The Sugimoto Guide for Delicious Japanese Green Tea

Green tea is well known for being healthy, but many people find it hard to make a habit out of drinking green tea because they don’t like the taste. Time and time again, one of the biggest complaints we hear about Japanese green tea is that it’s too bitter and astringent. Such complaints are very sad, because they’re often the result of one of a few common factors; poor quality tea, old tea or tea that wasn’t stored properly, too much tea, or, most commonly of all, too hot of water and oversteeping.

We stand behind the quality and storage conditions of all our teas, but we can’t brew it for you each time you want a cup. That’s why we’ve created this handy brewing guide to help you figure out how to brew the best possible tasting cup of Japanese green tea every time.

Guide Contents:

  • The 4 Keys to Delicious Tea
  • Our Brewing Guidelines
  • How to Brew Japanese Green Tea
  • How to Cold Brew Green Tea
  • How to Make Matcha

 

The 4 Keys to Delicious Tea 

Quality

How the tea is initially made is the most basic factor of all in whether or not your tea will taste good. However, storage will affect the quality of your tea before it even gets into your pot too, especially for green tea. This is why we nitrogen flush and vacuum seal all of our teas and then keep them in refrigerated conditions before they’re shipped off to you. 

Once you get your tea, keep it away from heat and store in an air and light-tight container. For maximum flavor, drink within 1-3 months of opening.

Quantity

Too little tea in your pot will undoubtedly create too weak of a brew, however too much can also cause for too concentrated of a brew and an unpleasant drinking experience.

Tea should be measured by grams, not teaspoons etc., however we understand that most people don’t have a kitchen scale easily at hand so we’ve tested our teas to see what measuring spoon you should use for each tea. Follow our recommending amounts of tea and water below for best results, but feel free to experiment too to find your personal preference.

Temperature

Green teas are a little on the delicate side and typically need lower temperature water than other teas. Too hot of water is one of the most common causes of bitterness in green tea. Use our guidelines below for each specific Japanese green tea that we carry.

When in doubt, start at 175 F. If it’s too bitter, try lowering the temperature next time. If it’s not flavorful enough, either increase the steeping time or try raising the temperature by 5-10 degrees.

Time

Most teas need a much shorter steeping time than the average drinker assumes, especially when doing multiple steepings. The first steeping for a Japanese green tea is the longest, then subsequent steepings are very short. Use a timer for the first few times to get a feel for how short steeps really are. And remember, the leaves are steeping from when you pour the hot water in and ends when the last drop is out, so you might not want to wait until the timer has finished to start pouring.

 

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Our Brewing Guidelines

Here’s a handy guide for standard Japanese green teas. For our brewing recommendation for specific teas, please go to product page.

Tea

Water

Leaf

Temperature

Steeping Time

Homare Sencha 6 oz (180ml) 4 grams (~2 tsp) 140°F 90 sec

Sencha Fukamushi

12 oz (350ml)

5 grams (2 tsp)

175°F or below

30 – 60 sec

Sencha Chumushi

12 oz (350ml)

5 grams (2 tsp)

175°F or below

30 – 90 sec

Sencha Asamushi

12 oz (350ml)

5 grams (2 tsp)

175°F or below

1 – 2 min

Gyokuro

6 oz (180ml)

5 grams (2 tsp)

120 – 140°F

3 – 4 min

Kabusecha

6 oz (180ml)

5 grams (2 tsp)

120 – 140°F

3 – 4 min

Bancha

12 oz (350ml)

5 grams (1 Tbsp)

175°F or above

1 – 2 min

Konacha

12 oz (350ml)

3 grams (1 tsp)

175°F or above

30 – 60 sec

Matcha Genmaicha

Genmaicha

Organic Genmaicha

12 oz (350ml)

12 oz (350ml)

12oz (350ml)

5 grams (1 Tbsp)

5 grams (1 Tbsp)

5 grams (1 Tbsp)

175°F or above

175°F or above

175°F or above

30 - 60 sec

30 - 60 sec

1 - 2 min

Kukicha

12 oz (350ml)

5 grams (1 Tbsp)

175°F or above

1 – 2 min

Hojicha

12 oz (350ml)

3 grams (1 Tbsp)

200°F or above

1 – 2 min

 

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How to Brew Japanese Green Tea

