“From the very fountain of enchantment there arises a taste of bitterness to spread anguish amongst the flowers” – Lucretius.
This week it is my pleasure to answer a question posed to me by a curious reader, Kethuprofumo at Eternamenta. I am keen on questions. Questions are the first step toward research and research leads to knowledge and knowledge to power. It is my belief that in the beginning there was light and shortly after that there was a question.
And the question was: Why does the green tea not like the boiling water?
(By the way now is the time to pour that tea you made before you opened your reader.)
The bitter flavour present in tea, especially green tea, is due to the caffeine and theanine content. When you pour hot water over the leaves the caffeine, as well as antioxidants, flavonoids, polyphenols and a whole range of other things, are released into the water.
Multiple variables determine the bitterness, or not, of a cup of tea: the type of soil the bush is planted in, the time of day the leaf is harvested, even the position of the leaf on the bush will affect the caffeine content and therefore the bitterness of the brew. There are also the many different methods involved in processing the plucked leaf to consider until finally we get to the actual brewing temperature. All these variables change the flavour of tea. We, the consumer, have control over the final stage – the brewing.
Variables that affect the extraction of caffeine from the tea leaf are:
The temperature of the brewing water; the hotter the water the more extraction.
The longer the leaf is brewed the more caffeine (Etc.) is released.
The amount of leaf you use per cup.
The type of green tea you are brewing.
To reduce bitterness:
Brew the tea at a lower temperature. Let the boiled water sit for a minute of two before adding to the leaf. Or get a thermometer and find the recommended brewing temperature for your tea type.
To brew at a lower temperature some people rinse the tea leaves with cold water before they add the hot water. You can also pour a little cold water over the leaves, enough to barely cover, before you add the boiled water. (Never do this to black tea)
Use less tea. Maybe you are a one-leaf-and-a-bud sort of tea-drinker.
Try another type of green tea. I am not a fan of Sencha but I like Genmaicha, perhaps because the toasted rice hides any bitterness. I also like Lung Ching, aka Dragonwell tea.
Steep the tea a number of times. Black tea is brewed in one steep. Green tea however can be steeped multiple times. With each fresh steep the caffeine level is reduced – since much of the caffeine has already been released in the previous cups. Some people throw away the first cup and maybe even the second cup. The third steep will be milder and so on. Use a small brewing vessel and keep topping up.
One tea blogger, Hojotea, believes nitrogen fertiliser may increase the bitterness of tea. So try an organic tea.
I hope this answers the question. 🙂
“Enjoy the flavours and the subtle and not so subtle differences waiting to be discovered in the world of tea offerings and should the rich doses of flavonoids in each cup of tea be determined to cure what ails you, you will be ahead of the curve.” – Mary Lou and Robert J. Heiss – The Story of Tea.