Green Tea Starter Guide

Want to get into green tea but don’t know where to begin? Use my simple starter guide to learn how best to brew, the five green teas you should know, and more.

Green tea

What is Green Tea?

Black tea, oolong tea, green tea, and white tea all come from one plant called the Camellia sinensis. The leaves from the Camellia sinensis plant are plucked and processed to make tea. 

Green tea is made when the leaves of the Camellia sinensis are grown and processed a certain way. The process may include oxidizing, roasting, rolling, and drying. The process is different depending on the region and country the green tea is made. 

Green teas in general are less processed since they’re barely oxidized (letting the leaves naturally turn brown from oxygen), which is why green tea is able to maintain the green color unlike black tea or oolong tea. 

Here’s a tip — you can usually tell if you’re drinking a green tea if the tea brewed is a shade of green!

What Does Green Tea Taste Like?

This is a trick question. There is a wide range of green tea and the taste is completely different depending on how it was made.

The taste can go from vegetal (some even taste like spinach broth) and grassy to sweet and nutty. 

Green tea, if properly made, should only taste slightly astringent or bitter. You’re either using too high a temperature to brew or you’re brewing it for too long if your green tea is bitter.

Is There Caffeine in Green Tea?

Yes, there is caffeine in green tea, about a third of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.

SAVE THIS GREEN TEA STARTER GUIDE TO PINTEREST

Chinese green tea

Where is Green Tea From?

Green tea, like all other types of tea, originated in China. 

Thousands of years ago Japan started cultivating green tea from the Camellia sinensis brought over from China.

Japan makes a lot of famous and well-known green teas like matcha and sencha. (‘Cha’ means ‘tea.’)

South Korea also produces green tea, but on a much smaller scale.

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Famous Green Teas

The most famous green teas are from the biggest producing countries, China and Japan.

Chinese 

Japanese 

Green tea in a gaiwan

Where to Buy Green Tea Online

My go-to places to buy green tea:

Harney & Sons

Harney & Sons has a good selection of green teas and offer free shipping without a minimum. Some of the green teas are super pricey so get the sample which is about a couple of tablespoons of tea.

Ippodo Tea

A Japanese tea company with a shop in NYC, Ippodo Tea, is the ultimate Japanese tea. If you’re looking for super high-quality Japanese green tea, this is the place. The site is not the easiest to get around, but I highly recommend a visit to the shop if you’re in NY. 

Amazon

There are a ton of matcha sellers on Amazon and some are better than others. I like this one, which I’ve personally tried and like. The price is excellent for the quality.

How to Get into Green Tea

Green tea can be overwhelming since it’s hard to figure out where to start. Don’t worry, I’m here to walk you through it!

Just a note that matcha is a whole different kind of beast when it comes to green tea. There is a special way to prepare it which I’ve covered in other posts:

To get started with green tea other than matcha, you need to drink a lot of it. One tea a day for a week. Basically what you want to do is to devote to one green tea for a whole week and really get to know it. Don’t drink any other tea, just the one you’ve selected for the week. 

This was one of the ways I learned how to taste and differentiate tea when I was going through the Tea Sommelier program at ITEI. 

By tasting one green tea for a week, you will be able to taste that tea at a later time and recognize it.

Tea Bags or Loose Tea?

Stick to loose tea instead of tea sachets or tea bags if you’re just steeping it in water and won’t be adding any sugar or milk.

You want to experience the full flavor so it’s best to go with high-quality tea which comes from loose tea.

How to Buy Loose Tea

Tea sachets and tea bags take the guesswork out of figuring out how much tea goes into a cup. 

Loose tea is sold by the ounce which is trickier to figure out. The usual minimum is 2 or 4 ounces unless the tea is really expensive in which case you may see it selling for as little as 1 ounce.

1 ounce makes about 5 cups of tea. 2 ounces will make about 10 cups of tea. 

When I try a tea for the first time, I get the minimum ounce and buy again if needed. 

RELATED: Want to Get into Oolong Tea? Start Here.


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Green tea brewing tools

What You Need to Brew Green Tea as a Beginner

ESSENTIALS:

NICE TO HAVE:

Boiling water for tea

How to Brew Green Tea in a Mug with an Infuser

The traditional way to brew green tea is either in a gaiwan (Chinese tea brewing bowl with a lid) for Chinese green tea or in a Kyusu Japanese teapot for Japanese green tea but it’s hard to start with those if you’re a beginner.

I recommend using a mug with an infuser (I looked everywhere and this one linked is the best) to brew tea instead if you’re starting out. Once you feel comfortable brewing multiple steeps, then go ahead and explore gaiwans and Japanese teapots.

Let’s get started!

