Whether you’re a seasoned tea master or you’re exploring the world of green tea for the first time, we at RAVE think the Jasmine Pearls Green Tea is the best green tea out there.
Not only does it have the best combination of price, processing, and packaging, but it also strikes the perfect balance between a smooth green tea flavor and floral jasmine aroma. It’s like drinking flowers!
The Green Tea We RAVE About
In the world of teas, black tea is king. It is by far the most popular in the world, so green tea is like the industry’s best kept secret.
Green tea is wonderfully versatile. It can be sweetened with honey, spiced with cinnamon, made citrusy with ginger or orange, fruity with pomegranate, tart with lemon, floral with jasmine, and so on. It can also be enjoyed on its own terms. A grassy, bright, subtle, and complex drink, it’s delicious in sickness and in health!
Green and black tea leaves come from the same plant. Green leaves are picked earlier in the year, but like avocados or bananas, they quickly turn brown unless oxidation-causing enzymes are neutralized. This process can be done in a variety of ways — steaming, roasting, drying, etc. — each of which creates a different type of green tea.
Like any kind of tea, green teas come in all grades and price ranges. Higher quality teas are sweeter, balanced, full-bodied, complex, and aromatic, but can get expensive quickly.
Green teas come in so many varieties, it’s important to consider for what occasion you’re buying them. If tea serves you socially, consider one of the rarer or more exotic selections. If you’re drinking for personal daily use, or if you’re exploring the world of tea for the first time, cozy up with one of the more affordable options.
Types of Green Tea
There are as many green teas as there are white wines, so there is a lot to explore! Not only that, but green tea is deeply steeped (get it?) in history. Every cup is storied.
Whether you’re a novice or a Zen master looking for the next thing to try, we’ve put together a list of six “species” of green teas in alphabetical order. It is not exhaustive — such a list would be far too long! We’ve omitted obscure teas like Laoshan, which is a coveted tea grown in a single region in Shandong Province.
Rather than categorizing teas based on their region of origin (which only connoisseurs do), those listed here are distinguished by how they are produced or processed.
Which have you tried? Which will you brew next?
Biluochun is an affordable and popular green tea with a fragrant, vegetable quality like steamed edamame. Higher quality versions take it in a more citrusy direction: You can almost detect a whisper of pineapple. In combination with its silky body that glides down your throat, this flavor makes it the tea of choice if you are recovering from a cold.
During processing, Biluochun is fried in a wok shortly after it is picked in the first or second flush of spring. Then, it is rubbed by hand until curly and dark green, and finally air-dried.
Genmaicha is Sencha for drinkers on a budget. It is a low-grade Sencha supplemented with rice or sorghum. While less refined, the result is toasty and flavorful.
In fact, if you are trying to quit coffee, Genmaicha is a superb alternative. Not only does it have a (vaguely) similar earthy taste, but its body has a kick, making it the ideal pick-me-up for early mornings.
The production of Gyokuro is rather elaborate. Three to six weeks before the leaves are harvested, the tea trees are shaded with bamboo tents to cut off sunlight. This forced fast compels the plant to produce extra nutrients like chlorophyll.
When they are harvested and processed, the result is a brothy tea with a bright and savory flavor. This tea is good for sipping rather than gulping.
Longjing (Dragon Well)
The most celebrated tea to emerge from China, the very best Dragon Well leaves never make it out of the country. The rest of the world must settle for “very good,” not the “best” — unless you have a plane ticket to China.
Dragon Well neutralizes oxidizing enzymes by roasting the leaves in classic Chinese fashion: with a wok. When done well, the result is a sweeter tea with chestnut tones. Rich and refreshing, Dragon Well is a staple among serious tea-drinkers, but it inevitably costs more than other green teas.
A high quality Dragon Well is relatively easy to spot. The leaves are cut in short, wrinkly strands instead of long and ironed flat, with maybe just a bit of peach fuzz. Dragon Well leaves have a yellowish-green tone.
Matcha is not everyone’s cup of tea (get it?). By far the most distinctive of all the green teas, it has only recently broken into the mainstream. Today, chains like Starbucks offer Matcha mixed into sugary lattes or blended drinks. Although rising in popularity, a cup of Matcha in its traditional form is a rare sight.
