In an earlier article, I delved into “what is green tea” and outlined the main different types of green tea. Like anything, there are different levels of quality and even more than with black tea, choosing a quality brand is really important to ensure not just the best flavour but also the best of its health benefits.
Having tried and tested a lot of different green teas over my lifetime, I’ve decided to put together a list of my top five recommendations. If you’re looking for information specifically about Japanese green tea then read my Complete guide to Japanese green tea.
In this post:
What makes a good green tea?
In order to qualify for this list, I imposed certain criteria:
- Loose leaf. Although some of the suppliers on this list offer tea bags, the best quality green tea is in loose-leaf form.
- Certified organic. Tea plants love to take up pesticides and fungicides so organic is best.
- Fairly traded, preferably with Fairtrade certification, Ethical Tea Partnership membership, or some other guarantee that their workers are being treated fairly.
- Commitment to reducing or eliminating plastic from their packaging and tea bags if they sell tea bags.
- Flavour. Obviously, it’s got to taste good.
Japanese green tea is often considered superior to Chinese but I think that is largely due to the fact that the vast majority of the world’s green tea is produced in China and therefore there is cheaper Chinese green tea available and some of it is mass-produced and of questionable quality. This is a vast over-simplification of course, as is the following statement: generally speaking, Chinese green tea has a fuller, punchier flavour than Japanese which tends to be more delicate and floral.
I’ve decided to keep matcha and other powdered forms of tea on a separate list because they are really quite a different thing to the loose-leaf green teas I’m considering here.
Hampstead Tea operates with the highest environmental and ethical principals. I recently placed them at number 1 on my list of plastic-free black tea bags because they have completely eliminated plastic from their tea bags and packaging, switching to Natureflex which is derived from GM-free cornstarch.
They use organic and biodynamically grown tea plants for all their tea. Their green tea is sourced from a single estate in Darjeeling, India: the Makaibari estate. On the slopes of the Himalayan mountains, the plantation is surrounded by the rainforest and huge screens of bamboo, protecting the plants from pollution.
Their tea is all hand-picked, which reduces the carbon footprint, and is ethically traded. After harvesting, the tea is quickly steamed and then packaged within a few hours of harvesting. In order to maintain their organic and biodynamic status, they regularly test their products for pesticides and other pollutants.
Organic and Biodynamic Green Tea – a loose leaf green tea with a lovely soft, delicate fresh taste.
Another organic, fairly traded tea, English Tea shop source most of its green tea from the James Valley Organic Tea estate in Gampola, Sri Lanka. This is a remote area of low mountains. Their green Sencha tea is grown on the Toha Farm in Kawane, Japan, also in a remote area far from pollution.
Their tea is all hand-plucked and hand packed, reducing the carbon footprint. Certified organic by the Soil Association, they regularly test their tea for pesticides and other toxins. As well as being members of the Ethical Tea Partnership, they also ensure that farmers have sustainable living conditions and treat the environment in a responsible and ethical manner.
Their teas are processed and packaged within a few days and shipped to the UK. which takes about three weeks.
Organic Japanese Green Sencha (Senchado) – a mellow, light green tea with a lovely fresh scent. Sencha is not sweet as some other varieties of green tea but this product has no bitterness or astringency.
Traditional Green Tea (The Tea of Life) – processed according to traditional Chinese methods which gives a bolder than Japanese green tea. A slight astringency but no bitterness and easy on the taste buds.
Update (5th March 2020): Please note that as a result of the ongoing worldwide coronavirus outbreak, TeaVivre is only able to ship products to the USA from its existing stock in the USA. Sadly this means that the links below to TeaVivre products will not work. You can read their latest update here, or check back with this site as we will be keeping a close eye on the situation and very much hope TeaVivre is able to start shipments again soon.
As you will know if you’re a regular reader of this site, TeaVivre is my favourite source for authentic Chinese tea, especially their Pu-erh tea.
Founded in 2011 by Angel Chen, you can find out from their website exactly where each of their teas has been grown and processed. They stock a large number of USDA and EU certified organic teas. They have won a number of awards in the short years since they launched including a UK Great Taste Award in 2017 and a Gold Medal in the Global Tea Championship of 2018.
TeaVivre offers a huge selection of Chinese green teas, and I’ve only really started to scratch the surface of a vast pool of lovely tea.
Five Top Sellers Green Teas Assortment Samples – a lovely introduction to TeaVivre’s world of Chinese green teas, this assortment of green teas will have something to suit every palate.
Clearspring is a specialist Japanese food and drink company operating out of the UK. Therefore it sells Japanese tea of many different varieties including Sencha, Matcha and Genmaicha. Their teas are sourced from Kyoto in Japan and they are all certified organic by The Soil Association.
Their sencha tea is picked and processed in the traditional way, that is, the leaves are steamed immediately after picking meaning they preserve their bright green leaf colour. This tea has won a number of organic food awards. The company is committed to protecting the eco-system and the world we live in and the production of food by traditional methods in a sustainable way.
Organic Japanese Sencha Green Tea – this light and refreshing tea is prepared in Kyoto from the season’s first tender young leaves harvested at their peak of flavour in late spring. The leaves are briefly steamed, rolled and cooled by the special Japanese Sencha process. Then immediately packed to seal in their fresh taste and aroma.
As well as producing some of the best herbal teas available (see my recommendations for their teas for sore throats and colds), Heath & Heather also produce Soil Association and USDA certified organic green tea. They source their tea from China and southern India.
They have one of the largest selections of green teas blended with other flavours from the reasonably traditional like jasmine and lemongrass to the much more unusual like coconut and Manuka honey. This is a great choice for people who find the taste of green tea on its own too much, or those who just want to try something a bit different.
Their tea bags are completely plastic-free, they are made from sustainable woods and hemp, then folded and sewn so they are fully compostable and biodegradable.
Super Green Tea & Seaweed: a superb, nutrient-packed blend of tea plus seaweed (think Japanese miso soup), this is a gorgeous drink, with the slight salty tang of the seaweed complementing perfectly the slight sweetness of the green tea. Overall it has a smooth and slightly fruity taste with a lingering but highly pleasant aftertaste.
Let me know if you’ve tried any other these, or whether there are any other brands of green tea that are on your top five list.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock