Best Green Tea Guide - Types, Flavors, Brands & Caffeine Levels
Whether you prefer loose leaf, tea bags, or ready-to-drink iced tea, the best green tea has a great refreshing flavor. In this guide, we'll be exploring what green tea leaves are, what makes green tea taste so good, and which common varieties and types are considered the best.
Learn more about green tea and other tea types here on the Zest blog, or visit ZestTea.com to explore our award-winning energy tea blends.
What is Green Tea?
Green tea is a caffeinated tea type made by infusing the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant in water. The plant that produces green teas also produces the leaves that are used to make black tea, white tea, and numerous other tea types that tea drinkers enjoy.
The green tea flavor is fresh, grassy and often slightly sweet. In comparison, black and oolong teas are more malty. This is because green tea isn't oxidized during the production process. Not only does this preserve the green flavor, it also gives green tea some unique health benefits that we've explained below.
Green tea can be purchased in tea bags or as loose leaf teas. The best green teas come from all over the world, though the most well-known are from China and Japan. Some green tea types, like Tai Ping Hou Kui from the Anhui province of China, are renowned for exquisite flavor and unique processing.1 Other green teas, like the tea grown to make matcha, are shade grown to create different flavors and qualities.
With so many different Camellia sinensis cultivars and varieties, plus the variation in growing region, growing method and production process, means there are endless types of green tea to try.
Organic Green Tea
Tea is a natural product, made from tea leaves, although it's not always certified organic. Finding organic green tea is fairly simple, however it doesn't guarantee a high quality tea. The best green teas are produced using the orthodox method that's time-intensive but produces beautiful dried tea leaves at the end. Learn more in our article How Is Tea Made.
Besides looking for organic teas, like organic sencha for example, you might also want to look for natural flavor elements. Teas that blend green tea varieties with other ingredients are referred to as 'blends'. At Zest, we blend our non-GMO green tea with natural flavors like safflower petals, apple chunks, dried berries, and natural flavorings.
Loose green tea doesn't have a dedicated grading system like black teas, e.g. 'Orange Pekoe'. But generally, green tea that's made from the first buds, picked during the first flush (the first harvest of a season) are considered a higher quality.
In Japan, green teas - Ryokucha - are graded a little differently. Gyokuro is from the first harvest of the season and the tea plants are actually shaded for several months prior to create a deeper flavor. Sencha, which is the most common green tea and is on our list below, is also from that first harvest but not from shaded tea plants. Finally, bancha refers to the green tea harvested later on in the season and is considered a lower quality.2
Green Tea Health Benefits
Coffee drinkers or energy tea drinkers might consider switching to becoming a green tea drinker for the many health benefits associated with the drink. While there is scientific evidence that green tea possesses compounds that have health benefits, many studies use an extract or tea concentrate to achieve results.
Nonetheless, a cup of gunpowder green tea a day or a frothy matcha could:
- Reduce your blood pressure, even though it contains caffeine. A study found that green tea consumption significantly decreases systolic blood pressure.3
- Reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 33%, according to a Japanese study.4
- Assist weight loss and weight management, thanks to catechins, amino acids and caffeine found in green tea.5
- Lead to reduced mortality overall due to all causes!6
These health benefits are mainly due to the high catechin and antioxidants compounds in tea leaves, as well as the caffeine. Green tea is particularly high in the epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) catechin, which isn't as present in black tea leaves and other tea types.
Green Tea Caffeine Levels
While Zest green energy teas contain more caffeine than coffee, at up to 135mg per cup, other green teas are quite low in caffeine. The average amount of caffeine in a 8oz cup of green tea is 28mg.7
Different green teas may have more or less caffeine. It depends on the plant cultivar, how it was grown, and what part of the plant is used. The buds of the tea plant contain more caffeine than the larger, lower leaves.
Matcha powder is a different story altogether. While most tea is made by infusing leaves and then removing them from the water, matcha is a powdery substance made from crushed shade-grown tea leaves. When you drink matcha, you are consuming 100% of the tea leaf itself, so you consume all the caffeine it has to offer. There's approximately 70mg of caffeine in 1 tsp of powder.8
10 Best Types of Green Tea
Any of these top 10 great types of green tea will produce a delicious cup. We've selected 10 of the most popular and easily accessible types of green tea to highlight in this article, however there are so many more to explore so don't stop here!
