Water temperatures for Japanese green tea

Old fashion water kettleMany online sources will tell you to use the same temperature for your green teas. While it’s convenient to use the same temperature for different green teas, you’ll have a better result by focusing on each specific tea.

In this article we’ll go over the suggested temperatures for each type of Japanese green tea, as well as the reasoning behind them.

Why does temperature matter?

As you’ve probably experienced, brewing tea with cooler water takes more time to reach the desired flavor as opposed to hot water. If in a hurry, can you brew all teas in hot water so as to minimize brewing time? You can, but the flavor may suffer.

The problem is that the tea’s components are extracted at different rates. Amino acids responsible for the sweet taste of tea, such as L-theanine, are reasonably soluble at low temperatures. This means that you don’t need to use boiling water to extract this compounds.

Catechins and caffeine, on the other hand, aren’t that soluble in cool temperatures but with increasing temperature they are extracted at a very high rate. This is important because they are responsible for the astringency and bitterness in tea.

You need all three components, but in the right balance. Furthermore, each type of tea has a different distribution of them. Hence, steeping temperature should be tailor to your specific tea.

Gyokuro

Brewing this high-quality Japanese tea is a bit more complicated than other green teas, but the result is worth it.

It has a high amino acid content, which is precisely why its taste is so unique.

We want to extract as much of that flavor as possible, while suppressing astringency and bitterness. This means that using a cool temperature is ideal.

Try 122ºF to 140ºF (50ºC to 60ºC) and a long brewing time (2 to 3 minutes).

 Sencha

Although it’s not as expensive as gyokuro, you still shouldn’t use boiling water for sencha or it’ll be too bitter. It doesn’t have the high amino acid content as gyokuro, so it’s best to use warm water at 158ºF (70ºC) and a shorter time, about 1 minute

 Bancha

The lowest grade of Japanese tea includes bancha, genmaicha and houjicha. These teas aren’t delicate, so feel free to use hot water.

Boiling or near boiling water, plus a short infusion (30 seconds) is recommended. Not much amino acid content here, so there’s no need to wait that long. However, that doesn’t mean that these teas aren’t delicious!

antique gold water vessel used for tea ceremony

An antique Gold Water Vessel used for tea ceremony.

Final considerations

Feel free to brew your teas according to your taste. If you like a stronger and bitter brew, by all means go for it. These are just guidelines.

Besides the temperature and brewing time, pay attention to the volume of water and amount of tea leaves. This are important as well

You can also cold brew your teas, without the need to add heat to the water. However, that’s a topic for another post.

About the author : Ricardo Caicedo

Ricardo is a tea blogger from Colombia that writes about Japanese green tea. In his blog you'll find informational posts, tea reviews, and podcasts where he interviews tea professionals from around the world. www.myjapanesegreentea.com.

View all articles