STEP 1 : Boil water in an electric kettle.

For black, oolong, and herbal tea, you can use boiling water and have the tea taste just fine. BUT, with green tea it’s not as easy. 

There is a large range when it comes to green tea and each kind needs to be brewed in different water temperature. This is why an electric kettle with a temperature setting is crucial to brewing green tea properly.

Make sure to look at your green tea package to verify the correct water temperature to brew your tea.

Genmaicha

STEP 2: Put 1 tablespoon of loose green tea into mug.

This method of steeping tea multiple times is how tea tasting and evaluation is done. It’s a great way to understand the taste of the tea through different steeps or infusions.

Normally I would use 1 1/2 teaspoons of tea for a cup, but because we’re doing multiple infusions, I use more tea and steep for a short period of time.

Green tea in mug

STEP 3: Add hot water and steep for 5 seconds.

Pour hot water into the mug halfway and swirl it around to warm the cup. 

Once the cup is nice and warm, take out the infuser and throw out the water. 

This process is called a rinse and it warms up your cup for the actual steep and gives the tea a quick wash.

STEP 4: Pour in 1 cup of hot water and steep tea for 30 seconds.

Remember to set the electric kettle to the correct water temperature for your tea and pour that into your mug. Put the lid on while steeping to keep the water temperature consistent.

You want to make sure you’re getting 8 oz, so use a measuring cup the first time to figure out where the water line would be, then, going forward, just eyeball it.

With oolong and black tea, the steep time is a minute for the first infusion, but for green tea which is more delicate, the steep time is half that.

Use your timer to track the steep time.

RELATED: How to Make the Best Iced Green Tea

Tea in a mug with infuser

STEP 5: Take out infuser and drink.

Your tea is now ready to drink! 

Keep the infuser nearby for additional steeps.

Once you’ve finished the cup, you can do a second steep.

Tea in mug

STEP 6: Steep tea again in hot water for 1 minute.

This is our second infusion. We make the steep time longer than the first.

Notice the taste difference between the first and second cup.

Step 7: Optional — Steep tea once more in hot water adding 30 seconds to the previous steep time.

Green tea is usually steeped three times at the most, but I generally do two steeps.

Green tea

5 Green Teas All Beginners Should Try

To get you started, here are the 5 green teas that you should try to familiarize yourself with. 

Try the mug and infuser steep method for each of the 5 teas, brewing one for an entire week. 

I didn’t include matcha to this list since that’s a whole other beast of a tea. 

  1. Genmaicha
    This was my gateway into tea. It’s nutty, toasty, and it’s a good introduction to green tea since there’s brown rice and popcorn added.
  2. Sencha
    This is the most popular tea in Japan. 
  3. Hojicha
    A roasted green tea, it’s super nutty in flavor. I’m kind of obsessed with hojicha. 
  4. Long Jing (Dragonwell)
    This is on almost every tea menu and it’s easy to spot since the leaves are long and flat.
  5. Bi Luo Chun
    One of the most famous green teas from China.

Green Tea Tips

  • Green tea is delicate and requires a bit more attention when it comes to water temperature. Use an electric kettle with a temperature setting to get the correct water temperature.
  • Green tea is usually steeped two or three times at the most.
  • Green tea is best when fresh so only buy enough to last you 2-3 months at the most. It’s not a tea to buy in bulk.
 
 
Green tea
 

How to Brew Green Tea

How to Brew Green Tea

Yield: Makes 1 serving

Step-by-step brewing instructions on how to make green tea.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Boil water in an electric kettle.
    Water temperature is different depending on the green tea. Look at the packaging to get the correct water temperature.
  2. Put 1 tablespoon of loose green tea into a mug.
  3. Add hot water and steep for 5 seconds.
    Fill the mug halfway and swirl the hot water around. After 5 seconds, take out the infuser and throw out the water.
  4. Pour in 1 cup of hot water and steep tea for 30 seconds.
  5. Take out infuser and drink.
  6. Steep tea again in hot water for 1 minute.
  7. Optional: Steep tea once more in hot water, adding 30 seconds to the steep time.

Notes

Use a mug with an infuser to make green tea using the multiple steep method.

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2 Comments

  • Melissa
    1 month ago

    My kettle does not have different settings, so I usually poor the water into a pot to cool it. Sometimes I poor it into the teapot, then into a glass pot and back again to cool it further. Can you recommend a good amount of times to move the water back and forth to cool it?

    • Oh, How Civilized
      1 month ago

      Hi Melissa, if your kettle just boils water, pouring the water into a different container is a great idea to reduce the water temperature. Each time you do a pour, it’ll reduce the water temperature 5-10 degrees. The number of times to move the water back and forth would depend on the tea you’re brewing.

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