Contribution by: Susan McKeen
Green Tea continues to be the focus of media reports about its myriad benefits ranging from anti-cavity and anti-cancer to weight reduction and lower cholesterol. Consumers get excited about drinking it and most will sample at least one cup of green tea. Unfortunately, many find the flavor extremely distasteful. For some, it is truly a case of not liking green tea. However, many others have been subjected to a poorly made cup of stale green leaves that did nothing to display the true character of green tea.
A perfect cup of green tea starts with high-quality tea. The selection in Asian specialty stores, tearooms and on the internet is mind-boggling. If this is your first foray into green teas, start with an ounce or two of fresh green tea from a local teashop or international farmer’s market. Newcomers to green tea find Jasmine Green and Moroccan Mint pleasing. For a more seasoned tea drinker, try Lung Ching (Dragonwell) or Genmaicha.
No matter which green varietals you choose, the best way to test for freshness is to gently crush a pinch of tea in the palm of your hand and breathe in the aroma that is released. If the odor is faint or non-existent, the tea is most likely not fresh enough. Discard it. Another test for freshness is the color of the steeped tea. Dark gold or orange liquor is often an indication of low quality or old tea.
After selecting a fresh green tea, the second most important component is water. Quality and purity are essential. Tap water may be acceptable in some areas but often the chemicals added by water treatment facilities obscure the delicate taste of green teas. Use filtered or spring water whenever possible.
The most common mistake made while steeping is using water that is exceedingly hot. While black teas steep well in water at 200°F or higher, greens are scorched at these temperatures and yield a bitter beverage. For best results use water no hotter than 175°F. Some teas reach the peak of their taste at temperatures as low as 145°F. Experiment to see what suits your palate.
Steeping time for green teas ranges from one to three minutes. Three minutes is typical. Let your palate be your guide while you experiment with various infusion times. Good quality loose-leaf green tea can be re-infused three or more times.