Why Is My Green Tea Bitter and What Can I Do to Fix It?

Jill Caren

Green tea shouldn’t be bitter. If your cup of green tea tastes bitter, then you’re doing something wrong. You’re not brewing it properly or using …

Categories Green Tea

Green tea shouldn’t be bitter. If your cup of green tea tastes bitter, then you’re doing something wrong. You’re not brewing it properly or using low-quality tea.

Key Highlights

Green tea’s two major bitter compounds are catechins and caffeine.

Your green tea is bitter because you’re not brewing it properly.

To avoid bitterness use high-quality tea, hot instead of boiling water, keep an eye on the steep time, and use the correct leaf-to-water ratio.

Let’s go into detail and learn how to always have a nice, sweet, grassy, flavorful cup of green tea without bitter notes.

Where Does Green Tea’s Bitterness Come From?

The bitterness of green tea is mainly formed by the combination of tea polyphenols, caffeine, and some amino acids.

Catechins like EGCG, EGC, ECG, and EC are the major polyphenolic compounds in green tea. EGCG is the major catechin in green tea and accounts for most of the research on green tea.

Many sensory evaluations indicate that the taste of catechins is bitter and astringent

Caffeine is another crucial factor affecting the bitter taste of green tea. Many studies confirm that caffeine has a bitter taste

Additionally, the variety of free amino acids in green tea also influences the flavor. Amino acids offer a variety of flavors, including bitter, sweet, fresh, and astringent.

Green tea’s major bitter compounds are caffeine and catechins. To avoid bitterness and excessive astringency, we must adjust the brewing parameters such that the amount of these components does not dominate the rest.

Why Does Green Tea Become Bitter?

The main reason why your green tea becomes bitter is that it was brewed incorrectly. Here are some things that you may be doing wrong if your green tea tastes bitter: 

  • Using too hot water
  • Too much tea leaves and little water
  • Steeping for too long
  • Using old or a very low-quality green tea 

Let’s see some details about these factors that affect the final taste of green tea and may increase its bitterness.

Water Temperature

Don’t use boiling water for making green tea because it will become too bitter, and it may turn the color of the brew brown or dark. Also, if you use very cold water, the green tea will be flavorless. 

So, what is the right temperature for brewing green tea to avoid bitterness? For brewing green tea to avoid bitterness, the best temperature is between 140 °F and 185 °F (60 °C and 85 °C)

Now you wonder why these big temperature ranges. This is because different types of green tea require different brewing temperatures. It’s always good to ask your tea provider about the adequate brewing temperature of your green tea to get the right flavor and avoid bitterness.

To get the recommended water temperature for brewing green tea, it is best to use an electric kettle with temperature settings.

If you don’t have one, then just bring water to a boil (6 fl oz) and pour it into a cup. Leave it to cool for 2-3 minutes to reach 160°F–170°F. If you leave it to cool for 5 minutes, the water temperature will be around 140°F – 150°F. 

Leaf-to-water ratio

If you use too many tea leaves and little water, the taste will be very concentrated and you’ll taste more bitterness.

To avoid green tea tasting bitter, use the right leaf-to-water ratio. Use 2 grams of loose-leaf green tea for every 6 fl oz of water. This is about one heaping teaspoon of loose green tea. If the leaves are bigger, you can measure 2 teaspoons.

No matter what type of green tea you use, whether it’s Japanese or Chinese green tea, it’s good to stick to the recommended 2 grams of tea per 6 fl oz of water. You can make changes afterward depending on your taste preference.

One thing to remember is not to use too many tea leaves and little water because your green tea will taste too bitter and will be too concentrated.   

Steeping Time

If you over-steep your green tea, it will taste bitter. Green tea’s steep time can range anywhere from 30 seconds to 3 minutes, depending on the type you use.

Additionally, steeping green tea for a longer time than recommended, besides the increased bitterness, also results in a change of color. Instead of the characteristic yellowish or green color of this tea, you’ll get a brownish color. 

You’ll also get more caffeine in your cup. As I mentioned before, caffeine is one of the bitter components of green tea. Steeping green tea for an additional minute increases caffeine levels by 29%.

Steeping for a shorter time is also not recommended. By doing this, you won’t extract enough flavors, antioxidants, and other components.

So, always follow the steep time for your chosen green tea type to avoid bitterness and get the right flavor, color, and all the good components from the tea you brew.

Tea’s quality

Loose-leaf green tea is of higher quality and less bitter than green tea bags. Tea bags are typically filled with dust and broken tea leaf fragments. The surface area of these shattered pieces is bigger. This implies that bitter compounds like catechins and other components are released considerably more quickly and to a larger extent.

In contrast, loose-leaf teas contain the whole tea leaf. Because the surface area is lower, less of the bitter properties found in tea are released.

While always loose-leaf tea is superior to tea bags, badly stored or low-quality loose-leaf green tea can turn bitter even when brewed according to the recommendations.

As a result, it is essential to purchase loose green tea from reputable vendors and keep it properly. If the green tea was not properly stored or is too old, such as being stored in an area with high heat or humidity, the tea leaves will oxidize more. This combination eventually produces a more bitter flavor.

Keep your green tea in an airtight container, out of direct sunlight, and at room temperature.

For further reading here is how to brew green tea properly with zero bitterness every time (step-by-step guide).

How Do I Fix Bitter Green Tea With Sweetener?

The easiest way to reduce the bitterness of green tea is to add some type of sweetener. There are many different ways to sweeten green tea and fix bitterness without using sugar.

Some of the best green tea sweeteners that are not white sugar are:

  • Honey
  • Stevia
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Date syrup
  • Monk fruit

Green Tea Flavorings to Reduce Bitterness

One of the most common flavorings used to improve the taste of green tea and minimize its bitterness is lemon juice or lemon slices. Citrus contributes to the tea’s fragrance while counteracting its bitter overtones.

Other natural flavorings that you can use to reduce green tea’s bitter notes are:

  • Mint
  • Ginger
  • Citrus peel
  • Floral-flavored tea

Additionally, spices like cinnamon and cardamom can help to bring new flavors and reduce the bitter overtones of green tea. Cinnamon offers a touch of sweetness as well as a spicy touch. Cardamom, on the other hand, gives green tea a sweet, zesty flavor.

If you don’t like the taste of your green tea here are 5 tips for making green tea taste better.

Is It True That Bitter Green Tea Is a Sign of Quality?

The answer is no. Bitter green tea is not a sign of quality, and it shouldn’t be treated as such.

When sipping a green tea, bitter notes shouldn’t overwhelm the sweet, vegetal, and grassy notes. If your green tea tastes too bitter, it means that it’s not brewed properly or that you’ve used low-quality tea.

The Takeaway

Green tea is a delicious and healthy beverage that shouldn’t be bitter. You can expect a bit of bittersweet notes in a cup of green tea, but the bitter notes shouldn’t overcome its sweet, vegetal, and grassy flavor.

If your green tea is too bitter, it is either because you didn’t brew it properly or you are using low-quality green tea. 

To make green tea that is not bitter, use hot water (140 °F – 185 °F); don’t use boiling water. Keep an eye on the steeping time (30 sec.-3 min.) depending on the type of green tea you use.

Use the recommended leaf-to-water ratio (2-3 grams of tea per 6 fl oz of water). Avoid using tea bags, instead, use high-quality loose-leaf green tea.

If you follow the brewing recommendations, you’ll always have a nice, sweet, grassy cup of green tea with minimum or no bitter notes. If in any case, your cup of green tea is still a bit bitter, you can add a sweetener such as honey or add a slice of lemon.