1 - Green Energy Tea
Maybe we're a little biased, but we believe our energy tea is definitely the best! Each flavorful and fragrant blend produces a strong green tea that kicks like coffee... without the crash. Our flavored green tea is blended with additional extract from the tea plant to create a plant-powered energy tea that has more caffeine than coffee.
Our green tea leaves are available as loose leaf green tea or as pyramid-shaped tea bags. They have a fresh and vibrant flavor with low astringency and bitterness. We also use natural ingredients in our tea blends - dried peppermint leaves in Pomegranate Mojito and bright safflower petals in Superberry Samba, for example.
By choosing a tea blend, you get to enjoy the fine flavors of a high-quality green tea with complementary flavor notes.
2 - Pure Green Tea
Whether you opt for an organic green tea or just prepare green tea from a teabag, sometimes you can't beat a pure green tea. Similar to white and oolong tea, the best loose leaf green tea produces a complex flavor profile in your cup when made just with hot water - no lemon or sweetener needed.
To give an example, Lu'an Gua Pian green tea from China has a very smooth, sweet and slightly nutty flavor. Bancha, the Japanese green tea, has a mellow straw-like aroma and flavor.
Brewed green tea doesn't have to taste 'plain', you just need to find a variety that appeals to your palate. Once you've found it, you can brew a great cup of tea in minutes. See our green tea brewing method below.
3 - Jasmine Green Tea
Green tea leaves mixed with jasmine flowers creates a delicate and delicious tea. It balances the natural grassy flavor of green tea leaves with maximum floral flavor from the jasmine. It's refreshing, slightly sweet, and mellow - not dissimilar to a white tea.
Jasmine green tea is very popular around the world and can be found easily as both loose leaf tea and tea bags. Organic jasmine green tea is available - ensuring both the tea and the jasmine is organically grown.
The best jasmine green teas are made by infusing the leaves with jasmine flowers, which only open and release their scent overnight. Lower quality jasmine green teas may be made with flavoring instead.
Although this tea is often referred to as just jasmine tea, it does contain green tea leaves. Tea made just from jasmine flowers is a herbal tea, rather than a green tea, and doesn't contain any caffeine.
4 - Sencha Green Tea
Sencha tea is the verdant green high-quality green tea from Japan. While gyokuro is the highest grade green tea produced, sencha is more widely available and commonly consumed. Sencha has a slightly sweet taste with grassy and subtle vegetal notes. Like most green teas, sencha green tea can become bitter when brewed too hot or too long.
Depending on the tea plant variety used to make organic sencha or regular sencha green tea, it can also have slightly floral notes or buttery flavors.
Sencha tea is available as loose leaf tea or in tea bags. It's widely available in the west and is also the most commonly consumed green tea in Japan, making up over half of Japan's annual tea harvest.9
5 - Matcha Green Tea Powder
Matcha green tea is a powdered tea type with a rich flavor and considerable caffeine hit. There's approximately 70mg in a single teaspoon of this green tea powder. Matcha is becoming increasingly popular in recent years and is considered the best green tea by many.
Traditionally, matcha is whisked into water with a bamboo whisk called a chasen. Preparing a single scoop of matcha with water to create a thin liquid with frothy foam on top is how many people make a cup of matcha - this is called usucha. More experienced matcha lovers may create koicha instead, which uses more powder and less water to create a thicker matcha tea with stronger umami flavors.
You can also drink matcha whisked tea with milk or made into a matcha green tea latte.
Matcha powder is made from tea leaves that are grown in the shade for three to four weeks before harvest. The vines and stems of the leaves are removed, and the remaining leaf is dried and ground into a fine powder.
General advice is to use ceremonial grade matcha powder for drinking and culinary grade matcha powder for baking or cooking with. However, there is no regulatory body or official guidelines that producers use to differentiate ceremonial and culinary grades, so you can think of it like a suggestion from the tea seller instead.
If you want to get serious about drinking matcha tea, look at single origin matcha teas and brands that specialize in selling fine matcha powders.