Matcha is premium quality, shade-grown tea leaves ground into a fine powder that is scooped into a cup of water and whisked into a froth. You end up drinking the entire leaf, not just the extract.
It takes a lot of work to make Matcha. After being processed, dried, and deveined, the leaves are ground with stones, at times by hand, making Matcha one of the most expensive (and prized) teas.
Matcha tea is creamy, savory, bittersweet, and a bit like drinking grass, which is why it is loved by some and despised by others. Unlike other teas, Matcha should be stored in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. Teas typically have little nutritional value, but Matcha is the exception. A single cup is rich in vitamin C, potassium, and calcium.
If you have ever enjoyed a cup of green tea, it was most likely Sencha. It is the prototypical green.
It can be found in varying quality, but how it is processed is universal: Shortly after being picked, the leaves are steamed to prevent oxidation, giving them a piney, subtly bitter, and wonderfully aromatic quality, so their flavor lingers in the mouth long after the last sip.
With all the types and varieties and blends of green tea out there, how do we possibly sift through them all? Below are some major factors we considered, in descending order of importance:
- Quality: How carefully were the tea leaves cultivated and processed? Can they be steeped multiple times?
- Taste: How is this tea distinct? What does it offer the palate?
- Packaging: Does the bag or canister extend the shelf life of the tea? Is it aesthetically pleasing and presentable?
- Price: How much does it cost? The higher the price, the lower the score.
The Best Green Tea
Jasmine Pearls Green Tea
The Tao of Tea is a series of teahouses based in Portland, OR. Their motto is “Organic is not enough.” This teahouse is characterized by a bias for doing things the ancient, traditional, and sustainable way. It shows in the loving way they process their teas.
Nowhere is that labor of love more apparent than in Jasmine Pearls, their consummate representation of handcrafted tea. Grown and harvested in Hunan, China, the pearls are made by plucking freshly sprouted spring leaves. They are dried on bamboo trays and rolled between the thumb and index finger into “pearls,” the same size and shape as those on a necklace. It takes 2,000 pearls to make one pound of tea. The pearls are then heat-infused with jasmine petals at least five times before being packaged in airtight tin canisters.
This tea creates the perfect balance between a smooth green tea flavor and the floral jasmine aroma.
In Tè Veritas
While facing the Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy (famously depicted in the 1953 film “Roman Holiday”), on your left you’ll find Babingtons, a 125 year old English-style breakfast restaurant. Inside you will find a wide assortment of exquisite teas. And thanks to the internet, you don’t have to purchase a plane ticket to get a sip!
The In Tè Veritas is a “gunpowder tea” grown in China and sold in airtight tins. Gunpowder tea is processed in a manner similar to but less taxing than pearls. First, the leaves are withered, steamed until supple, then individually rolled into pellets and dried. Inspired by the La Bocca della Verità (i.e., The Mouth of Truth, which also appears in the film), the pellets are blended with bits of lavender, mint, and vanilla to be infused simultaneously while brewing.
In Tè Veritas is an elegant tea ideal for intimate social gatherings. True to its roots in English tradition, this tea is enough to make us wish that tea time had caught on in America.
Sencha Green Tea
Sencha is easy to find cheap. After all, it is the most traditional of traditional teas. The standard, if you will. So it’s a special treat when a high-quality version appears.
Processed on Kyushu island in Kagoshima, Japan, Sencha Green Tea by Rishi Tea & Botanicals capitalizes on what is distinctive about Sencha: a flavor that fills and lingers in the mouth long after the final sip.
Rishi is leading the charge in rebranding tea to appeal to the third wave coffee generation. Their approach to tea is stylized and innovative, ecologically-conscious, and draws from various modern movements, including botanical apothecary!
Rishi’s Sencha is a blend of first and second flush harvests from Kyushu island’s mineral rich volcanic soil. The result is a slightly opaque, very green, and exceptionally savory brew. Sencha’s steaming process gives it a sticky aroma that coats the mouth deliciously.
The People’s Green Tea
As its name implies, the People’s Green Tea is ideal for daily consumption. It’s affordable, of adequate quality, and, unlike most of the items on this list, it can likely be found at your local grocery store.
Grown and processed in China, this tea is a best-seller with thousands of satisfied customers. You can’t go wrong with this universal people-pleaser.