Japanese green teas have a long history behind them, so some may find brewing them intimidating. Don’t worry, here’s how to brew green tea in five easy steps. What You’ll Need
  • Water
  • Kettle
  • Teapot or cup
  • Tea (either loose-leaf or tea bags)

 

Step 1: Prepare What You’ll Need

Gather everything you need. Here are some basic guidelines for each:

  • Water: We recommend using spring water for the best results, however this is not a hard requirement.
  • Kettle: Temperature variable electrical kettles are the easiest way by far to make hot water at the temperature your tea needs. But if you’re using a stovetop kettle, it’s easy enough to just use a kitchen thermometer to check the temperature of your water before brewing.
  • Teapot: This isn’t necessary for tea bags which are designed for one-cup drinking, but for brewing loose leaf green tea we recommend choosing a teapot that allows the leaves the room they need to unfurl and release their flavor. Note: Since Japanese green teas (especially Sencha Fukamushi) are steamed, they have lots of small particulate matter. Our authentic Tokoname kyusu is best suited for Senchas due to its inner belt-style strainer. Higher end teas such as Gyokuro and Temomi Shincha have more intact leaves that are happy with spout strainers, but are best suited to smaller volume teapots.
  • Teas:
    • Tea Bag: If you’re drinking solo or in a rush, you can go for a tea bag since it’s already portioned for a 12 oz mug.
    • Loose Leaf: If you want to have the best Japanese green tea experience or are drinking with others, you might want to brew a pot of loose leaf tea. On the go you can also opt for a mount-style filter.

Step 2: Heat the Water

If you’re using a temperature variable electric kettle, all you have to do is set the desired temperature and wait for the water to reach that temp. With a stovetop kettle or non-temperature variable electric kettle, you can wait until the water is boiling and then cool it down by adding in cold water or ice until you reach your ideal temperature. With an office hot water dispenser, the water typically comes out at around 200F, just below boiling, but too hot for the majority of Japanese green teas (except Hojicha). Fill about a fifth of your brewing vessel (whether tea pot or portable brewer or cup) with cold water from the dispenser onto the leaves first before adding in the remaining hot water. You can also opt to use a Tokoname Yuzumashi, which is a traditional water cooling pot to help adjust the water temperature. Note: Cold teaware will drop the temperature of your water. By how much depends on the material, size, and how cold it is. If you’re stuck with too hot of water, you can use this to your advantage, but you can also just pre-heat your teaware before putting in your tea leaves to avoid the issue entirely. 

Step 3: Add the Tea Leaves to the Pot

Much like water temperature, how much tea you have to add into the pot varies based on the variety you’re brewing. Some Japanese green teas are much denser than others and therefore require less leaf when brewing, however others are lighter and will need a larger amount to achieve a satisfactory flavor. Refer to our Brewing Guidelines to see how much leaf you need.

Step 4: Add Water Into the Pot

Slowly pour the water into the pot. The amount of water will vary based on how many servings you’re planning to make. If you’re serving for multiple people and not sure how much you need, you can measure by first pouring your hot water into everyone’s (clean) cups, then from the cups into the teapot. This is the traditional Japanese method which ensures that you brew the perfect amount of tea for everyone. This also serves a dual purpose in pre-heating your guests cups so that their tea doesn’t cool down too much when first poured into the cup. Note: If you do use the traditional Japanese portioning method, the leaves will absorb a significant amount of water during the first steep, reducing the overall amount of tea that will come out. Fill your guests cups a little higher than at the level they will be served at to avoid underestimating how much water you need.    

Step 5: Allow the Tea to Steep

Steeping times vary depending on the tea you’re brewing, but our recommended times range from 30 seconds to three minutes. Refer to our Brewing Guidelines and remember that the first steep is the longest and subsequent steeps are shorter.  

Step 6: Pour the Tea

When brewing loose leaf Japanese green tea in a Japanese kyusu, pour the tea slowly into the cups to avoid clogging the spout and pour with a gentle rocking motion by rotaing your wrist and pouring in short bursts. This also allows the leaves to swirl around between pours, which can boost flavor. For group servings, avoid filling up each person's cup simultanuously. Go around the group and pour small amounts into each cup, circling around multiple times until the pot's empty. This ensures that everyone in the group will receive evenly-brewed tea. Be sure to empty the pot completely between each steeping so that you don’t end up with over-brewed tea and will be able to enjoy as many steepings as your tea is capable of.

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