6 - Decaffeinated Green Tea
Decaf green tea is available from several tea brands, but it's not as common as decaf black types. To make decaffeinated green tea, the tea leaves are exposed to a solvent which draws out the caffeine. Then the solvent is removed, often by heating the tea leaves. Unfortunately, most decaffeination methods also draw out many of the nutrients and flavor components of green tea - which means the health benefits are reduced too.
Decaf green tea is almost always sold in tea bags. You're unlikely to find specific tea varieties, e.g. sencha or jasmine green tea, sold as decaffeinated instead of simply generic green tea. While it's not the "best" green tea, it is popular and also a decent option if you want to drink green tea but cannot consume caffeine. There's only a milligram or two of caffeine left after the decaffeination process.
7 - Gunpowder Green Tea
Gunpowder green tea is a type of rolled Chinese green tea. The large leaves are rolled into pellets that supposedly represent gunpowder. It's also called pearl tea by some. This is a type of pure green tea, distinguished by the shape the leaves are rolled into.
It's not just popular in China. Gunpowder green tea is one of the best green teas for making Moroccan Mint tea, combining green tea with mint leaves in hot water to create a refreshing drink. It's also a popular loose leaf for beginner tea drinkers.
As gunpowder green tea is usually (but not always) made with larger and older leaves that can be rolled into pellets, it's a particularly low-caffeine green tea.
8 - Genmaicha
Genmaicha is a tasty blend of green tea - often bancha - with popped rice kernels. It is one of the most interesting loose leaf green teas to try! The popped rice kernels give the tea a toasty, nutty flavor that perfectly complements the smooth, grassy green tea.
The best genmaicha is loose leaf, so you can see the popped rice kernels and green tea leaves. As bancha is often used to make genmaicha, it may contain stems too.
9 - Iced Green Tea
You can make iced tea with any tea type, however the naturally refreshing quality of green tea makes it one of the best candidates. To ice tea, you first brew your tea leaves in hot water, then pour them over ice. This enhances the fresh taste of green tea and is ideal for the summer months.
You can make iced green tea with any green tea you have at home, or purchase ready-to-drink iced green teas. Be careful, however, as many ready-to-drink options are loaded with an incredible amount of sugar!
If you want to make your iced tea at home, make sure you add your sweetener (sugar, honey or other) while you steep tea leaves, rather than after it has been iced. This will help the sweet element dissolve.
10 - Cold Brew Green Tea
Brewing tea in cold water is a slow process, taking up to 12 hours to infuse completely. However, it has some great benefits - especially for green tea. Even the best green teas can be a little bitter or astringent, but using cold water reduces that and pulls out the sweet grassy flavor more.
Cold brew tea can be quite weak, so consider using two tea bags or twice as much loose leaf. Just bear in mind that this will also double the caffeine content - 270mg if you're using Zest green tea.
Cold brew tea is slow but also quite convenient. You could prepare it in the evening and let the cold water and tea infuse overnight, ready to go in the morning.
Zest Green Tea Blends
At Zest, we have a selection of green energy tea blends for you to choose from. You can find our green tea leaves in tea bags or as loose leaf tea. Whichever you choose, you can enjoy a hot cup of brewed green tea in just minutes.
Just like our black caffeinated tea, our green teas are energy teas. They're high in caffeine, non-GMO and blended with natural flavor ingredients. We achieve this by adding additional tea extract from the tea plant to our green tea leaves. There's up to 135mg of caffeine per cup!
- Superberry Samba - tropical berries and safflower petals,
- Pomegranate Mojito - peppermint, pomegranate and lime,
One of the things we love about tea is that it tastes amazing both hot and cold. If you're craving an iced tea, then try these ready-to-drink green tea options:
Not to brag (too much) but we are the most highly caffeinated tea on the market! Does that make us the best? Try our teas to find out.
Zest vs Other Brands
Many tea brands offer green tea and black tea options, so Zest is no different there. You can pick up iced options, like a Lipton Green tea, or tea bags to brew hot, like Bigelow Classic Green Tea.
So, why is Zest better - or even the best - compared to other tea brands?
