Steeping Green Tea

Making Korean TeaAll varieties of true tea have their recommended steeping times and temperatures—most people are aware of this, but many don’t bother.  I’ve heard all kinds of reasons:

  1. it’s too much trouble
  2. it’s too hard to get the temperature just right
  3. I get distracted and forget my tea is still steeping
  4. I’m kind of used to the bitter/stewed taste of over-steeped tea
  5. I don’t like my tea too hot/cool/strong/weak

So I’m only going to say that you get the most out of your tea if you make a tiny effort to adhere to recommended steeping times and temperatures.

And green tea, being the most sensitive deserves a little more discussion.  If you’ve been in the Studio and picked up a free “Steeping Times and Temperatures” refrigerator magnet, you know that I recommend steeping green tea at a range of 175F to 185F for 1 to 2 minutes.  This is kind of a general rule, but depending on the green tea I’m working with, I may increase or decrease the temperature from this basic range. 

What you are trying to do with green teas is coax the wonderful grassy flavor while managing the amount of caffeine, polyphenols and/or enzymes in each steeped cup.  The hotter your water is, the more likely you are to leach more of these compounds all at once into your cup; the problem with getting too much of these compounds at once is that they bring bitter taste to the cup of tea.  It’s better to steep multiple times at cooler temps with shorter steeps than to do one over-hot, long steep.

I’ve found that the smaller and more delicate greens do best with 165F for two minutes versus hotter temperatures for one minutes.  This applies to: Guangdong Special Grade; Korean Sejak; and Korean Jungjak.  The Japanese Sencha and Kukicha I carry steep beautifully at 175F for 1-1/2 minutes.  The Qingming Dragonwell, Organic Clouds & Mist, Organic Gunpowder and most of the flavored/scented greens do better at 185F for 1-1/2 to 2 minutes.

It’s a matter of taste, and your own experience may be different, but if you are going to spend money on good tea—make it so you really enjoy it.