Why Does Green Tea Turn Brown After Brewing? (How to Stop It)

Jill Caren

Is your green tea turning brown? This should not happen! Find out why it does happen and how to prevent it.

Categories Green Tea, Tea

If your green tea turns brown after brewing, something is wrong. This is the main thing that I’ll try to explain here. You’ll learn why your green tea turns brown after brewing and how to avoid this from happening.

Key Takeaways

  • Green tea turns brown after brewing if you use low-quality leaves, too hot water, or over-steep it.
  • Some green teas, like Hojicha, are brown when you brew them; this is normal.
  • If you like your tea after brewing to be green, use Gyokuro or Matcha green tea powder.

Why Is My Green Tea Brown?

Your green tea turns brown after brewing because you may be using low-quality green tea, you’ve brewed it longer than the recommended time or you’re using water that is too hot and low quality.

Let’s see some details about these factors that may change the color of your green tea.

Low-Quality Green Tea Leaves

If the tea leaves you’re using are of low quality, the chances that you’ll end up with brown tea are high.

High-quality green teas are frequently grown in the shade (protected from direct sunlight). Shading the tea leaves increases the chlorophyll content of tea leaves significantly. Chlorophyll is the most essential pigment in defining green tea quality.

Shading significantly increases the color quality of tea during cultivation.

High-quality Matcha, for example, is usually shaded for 10–30 days before harvesting. Similarly, Gyokuro green tea (the finest green tea in my opinion) is shaded for 3 weeks before harvesting.

Gyokuro is a high-quality and one of the most expensive types of Japanese green tea. When brewed, you should get an infusion with a pale green color. If you brew Gyokuro or Matcha tea and the infusion is not green, then you are definitely doing something wrong.

Gyokuro high quality Japanese green tea
Gyokuro (shaded, high-quality green tea)

If the tea leaves are exposed to too much direct sunlight, they lose their vibrant green color.

Simply said, shading the tea plant before harvesting results in higher chlorophyll levels and more green color. When the tea plant is exposed to direct sunlight without any shade, the color of the leaves becomes less green.

Poorly Processed Leaves

Unlike the other teas that come from the Camellia sinensis plant (the tea plant), for green tea leaves to preserve their natural green color, they must undergo a heat process that stops the oxidation shortly after plucking them.

If the tea leaf oxidizes, it loses its green color. Oxidation is an intentional process for black tea (fully oxidized) and oolong tea (semi-oxidized).

Green tea oxidation degrades the chlorophyll content of the tea over time, resulting in the gradual disappearance of the green hue. To prevent oxidation, heat is applied to the leaves, and this is important.

Japanese green teas are steamed, and Chinese green teas are heated (pan-fired). These different methods for stopping oxidation result in different types of green tea.

Chinese green teas usually have a vegetal, toasted, and nutty flavor, while Japanese usually offer a fresh, vegetal, and grassy flavor. (There is always an exception to this, depending on the type of green tea.)

So, to simplify, if you get a green tea that is poorly processed, the leaves have started to oxidize and the oxidation is not stopped on time, you’ll get tea liquor with a brown color, and also the leaves might be a bit brown, red, or black.

Inadequate Brewing Temperature

Green tea is super sensitive to heat. If the water temperature is higher than recommended, your tea will turn brown

Don’t be confused; usually, the color of the green tea’s liquor is yellowish green, light amber, or even very light brown. You can expect a pure green color only from Matcha and Gyokuro.

But if you use too hot or boiling water, you’ll certainly end up with brown liquor that is quite bitter.

For most green teas, the recommended brewing temperature is between 140°F and 185°F (60°C and 85°C). This temperature can go much lower for some types.

Here are some examples of the best water temperature when steeping green tea:

  • Gyokuro green tea: 104-122°F
  • Sencha: 150-170°F
  • Dragon Well: 176-185°F

As you can see, the brewing temperature varies depending on the type of green tea you choose to drink. 

Because most new green tea drinkers make a mistake with this (often they use boiling water and end up with brown and bitter tea), here is a detailed article on the perfect temperature for brewing green tea.

So, my recommendation is to always ask your tea provider about the recommended water temperature of your green tea. This way, you avoid turning your tea brown with a bitter taste.

Hard Water

Water that has a high mineral content, mainly calcium carbonate, but also magnesium, potassium, sodium, and phosphorus, is known as “hard water”. Hard water tends to make tea darker and can give your green tea a metallic taste

It’s recommended to use natural soft water or bottled water for brewing green tea. If you do not have access to them, filtered tap water is your best option. 

Steeping Time

Green tea’s steeping time is another very important factor that has a huge effect not only on the taste but also on the final color of the infusion. Steep your green tea longer than the recommended time, and you’ll end up with bitter and dark tea.

You should remember that green tea’s steeping time is very short. Depending on the type of green tea, it can take from 30 seconds to 3 minutes.

Here are some examples of the recommended steep time for some green teas:

  • Sencha: 45 sec.-1 min.
  • Hojicha: 30 sec. 2 min.
  • Dragon Well: 2-3 min.

Different green tea types require different steeping times. To get the right flavor and avoid bitter green tea with a brown color, always read the label or ask your tea provider about the recommended infusion time.