- All our ingredients are natural and non-GMO,
- Our teas are entirely plant-based, vegan, and ket0-friendly,
- Zest energy drinks are sugar free (or very low in sugar) compared to standard energy drinks,
- Our tea bags are in a pyramid style, which allows the large leaf pieces to expand and infuse freely. In comparison, a square paper tea bag from Yogi Tea or similar contains very small, broken leaf pieces.
- Brewing Zest's teas is quick and convenient - like using tea crystals but better! We have accessories to help you get the most out of your loose leaf too.
Learn more about what we do at ZestTea.com
How to Brew Green Tea
Brewing green tea is a simple process that doesn't need to take more than a few minutes. If you want an even more convenient solution, read about our ready-to-drink green tea blends above.
To make a cup of green tea, you will need:
- A mug or cup,
- Tea bags or loose leaf plus an infuser,
- Hot water.
That's it! You can also add a slice of lemon or a sweetener to taste, but if you prepare the green tea correctly then it should taste great plain. For more flavor, choose a flavored green tea that contains other ingredients - the brewing method is the same.
Whether you use loose leaf tea or tea bags, the most important step is reaching the optimal water temperature. If you have the time and patience, use a thermometer to read the water temperature. If not, just leave your boiled water to cool for 2-3 minutes before adding the tea. This makes all the difference to the end result!
Loose Leaf Tea
To brew loose leaf tea, you will need a device that allows you to brew the leaves and then remove them from the water. The simplest way is to use a tea infuser, like the Zest Paris Tea Cup Infuser, or you can try a DIY solution. For example, brew your loose leaf tea in a jug and pour it into a mug through a sieve or strainer to remove the leaves.
- Bring your water up to 80°C / 176°F or let it boil and then cool for 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea to your infuser and place this inside your mug.
- Pour the water into the mug, over the infuser.
- Let the tea steep for 2-4 minutes, or as directed.
- Remove the tea infuser and enjoy drinking the brewed green tea.
Tea bags are a more convenient way of brewing green teas, however they do have a few drawbacks. The first is that tightly packed tea bags don't offer the leaves much space to expand and brew freely, so you may be tempted to mash the teabag against the side of your mug - don't do this! The second drawback is that teabags often contain more finely chopped pieces of tea leaf, which infuse much faster than loose leaf.
So, brew your green tea bags for a shorter time than loose leaf... or choose a high-quality green tea bag like Zest Tea. We use exactly the same leaf for our loose leaf and tea bag options.
- Bring your water up to 80°C / 176°F or let it boil and then cool for 2-3 minutes.
- Add 1 tea bag to your mug. If it has a tag, hang this over the side of your mug.
- Pour the water into the mug, over the teabag.
- Let the tea steep for 2-3 minutes, or as directed.
- Remove the teabag and discard, then enjoy your mug of delicious green tea.
What brand of green tea is the best?
It really depends on your tastes and why you're drinking green tea. For flavor, choose a high-quality or organic green tea brand. For an energy boost, opt for Zest Tea.
What type of green tea is healthiest?
Depending on levels of antioxidants, amino acids, catechins, and other components found in green tea leaves, one type of green tea may be "healthier" than another. The problem is, there are no studies exploring this. If you want to drink as much of the green tea leaf as possible, matcha green tea is the way to go.
What is the number one green tea?
If you judge by popularity, Lipton is most likely the number one seller of green tea (as well as black tea) in the US.10 If you're judging by quality and functionality, it's got to be Zest or any other green tea seller that offers whole or large leaf specialty green tea.
What happens if I drink green tea everyday?
Drinking green tea regularly is linked to numerous advantages for your health, including reducing high blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and even weight loss. Drinking a cup every day is therefore great for your health!
You're unlikely to experience any negative side effects from consuming just one serving of green tea per day. Even our high caffeine green tea provides 135mg, which is below the FDA daily recommended limit of 400mg.11
What does Zest green tea taste like?
Our green tea is smooth and grassy, low in astringency and easy on the taste buds. We blend our high quality green tea with other natural ingredients to create delicious, tasty flavor combinations. Our green energy tea blends are fruity, sweet, minty and refreshing.
Is green tea better than black tea?
Black and green tea both have strong distinguishable flavors and unique health benefits. If you're looking for refreshing and revitalizing, green tea is best. If you want warming and rich, black tea is best. Read our article Green vs Black Tea to learn more.