07/09/2017 - 13:02
Why does green tea taste bitter?

In the last couple of years the consumption of green tea has made a big push forward. A larger part of which can be attributed to positive media coverage: green tea is healthy, green tea contains antioxidants, green tea keeps you young, green tea helps you to burn fat, green tea contributes in weight loss.

With so much magical properties one would be mad not to drink tea. However, every now and then I receive a message from customers explaining they don’t like the taste. After asking a few questions I usually find out they all make the same mistakes. Basically it comes to this: the teas are steeped too long, or at too high temperature, or too much tea is used. Furthermore, there’s a group of people that assume green tea is some sort of medicine and isn’t medicine not supposed to taste bad or bitter? Right? Answer: NO!  All the more reason to write an article about this!

To prepare green tea you don’t have to buy special equipment. Just a simple kettle and a good tea filter are – like for almost any other tea – already sufficient. Of course, taste can be disputed: some people quite like the bitter side taste of green teas. The bitterness in tea leaves is caused by tannins. These are chemical substances that are natural parts of the leaves. Because green teas are made of non-oxidated tea leaves, the level of tannins is a lot higher compared to black teas.

(Tannin: a natural chemical substance in tea leaves, source: wikipedia)

Preparation time
When the tea water is heated and added to your leaves they will let out a constant stream of tannins to the water. The longer the tea leaves will steep, the more bitterness will be drawn into the water. Thus, the bitterness can be prevented for the greater part by making sure your tea doesn’t steep too long. Every tea has its own preparation time, but there are some general guidelines that you could follow. On average, a regular green tea steeps for about two to three minutes. Make sure that you remove the leaves from the water after that time.

Water temperature
Also the temperature of the water plays a role in how you experience your tea. By pouring boiling water on green tea leaves the tannins will come out in large capacity. This will leave you with a bitter cup of tea almost immediately. On average you have to prepare your green teas at lower temperatures, say around 70oC and 80oc (or 167oF and 176oF). If you would boil a litre of water, make sure to open your kettle afterwards and wait for about twelve minutes for the water to cool down a bit. If you would pour your boiling water in a cup of mug, wait for about five to six minutes. This will cool down a bit quicker. Furthermore, you could also make use of special kettles that will warm your water at exactly the right temperature, saving you time and electricity.

(On average the colours of green teas in your cup are very light). 

Quantity of tea
My last advice is aimed towards the quantities of tea leaves and water that you use. To many tea leaves in a cup or mug can also quickly lead to your tea getting that bitter side taste. After all, a larger quantity of leaves in relatively less water will also give a higher level of tannins in your tea. As a rule of thumb I use about one tea spoon of tea on approximately 150 to 200 ml. of water. With this ratio of tea combined with the right temperature and steeping time, your green tea cannot go wrong!

More information on preparing various sorts of teas can be found HERE.

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