Green tea’s health benefit CV is impressive, possibly even including a future in reducing obesity and Alzheimer’s symptoms – but it’s often bitter and hard to drink. We tested loads to find the best tasting green tea
Brits drink a staggering 165 million cups of tea daily. And while most of that is your good old-fashioned Builder’s Brew, green tea is becoming more popular here and around the world. Studies says that it’s one of the best drinks for your health, too.
Not to mention new information coming out about possible massive benefits to green tea – two studies done on mice show that green tea cuts obesity, and also that Alzheimer’s-like symptoms can be reversed by a green tea-rich diet. While these are just mice, they show a promising future for the health benefits of green tea for humans.
But it’s not always the most palatable of hot drinks and at Healthista HQ, we often hear cries of ‘I know I should drink green tea, but I find it so bitter.’ It’s what prompted Healthista to do a gigantic taste test, searching for the best-tasting green teas on the market right now.
First though, a crash course on what green tea is exactly and a guide to the different types.
How green tea is made
All tea except for herbal tea is made from the leaves of the camellia sinensis plant. The leaves are primarily found in China, though they can also come from other countries like Japan, India, Vietnam and Sri Lanka, to name a few.
The kind of tea you get depends on how the leaves are processed. Green tea is one of the least processed teas you can buy.
To make green tea, the leaves are first heated by pan-firing or steaming, and then dried to prevent too much oxidation. Oxidation would turn the leaves brown and change the flavour. Therefore, green tea contains the most antioxidants and beneficial polyphenols of any kind of tea.
Research shows a large variety of ways that green tea can help your health. While no conclusive results about the health effects of green tea have been found, new research is done every day and what we know so far in terms of potential health benefits is promising. These are some probable benefits to adding more green tea to your diet.
Cancer prevention: The polyphenols in green tea have been shown to decrease tumour growth, according to the National Cancer Institute. Various studies show a possible connection between drinking green tea and preventing a wide range of cancers.
Heart health: The Journal of the American Medical Association published research connecting green tea consumption with reduced mortality rates with cardiovascular disease.
Lower cholesterol: Consumption of green tea is linked in certain studies to reductions in LDL, otherwise known as bad cholesterol.
Stroke risk: Both green tea and coffee are connected to a reduced risk of stroke.
Weight loss: Drinking tea and small amounts of weight loss are linked, though the weight loss is minimal and not significant enough to bring down your weight just with an all green tea diet (unless you had nothing else, which we don’t advise, by the way).
Inflammatory skin diseases: Green tea could be a possible treatment for dandruff and psoriasis, according to a 2007 study.
Memory: Green tea is shown to increase cognitive function, including memory. There could also be possible treatment plans including green tea for memory-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Though more research is needed for any of these theories to be proven correct, it’s certainly not going to hurt your health to drink more green tea.
Types of green tea
Green tea is a broad category with plenty of different kinds of tea under its umbrella. Even if you’ve tried a green tea you didn’t like, chances are you’ll love a different type as the tastes of the different types vary dramatically. These are the most common kinds of green tea you’ll find in stores and online.
Sencha: Sencha is a Japanese green tea grown in sunlight. Made by steaming its leaves before drying them out and rolling them, the tea leaves are shaped like needles. Sencha tea has a more intense, fruity flavour than other green teas and it’s much less bitter.
Matcha: Matcha is a Japanese tea. Its leaves are ground into fine powder instead of rolled, like most other green teas. It’s one of the healthier options, since you’re consuming the whole tea leaf when you drink matcha tea. Matcha is becoming more popular in coffee shops especially, and there are plenty of places you can get a matcha latte. As for the taste? Kind of grassy, is the only way we can think of putting it.
Kukicha: Kukicha green tea is a Japanese green tea made of the stems, stalks and twigs of the green tea plant. These are the parts of the plant that aren’t generally used to make tea. It has a nutty and creamy flavour, and a woody aroma that will take your breath away. It’s one of the favourites at Healthista HQ.
Dragonwell: Dragonwell tea is a Chinese creation, unique because of the taste it gets from being pan-fried. The tea leaves are smoother and flatter than most.
Genmaicha: Genmaicha tea comes from Japan. It’s made from blending tea leaves and popped rice kernels. It has a richer flavour than other teas, and is the most similar tea flavour and texture to coffee. The smell is a bit like popcorn and there is no bitter aftertaste.
Gunpowder: Gunpowder green tea derives from China. Its leaves are formed into small pellets that look like gunpowder grains, and are then steamed for flavour. It’s known as one of the more bitter-tasting green teas.
White Tea: Though it seems incongruous with the name, white tea is also a kind of green tea. The difference is that white tea leaves are plucked much sooner than green tea leaves so that the flavour is fresher. Both white and green tea contain more antioxidants than any other tea, and both are processed the least.
Our taste test
At Healthista this past week, we’ve been trying an array of different green teas to find the ones that hit the spot just right. Here are our top picks for the best-tasting green teas you can buy. We’ve tried to include a little of every kind of tea mentioned above – and some more – in our mix.
What they say: We Are Tea’s Sencha Green Tea comes originally from China. It has a light, fresh and smooth flavour.
What we say: The Sencha green tea is clean and smooth, a delicious addition to your tea collection. The drink has a light, bittersweet and full flavour that’s perfect to warm us all up on a frigid February day. These were the first to disappear – a really popular choice at HQ.
