How to Brew Green Tea for the Health Benefits

brewing a cup of green tea
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Rich in antioxidant compounds, green tea may protect against a variety of health concerns like cardiovascular disease and boost your well-being. The active constituents thought to play a key role in green tea's possible effects include catechins such as epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), theanine (an amino acid said to promote a calming effect), and gallic acid.

Brewing Green Tea for Taste

When you make a cup of green tea, the taste depends on how you brew it. According to tea aficionados, the perfect cup is rich in flavor without being bitter.

If the water is too hot or if the tea has been steeped for too long, it can impart bitterness. If the water is too cool, the full flavor of the tea won't be properly extracted.

The ideal steeping time varies according to the size and shape of the leaves, the grade of the tea, and when the tea was harvested. Green tea is generally heated to 140 to 185 F and is brewed for one to three minutes.

Several studies suggest that the brewing method can alter the catechin content of a cup of tea. Here are some factors that influence their extraction.

Size and Shape of the Tea Leaves

Small leaves infuse faster. Tightly curled or large leaf tea requires a longer infusion time.

Loose Leaf Vs Tea Bags

In general, loose leaf tea are prized because young leaves and whole buds are used, which are often higher quality than the broken leaf pieces found in many pre-bagged packaged teas. If you're using tea bags, dunking them in the cup or teapot (rather than leaving them to float on the water) should increase the extraction of catechins.


Although boiling water promotes the rapid extraction of catechins, steeping with cold water is reported to maximize the health benefits of green tea because there is less degradation of compounds such as epigallocatechin gallate and gallic acid.

In a study published in the Journal of Food Science in 2016, the highest levels of antioxidant activity were observed in green tea that had been steeped in cold water for a prolonged period of time. In contrast, white tea had the highest antioxidant activity when steeped in hot water for a prolonged time, and black tea was highest with a short hot water infusion.

Steeping Time

A study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2015, examined the antioxidant power of five white and green tea samples infused with hot (70 or 90 C for 7 minutes) or cold water (room temperature for 15, 30, 60, or 120 minutes). The results indicated that for whole, large green tea leaves, the greatest antioxidant activity occurred when the tea was steeped in cold water for 120 minutes.

What Is the Downside?

Brewing for a long time (particularly in hot water) can impart an unpleasant bitterness to the tea and raise the caffeine content of the tea.

Steeping tea for a prolonged time and using hot water can extract other substances from the tea. Heavy metals such as lead and aluminum and pesticide residues are among the substances that have been detected in brewed green tea.

While contamination from heavy metals is a concern that many people may have, pregnant or nursing women and children, in particular, should consult their healthcare providers before upping their intake of green tea and should avoid over-steeped tea.

The Takeaway

If you're interested in maximizing the antioxidant activity of your next cup of green tea, try steeping it for at least two hours in cold water (instead of using hot water) and see how you like the taste.

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