer tea samples for incredibly low prices. If you’re not sure which green tea is for you, you can simply order a bunch of samples before making the final decision. The usual sample size is 20g per pack, and the prices can go anywhere from 2 to 8 dollars, depending on the seller.
- Check the reviews, but DON’T trust them – sometimes the tea reviews can be misleading. People rate tea, just like they rate everything else, according to our own taste and quality preferences. Tea reviews are incredibly subjective, so you should really take them with a grain of salt.
- Check the company (policy) reviews, and DO trust them – if the customers are complaining about the company and its policy, chances are they’re right. When the reviews tackle the poor tea quality, late arrival or poor packaging, those are the red flags showing that you should not be buying your tea from that company. These are signs that the company is not a reliable, trusted tea supplier, and that the chances of you having the same experience are pretty high.
- Go for the small, family businesses – large tea companies, rumor has it, usually provide bulks and collections of hundred different teas. This usually means that they care about quantity and profit, instead of quality and satisfied customers. Small, family business, on the other hand, are more likely to sell few, but premium and high-quality green, or any other teas, so make sure to keep this in mind.
Green tea is an exceptional beverage and it should be treated as such. By buying cheap, bagged green tea you are not able to experience green tea in its full glory. Therefore, make sure to choose your favorite green tea wisely, by following our guidelines and brand recommendations. Surely, you can check other brands, or buy locally, but make sure to know what you’re looking for. We always recommend you start your green tea adventure by ordering samples, so make sure to also do that. And there you have it; buying the best green tea has never been easier. We wish you happy brewing and may you enjoy your green tea to the fullest.