What they say: Solaris’s Green Tea Chai is Sencha tea made with crushed herbs to give the tea a slightly spicy taste. The tea is sharp and fresh, creating an uplifting note.
What we say: The box this tea comes in is half the fun and has a great aesthetic to match the great taste. It’s a fruity, full taste with a bit of a spicy kick to make the blend unique and fun. Absolutely delicious.
What they say: OMG Tea’s matcha is grown in Kagoshima, Japan. The leaves are ground using a traditional granite stone mill to create a rich smooth flavour and texture. The tea is sweet with a fresh fruit aroma and grassy undertones
What we say: The AAA ratio is spot-on. This is one strong cup of tea. There’s a slight bitter taste, but it doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of the full, nutty flavour.
What they say: Rokit Pods are Nespresso-compatible matcha green tea pods. They’re made from powdered matcha and make it easier to enjoy matcha tea without the fuss of making a cup. You just place the pod in your Nespresso machine, and have matcha with the press of a button.
What we say: The Rokit pods disappeared quick here at Healthista. While you need a Nespresso machine to use them, they make a nice, strong cup of matcha tea without the hassle of mixing in powder. Our office made the cups into matcha lattes with steamed milk, and the resulting drinks tasted like seaweed. In a good way.
What they say: Natur Boutique’s Matcha tea gives you a mental and physical boost, healthier because of its lack of caffeine. The tea is grown on natural hillside farms in Vietnam, without the price tag usually attached to matcha.
What we say: This cup of matcha gets better the more you drink. It’s a strong tea with a full flavour that doesn’t overpower the drink. Though the tea is bitter, it’s part of the tea’s charm. The texture and flavour are reminiscent of coffee, but without the high caffeine content. It’s a great replacement if you’re looking to kick the coffee habit.
What they say: Pukka’s matcha tea is grown on a volcanic island off the coast of South Korea. Its ingredients include whole leaf green tea, matcha tea, lemon fruit and cleansing herbal extracts. The tea has a zesty, uplifting taste without bitterness.
What we say: This matcha tea is much sweeter than expected, a pleasant surprise. It has an almost fruity aroma and aftertaste, and you almost forget this is even matcha, there’s absolutely no bitterness to this drink. It also comes in tea bags instead of powder, so the tea is easier to make and the texture much smoother. It’s the only matcha tea our editor Anna can drink.
What they say: Kukicha tea is mild and soothing, made from tea leaves harvested late in the season when the plant’s caffeine levels are low. The twigs are steamed, dried and aged before roasting. It has a lower caffeine content than coffee and most other teas.
What we say: This tea is a long-time favourite for Healthista, though you have to be a fan of stronger teas to enjoy this one. The tea is a mixture between a woody, natural flavour and a traditional green tea, with a smooth finish.
What they say: Clearspring’s Genmaicha green tea is grown in Kyoto, Japan. The green tea leaves are harvested, steamed and rolled in the traditional Sencha process before being combined with roasted brown rice. The tea has a nutty flavour and aroma.
What we say: Genmaicha tea has a super unique flavour unlike any other green tea. Where most green teas are bitter or fruity, Clearspring’s Genmaicha has a creamy, nutty flavour. It tastes like the tea-equivalent of a spoonful of nut butter. It’s perfect if you’re looking for a full, rich taste and texture.
What they say: Revive Me is an organic white tea made with a combination of Moringa, Rosehip, Chinnamon pieces, Nettle, and Ginseng, all organic ingredients to energise you.
What we say: This tea has a crisp, clean flavour guaranteed to do just what the title says and revive you at your desk midway through your work day. It’s sweet without being overpowering, and makes you feel more awake and energised.
Other green teas we love
What they say: Cartwright and Butler is a luxury teatime treat. Their tea takes young, delicate green tea leaves grown at high altitudes with intermittent sunshine, and infuses them with rose petals.
What we say: This is probably the most popular tea in the office. It’s the right level of sweetness, and has no bitter taste. You can find the floral flavour in the tea’s slight sweetness. It tastes fruity – not quite as strong as a berry, but equally delicious. It also has a wonderful fragrance so you don’t even have to taste it to know how good it is.
What they say: JING’s green teas come from China and Japan, and combat the misconception that green tea is a bitter drink. Their teas capture the essence of spring: natural sweetness and a silky texture.
What we say: JING became an important addition to our green tea collection here, specifically the Organic Jade Sword Green Tea. It’s strong without being bitter, and has a smooth, sweet aftertaste. It really does taste like a spring day.
What they say: Moroccan Mint green tea is inspired by the traditions of Morocco’s Touareg people, who combine fresh peppermint leaves with green tea. The combination creates an enticing sweet aroma and a calming effect.
What we say: Moroccan Mint is an excellent choice if you’re both a tea lover and a lover of fresh minty flavour. The full, unique peppermint taste that accompanies this tea will make it an instant fave.
What they say: Aduna’s Turmeric green tea is a part of their range of African super teas. The teas are organic herbal infusions powered by active botanical superfood ingredients for a rich and balanced flavour.
What we say: This tea stands out not because it’s sweet or bitter, but because it’s spicy. The spiciness makes the tea strong, unique, and delicious. It’s sure to wake you up. This is the tea strong enough to get you going on a long day.