Tea Storage Problem

Green tea may quickly go stale when tea compounds react with oxygen in the air. Additionally, green tea leaves can be easily damaged by sunlight, humidity, and heat.

So, if you don’t store it properly, you’ll end up with damaged tea leaves, which after infusion will give you unpleasant tea.

Thus, you should keep green tea in a clean, airtight container and place it in a cool, dry place. Open the container as little as possible (only when you need to take the leaves for brewing) to minimize its exposure to oxygen.

Also, you should know that when you make hot green tea, it should be consumed right away. If you leave a freshly brewed cup of green tea to sit longer, let’s say for an hour or two, it will change its color and taste.

Many people like to brew green tea and pour it into a thermos to stay warm at work or when going outside. When you keep warm green tea in a thermos for a longer period of time, it will turn brown due to oxidation. So, it is a better option to put hot water in the thermos and use a tea bag when it’s tea time.

I’m not a fan of tea bags, but this is a better option than drinking brown green tea with an unpleasant taste.

Is Brown Green Tea Bad?

Brown green tea is not bad, but it’s unpleasant to drink. If your brew is brown, it means you used low-quality leaves or you made a mistake during brewing with the steep time or water temperature.

Additionally, you can expect some green teas to be brown naturally. For example, the Japanese green tea Hojicha is reddish brown in color. The reason for this is that it is roasted. The roasting process turns the green leaves into a reddish-brown color.

Hojicha, roasted green tea brown in color
Hojicha (roasted, low-caffeine green tea, brown when brewed)

This is a super delicious and unique tea with a smoky flavor. So some green teas are made to be brown. Usually, most green teas, after brewing properly, are a light yellowish green or a light amber color.

If your brewed green tea is in this color range, it means you have a perfect cup of tea. 

Popular Types of Green Tea and Their Colors

  • Sencha: This is the most popular green tea in Japan. The color of the brew is bright yellow. Sencha green tea is a type that you’ll probably get when you usually buy green tea in a shop.
  • Hojicha: Low-caffeine roasted Japanese green tea that is brown after steeping in hot water. 
  • Matcha: Powdered green tea with a vibrant green color. Matcha tea is always green. If it is not green after you whisk the powder with hot water then it is of very low quality.
  • Longjing a.k.a Dragon Well: This Chinese green tea is very popular around the world. The tea brews a light yellowish-green color.
  • Gunpowder tea: Chinese green tea with unique pellet-shaped leaves When brewed, gunpowder tea is deep yellow (golden) in color.

How to Prevent Green Tea from Turning Brown

To avoid drinking brown green tea follow these tips:

Opt for  high-quality green tea leaves

If you choose high-quality or at least good-quality loose-leaf green tea, you should get a yellowish-green or light amber infusion. When you want a green color infusion, always opt for shaded green teas like Gyokuro or Matcha.

Loose-leaf tea is better than tea bags

Preparing a cup of tea by using tea bags is faster and simpler, but loose-leaf tea is of higher quality. With loose tea leaves, you get whole, unbroken tea leaves, and with tea bags, you get broken leaves, dust, and fannings.

Most of the tea bags are small, and the leaves are tightly packed, meaning there is no room for the leaves to expand and release all the flavor and aroma (especially important for green tea).

Use soft, quality water

Hard water is not recommended for making green tea. Always opt for soft water. Bottled water is recommended. If you only have tap water, filter it before making your tea.

Don’t use boiling or too-hot water

Always see what the recommended brewing temperature is for your green tea. Usually, most green teas are brewed at 140°F and 185°F (60°C and 85°C). Some of the types require even lower water temperatures.

Ask your tea provider about the brewing temperature of your chosen green tea. DON’T USE BOILING WATER.

If you’ve tried making green tea and you’re not satisfied with the flavor and you always end up with brown or dark tea, then you’re probably doing something wrong.

For this reason, I’ve created a detailed article on “How to Brew Green Tea Properly.”

Keep an eye on the steep time

Don’t over-steep your green tea. Pay special attention to the recommended steeping time for your green tea. Different types of this tea require different steep times.

Usually, the steeping time for green tea is short; depending on the type you’ll use, it is between 30 seconds and 3 minutes.

Because this is a very important step when making green tea (most new green tea drinkers make a mistake here), go on to this detailed article on green tea steep time.

Store your tea properly

If you follow the recommendations on properly storing your green tea, you’ll always have tea leaves with the same color and aroma as when you bought them.

Store your green tea in an airtight container and keep it in a dry place away from sunlight. Try to buy green tea of higher quality. It’s a bit expensive, but if you store it properly, you’ll always end up with a delicious cup of tea.

The Takeaway

After brewing your green tea, usually you can expect a yellowish to light amber color of the brew. If it turns brown or darker, it means you’re not using good-quality green tea or you made some mistake when brewing; usually the water is too hot or you’ve over-steeped it.

Don’t forget that brown color is typical for some green teas, such as Japanese Hojicha green tea. If you prefer the color green in your brew, opt for shaded green teas like Gyokuro or Matcha.

Finally, I hope that all of this will help you avoid turning green tea brown after brewing. This tea is super delicious and offers many health benefits, and if you follow these tips from above, I’m sure that your green tea will always have a nice aroma and color.

Drink your green tea while it’s hot, one sip at a time, and enjoy!