how to brew green tea
Friends, I am very happy to announce that I am officially off the mood swing-y, headache-y, crazy train that was coffee and solidly back on the peaceful and tranquil tea wagon. I love coffee. I love the taste of it, I love the ritual of it, I love the caffeine buzz, but coffee does not love me. When I’m on the juice, I get frequent headaches, my moods are totally unpredictable and I’m exhausted all the time. Since we moved, I’ve been relying on coffee to get me through our long, early morning commute, but the consequence of that has been a return of almost daily headaches, afternoon sleepiness and a general feelings of yuckiness. Coffee is an every-now-and-again drink for me. And it has to stay that way for me to feel strong and healthy. I was actually off coffee for about three years before this recent relapse. And I felt amazing during that time!
Interestingly enough, teas of all kinds (yes, including caffeinated) don’t affect me that same way. I’m not sure what it is about Mr. Coffee Bean, but he and my body just don’t compute. Even decaf coffee makes me feel not so hot. But tea? Teas make me feel strong and healthy. And with study after study proving the healthy benefits of tea—specifically green tea—it’s hard to pass up.
One of the things I loved about coffee is something that thankfully tea-drinking shares—the ritual. Sure, you can just plop a tea bag in your mug and call it a day, but to get really full-bodied and flavorful tea, using a tea pot is the way to go. And, while it takes longer, I feel like there is something really satisfying about the ritual of brewing tea in a tea pot. Also, you get to buy a cute tea pot. Isn’t that motivation enough?
Since many of us Americans aren’t really all that well-versed in tea brewing, I thought I’d share with you guys my method for brewing the perfect cup of green tea.
1. Find your tea.
First things first, you need to get yourself some loose leaf green tea. I really like Gunpowder Green, which is a type of green tea mostly produced in one particular province of China. The tea leaves are rolled into little tiny balls, which helps protect them during transit. When they hit the hot water, they unfurl and release all their tea-y goodness. It’s crazy how much the little pellets expand during steeping.
I get my Gunpowder pellets in the bulk section of our local health food store. I like Gunpowder because it is flavorful, packed full of antioxidants, but not exorbitantly expensive, either. There are some really high-quality green teas (like Sencha and Gyokuro) that are incredible, but at $20+ for a few ounces, they just aren’t realistic for us for daily drinking.
2. Boil your water.
I know a lot of people swear by electric kettles (and we have one) but I love my good ole orange KitchenAid standard kettle and use it almost daily. It’s pretty enough to stay on the stove all the time and on the biggest burner we have, it actually boils more quickly than our electric kettle (gas stoves, for the win). Our tea pot holds five cups of water, which is almost exactly what our tea kettle holds. So I fill up the kettle, and then set it to boil. Once it whistles at me, I turn off the burner. For green tea, you actually don’t want to use boiling water. If you’ve ever had bitter green tea (yuck!) it’s probably because two things happened (1) boiling water was used to brew the tea and/or (2) the brewing time was too long. You’re looking for around 175 degrees. I usually just let my kettle boil, then let it cool off for a few minutes. Sometimes, I’m really on the ball and manage to catch the kettle before it starts to boil.
3. Scald the tea pot.
This step is a little fussy, and I don’t always do it when I’m feeling lazy, but it does really help to keep the tea warm, make it more flavorful and ensure there is no yucky residue in your tea pot. Pour a few tablespoons of the boiling water into your clean tea pot, swirl it around really well and then dump out the scalding water. Your tea pot is now all warm, toasty and ready for your tea.
4. Add your tea.
Most loose leaf green teas (well, most teas in general) require about one teaspoon of loose leaves for each eight ounce cup of water. Our tea pot holds five cups which means I put in five teaspoons of loose leaf tea. Into the pot the leaves go! Since the amount does vary slightly based on the tea variety, make sure to look up your particular kind to get the exact ratio of leaves to water.
5. Pour in your water.
By now, your water should be cooled to the right temperature. Go ahead and pour it into the teapot. This is the fun part if you’re using Gunpowder pellets because the pellets start to unfurl and move and swirl! That’s one of the major bonuses of using a tea pot—the tea leaves get breathing room and space to do their thing, instead of being confined to a bag or small strainer ball. I think there is a noticeable difference in the flavor (and I’ve heard the tea pot helps the tea release more antioxidants). Once your pot is full, put the lid on, but don’t step too far away.
Green tea is a finicky little guy. Just a little bit too long brewing and it goes bitter. You only want your green tea to brew between 45 seconds and one minute. Pretty much by the time I’ve got the mugs out of the cupboard and the tea strainer out, it’s ready to pour. If you’re not into living on the edge like I am, you can even set a timer (they actually have specific tea timers). When it’s time to pour, I use my adorable little tea strainer (also from a local health food store) but you can just as easily use any kind of mesh strainer you have on hand.
Done! Perfect green tea. Sometimes I drink my tea straight up, but my favorite way is with a teaspoon or so of raw local honey. The little grains at the bottom? That’s leftovers from the straining process. It doesn’t bother me, but if you want it to be grain-free, you can strain it through a coffee filter.
We usually use giant mugs for tea, and rarely have any leftovers, but if you aren’t into giant mugs like we are, you’ll probably have leftover tea in your tea pot. And since you don’t want it to brew any longer, you’ll need to go ahead and pour it out. We keep a pitcher in the fridge for tea “leftovers”. We drink a variety of teas, so it’s kinda mish-mash, but mixed with a touch of agave (which dissolves well at low temps) and served over ice, it’s a nice treat after a hard workout.
Of course, this is the “at home” method for brewing tea. I’m no tea snob. I’ve been known to carry an extra bag of tea in my purse just so I can have some tea with bathroom hot water from a gas station on a road trip (truth). And I’ve drunk my fair share of tea from Starbucks. But if I have the time, I love to go about brewing tea the tea pot way. If you’ve never tried it, you should!
Happy tea drinking!
Are you a coffee or a tea person?