Because this brand uses bags, there are limits to how much you can experiment with it. This tea is not designed to be infused more than once, unlike loose leaf teas, which can undergo up to three infusions before being disposed.
But that is part of the appeal: This is a straightforward, single-minded tea that expects to be brewed in the “normal” manner. It is even available in decaf!
Tealyra Gyokuro Green Tea
Committed to authenticity, Tealyra is “a team of tea lovers” on a mission to get more people into tea. This Gyokuro is a special treat, as light and sweetly smooth as a dancer with a strong umami kick at the finish. Considering that Tealyra established themselves through trial and error, it is a real triumph.
Grown in Yame, Japan, this green is “a high quality first flush Gyokuro.” Yame is recognized the world over for its Gyokuro. More than half of all Gyokuro in the world is grown there! Their connection to Yame certainly suggests that Tealyra is offering an authentic Gyokuro.
Tealyra shades their tea trees three weeks before harvest, making the leaves rich in theanine and exceptionally aromatic. Buyers frequently report a cloud of a savory, yet sweet smell erupting from the bag when opened.
This is not an everyday tea, but it is suitable for celebrations and special occasions, to be shared and savored as a luxury item.
Numi is a widely recognized brand. Available in most grocery stores, it manages to elevate the market of commercial teas with excellent quality and variety.
This Gunpowder Green is a premier example. The picture of purity, it has no additives, artificial flavors, coloring, or freeze-dried blends. It claims to stand on its own feet.
Like others on this list, this green is a gunpowder, which is processed by withering, steaming, and then individually rolling the leaves into pellets, which are dried. Even though the method of preparation is ancient, English soldiers named it for its resemblance to the darkly colored and grainy gunpowder they used for firing muskets.
According to the Numi website, their whole leaf organic green tea is processed within hours of being plucked. As they steep, the pellets unfurl to create a full-bodied brew. Numi does not disclose where they grow or process their teas on their website, but it is presumably China.
Dragon Well Green Tea
Best known for their Ethiopian coffee, the minds behind I Have a Bean produce a thoughtfully roasted Dragon Well green tea. Processed by hand at their roasting plant in Wheaton, IL, this tea represents a respect for traditional tea-making.
This tea meets the basic standards of a good Dragon Well: picked in the spring and processed by hand in short strands with bud and leaves intact. Though perhaps a little flatter and greener than is preferred, there is that undeniable yellowish tint that promises a sweet, aromatic flavor.
A Dragon Well of higher quality within this price range would be a difficult find, indeed.
I Have a Bean does not disclose where they harvest their leaves, except that they are “from the best tea gardens in the world.” A final reason to buy from I Have a Bean? They make it their mission to help inmates recently released from prison make a fresh start at life.
Sometimes, excellent tea appears in unexpected places. You can find selections from Benjamin Tea on coffee shop shelves deep in rural Illinois, as I did at a train stop far from the city.
Benjamin Tea is a Chicago-based company that works with a master tea blender in Vienna, who is a member of a guild that has been blending teas for nearly 200 years.
The Pomegranate Green is a Sencha green tea mixed with dried pomegranate arils, freeze-dried red currants, raspberries, and mallow blossoms. The result is a delightfully floral and fruity fusion that leverages the clingy aromas of Sencha to great effect. Your mouth feels like a florist shop afterward!
Benjamin Tea does not disclose where their tea originates. It is not poor quality, but it makes up for anything it lacks with the guiding hand of experience. Their point person in Vienna clearly understands tea and how to coordinate flavors, even if they somewhat overpower the Sencha.
Organic Green Tea with Citrus and Ginkgo
Harney & Sons is a staple in any tea-drinking home and a first choice for restaurants. Handpicked in an undisclosed location in China, this blend pairs green tea with its natural partners, citrus and ginkgo. This is the peanut butter and jelly of the green tea world.
This tea is light-bodied and good for everyday consumption. It’s wholesome and uncomplicated, infusing a greenish-brown brew you can sip all day long. A favorite among students, it delivers just enough caffeine to invigorate another thirty minutes of study.
No pretentiousness here. No calls for a special occasion. Nothing overwhelming. Just a casual tea with a cleansing character. It comes in sachets instead of bags, adding just enough elegance to your cup to treat yourself.