Iced Green Tea Latte
The label premium when referring to green tea is entirely subjective. Any company can slap the word “premium” on their own brand, but because there is no agreed upon meaning of this term, the label “premium” on its own is almost meaningless. In addition, because green tea is so diverse, even experts and tea enthusiasts who know how to locate and select high-quality tea do not agree about which teas deserve the title of the “best green tea”. That said, there are still things that you can do as a shopper to inform your purchases, so that you locate premium-quality green for a fair price.
If you are reading this article, you are most likely looking for the best quality green tea, and would like to pay as reasonable a price for it as possible. You may be looking for a brand to serve or sell in your business, searching for a gift for a tea lover, or just looking to buy a tea to drink daily in your home, for taste or for health. Regardless of what you are looking for, this article will give you a few easy pointers that will help you to locate the best green teas.
Buy from brands and companies focusing on loose-leaf green tea:
Many people in America are only accustomed to drinking tea that is packaged in tea bags. Although there are a number of high-quality teas available in bagged form, the best teas tend to only be available in loose-leaf form. When you buy tea bags, you are paying for an industrial packaging process, including the energy, materials, and machinery used to package the tea. When you buy loose-leaf tea, on the other hand, you are paying primarily for the actual production process of the leaf, and thus, paying mainly for the quality of the leaf itself, and the flavor and aroma of the finished tea.
Any company that is serious about tea and legitimately deserves the “premium” label will offer, and probably focus on, loose-leaf tea. Many of the best companies from which to buy green tea will only sell loose-leaf.
Buy single-region, single-harvest teas of named varieties:
When tea is labelled only as “green tea”, it is often a blend of teas from different regions, harvests, and of differing varieties. Each of these regions, harvests, and varieties produces unique flavors in the cup. Although tea blending can be a legitimate practice that can produce nuanced tea blends, unfortunately, the practice of blending is often used to create mass-produced blends using low-quality teas bought on the open market for as low a price as possible.
Buying green tea that is labelled as a specific named variety will often get you higher-quality tea, but this alone will not guarantee premium quality. Even specific types of green tea like dragon well, chun mee, bi luo chun, sencha, bancha, and gyokuro (to give a few examples) are sometimes blended, and these blends can sometimes include “fake” teas–batches produced with shortcut processing methods, or in regions different from the original variety.
The best teas will usually specify more information about the particular batch you are buying, such as a harvest date, a region of origin, or, when the tea is grown in one garden or estate, the name of that specific garden or estate. Tea companies that know green tea will also provide details about what makes their particular batch special, both in terms of its production, and its qualities of flavor and aroma. Companies selling a more generic product will usually rely instead on general or generic descriptions of the particular style of green being sold.
My personal favorite green tea brands:
Although each person has their own opinions, I have tried quite a lot of tea and have developed my own preferences of brands and companies to buy from. My favorite brands of green tea. Among the mainstream brands available in tea bags, I like Foojoy for Chinese teas (available in most Asian markets) and Yamamotoyama for Japanese ones. Upton Tea Imports remains a favorite, especially for Chinese teas, green or black, less so for Japanese. Life in Teacup, another one of my favorites is a tiny company that specializes in Chinese teas, and has a good selection of green and oolong teas. Lastly, I also like Rishi Tea, a leader in fair trade and organic teas, and Rishi has a good selection of green and other teas as well.
Inform yourself about green tea:
The best way to locate brands and companies of premium-quality green tea is for you yourself to know the basics of green. If you know about the major regions that produce green tea, and if you are familiar with the different varieties of both Chinese and Japanese green tea, where these varieties tend to be produced, what each variety tends to cost, and what characteristics of flavor and aroma each one has, you will be able to make more informed purchases. China and Japan are the two biggest countries, and each of these has a number of regions well-known for their green (and sometimes other) teas, but there are other notable regions as well. Some background reading can inform your purchases, but in the end, there is no substitute for actually sampling a number of teas from different companies.
Alex Zorach is the founder and editor-in-chief of RateTea, an interactive website where anyone can rate and review teas. RateTea has a database of teas classified by brand, style, and region, with a wealth of information about each variety and region. Browse listings of green teas from various brands on this site: read reviews and browse listings of different brands and styles, sample teas, and decide for yourself which are the premium brands.