How to Make Tea Less Bitter
Have you been feeling like your tea is too bitter? In this article, we’re going to look at why that might be and how to fix it. Let’s go through the 4 different ways to make your tea less bitter.
The first reason comes down to the selection of the tea. Unfortunately, there is only so much you can do to fix bad tea. The best thing you can do is make sure you choose a good quality tea from the start. These lower quality teabag teas don’t offer the same complexity or sweetness as premium loose leaf green tea. If you’re really looking to get a tea with less bitterness, the best thing you can do is look for a high quality, shaded tea. The reason people typically describe tea as being bitter comes down to the catechins. These components are produced by the tea as protection against the UV light, so teas with more sun exposure will end up being more bitter. If you want to make a tea less bitter, you’ll have to cut it off from sunlight before the harvest. This is typically done by stretching a special type of netting or kabuse over the plant leading up to the harvest. A normal shaded sencha will be covered for about a week, but the specialized Kabusecha is shaded for 10 days or more prior to the harvest. Gyokuro and matcha are shaded for the longest time, 3 weeks or more before the harvest. This intense shading process produces less bitterness, but also an intense sweet and savory flavor that is well sought after. If you like teas to be less bitter, you’ll want to go for something like a Gyokuro or a Kabusecha.
In addition to selecting a shaded tea, you’ll also want to pay attention to the cultivar of the tea. When you buy a tea, you should be able to find information on which cultivar its from. The most common type of cultivar in Japan is the Yabukita, and some people that are sensitive to flavors may find this a bit bitter. The Yabukita is. slightly tougher cultivar that is more resistant to the cold of southern Japan, but it has some characteristics that make it a bit more astringent. This is what a lot of people are looking for in a green tea, but if you want to reduce the bitterness in your green tea, you can look for a tea from a sweeter or smoother cultivar. The Asatsuyu, saemidori and okumidori are all great ones if you’re looking to have a smoother or sweeter tea. These teas are also commonly used for shaded sencha, gyokuro and kabusecha so you should have no problem following the last tip as well.
The third tip comes down to the preparation of the tea. The flavor of a tea comes down to not only the leaf itself, but what is extracted from the leaf. While it impossible to turn bad leaves into good tea, it is possible to turn good leaves into bad tea. This is why it’s so important to get the brewing right, so you don’t turn your high quality tea into a bitter infusion. One of the most important things is to get the temperature right. When it comes to Japanese green teas, the temperature used for brewing is incredibly low. You want to use a temperature around 60 degrees celsius or 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Even though the amount of catechins in the leaf has been reduced during the shading process, there are still some present and they are extracted at higher temperatures. In order to reduce the distraction of these more bitter components, you use the cooler water. The sweeter components of the tea can still be extracted at this lower temperature, so you still get plenty of flavor in the tea. You can even use a cold water and make a cold brewed green tea for hot summer days.
Equally important to the temperature is the brewing time. This brings us to our fourth and final point and that is shortening the brewing time. As I mentioned before the bitter catechins in the leaf are harder to extract, but they still can be extracted if you use hot enough water or a long enough time. Even if you get the temperature perfect, given enough time the water will extract the bitterness from the leaf and you will get a bitter tea. That’s why we recommend brewing the tea for only one minute. This will extract plenty of flavor from the leaves, but the bitter components will remain in the leaves. The one exception is Gyokuro, which can be brewed for 2 minutes. The reason for this is that the leaves are so tightly rolled that they need more time to fully open up and release their flavor into the water.
If you’re interested in stocking up on smoother and sweeter teas, you may want to join the monthly tea club. Every month, we’ll send you a few of our best teas to try and compare and we’ll also give you a free clay teapot to prepare the teas. The first month, you’ll get 2 teas that show less bitterness. One is a long shaded tea from the south of Japan, and the other is steamed for a longer time, which can reduce the bitterness of the tea. We hope you like them!
If you have any questions about selecting and preparing teas, please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Until then, we’ll see you next time.