Updated: Oct 11, 2020
Over the past few months, I’ve transitioned from being a black tea (and sometimes coffee) drinker to Japanese green tea. For me, black tea with milk and sugar was a morning staple that I would drink as I was distracted checking emails or heading to work, no something I was paying much attention to in terms of brewing or flavor. As I learn more about the health benefits of Japanese green tea and about the best ways to brew this tea to bring out the best flavor, it is changing the way I think about and enjoy tea each day. Below are a short list of the mistakes I was making when I first started this journey.
1. Using too much tea
This is a mistake I’ve actually seen many people, and even restaurants and cafes, make. It is certainly one I made myself when first starting to brew loose-leaf tea. Using too much tea both changes the flavor of the tea and can become an unnecessarily expensive habit. While it’s important for you to brew your cup of tea to suit your taste, in general, we recommend about 2 teaspoons of sencha leaves to 1 cup of water.
2. Using the wrong temperature water
Have you noticed that some traditional Japanese teapots don’t have a handle? If you used boiling water with this teapot, you would most likely burn your hands. This is a good way to visualize the temperature of water ideal for the first brew of sencha leaves. If the teapot is too hot to hold, it is too hot to brew your tea leaves. We recommend 60 degrees C/ 140 degrees F for the first brew and a higher temperature for each additional brew (up to four times).
3. Brewing the tea for too long
When I first started drinking black tea, I didn’t pay much attention to how I brewed my tea. At this stage, I was drinking tea from tea bags and often I wouldn’t take the tea bag out of my cup at all before drinking it. As I started learning more about tea, I learned to take the tea bag out to enjoy the best flavor but I found that I didn’t need to be too exact when it came to black tea - if I was distracted and forgot to take the tea out for 10 minutes or so, I would still drink it and enjoy the flavor. This was probably helped a lot by my habit of adding milk and sugar to my tea.
Unlike my black tea consumption, I’ve learned that the flavor of good quality green tea changes a lot if it is brewed for too short or too long a time. Too short and the tea is weak and lacks nuance. Too long and the tea will become bitter. Each tea variety has its own timing but with Japanese senchas, we recommend 2 minutes for the first brewing and seconds for each additional brew (see our website for all the specifics).
Brewing loose-leaf tea can seem overwhelming at first but by avoiding these three mistakes, you’ll be in good shape and build your skills quickly. Still not sure? Feel free to come visit us at d:matcha and get a quick lesson on the perfect way to brew Japanese green tea. In any case, have fun experimenting to find the tea and brewing method that produces the flavors you enjoy the most.