Well, this seems like an obvious question and an equally obvious answer – green tea should be Green.
However, like most things in life, there are always variations and green tea is definitely not always green.
When talking about the color of green tea, we will discuss the color of the leaves and the color of the infusion after the tea has been brewed.
You will discover that green tea colors can range from a pale yellow to a dark brown. But, it is still green tea.
What color should green tea be?
The leaves of green tea can vary from a pale white color to yellow, a light green, dark green, and even a brown shade. The color of the leaves may change over time due to oxidation. When the tea is steeped, the color of the green tea liquid can be anything from pale yellow to deep brown.
What is the color of green tea leaves?
Let’s start by chatting about the color of the tea leaves. The natural green color in plant leaves comes from chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a green pigment that is essential in photosynthesis. This is the process that allows plants to absorb energy from light and allow them to grow.
When tea leaves are picked they are a natural green color. Some leaves may even have yellow tinges or darker brown streaks in them. The color of the tea leaves will also depend on the quality of the tea-picking process.
In very strict tea estates, only the best unblemished green leaves are collected. In less strict estates producing a cheaper quality of tea, leaves with color blemishes are harvested. This does not necessarily affect the taste of the tea.
After harvesting, tea leaves are processed in several different ways depending on the tea estate and the type of tea. These processes can change the color of the leaves.
The main processing technique that is used is called oxidation. Oxidation changes the color of the leaves from a natural green to a dark brown or even black, depending on how long the leaves are oxidized.
Green tea undergoes a very light oxidation process, which allows the leaves to remain green. In contrast, black tea leaves are fully oxidized and take on a deep brown or black color.
What is the color of a green tea infusion?
Brewing up a cup of green tea does not mean that you will have a green liquid to sip on.
Most green teas brew up to be a yellow shade or even a brown hue.
The color of the infusion and the flavor can be influenced by many factors.
Here are some of them
- The temperature of the water – very hot water can cause the tea to taste bitter and the color to be darker.
- Cold brewing is a process that allows the leaves to steep for 10 to 12 hours. The color will be lighter and the taste less bitter.
- Stale tea leaves will turn brown as they have begun to oxidize in the container you are storing them in. Ensure that your tea is stored in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
- Time is an important factor in determining the color of your tea. You will notice that the color of tea leaves changes if you store it for a long time. This does not mean that your tea should be thrown away. It can still be brewed into a drinkable cup.
- Adding a sweetener like honey to your infusion will change the color of the liquid. It may turn a light brown or even a darker black color.
- Depending on the chlorophyll content at the time of harvesting, some green teas may even produce a much lighter infusion that is almost yellow in color. Once again, there is nothing wrong with your tea, it is simply not green.
- Tea that stands will turn darker. If you leave a cup of tea standing for a long time, the oxygen in the air will start to react with the liquid and turn it a darker color. After a day, it could be almost black.
A note to consider – if your tea is brown, check that it has not become infested with mold or other nasties. If that is the case, throw it away!
Japanese teas are greener because they are steamed not oxidized
Many Japanese teas are not oxidized. They are produced by a method known as steaming.
Steaming kills the enzymes and stops natural microbial activities. This means that the leaves are preserved with their natural fresh green color.
In the production of some Japanese teas, the plants are shaded for a few weeks before harvesting. This causes the plant to naturally produce more chlorophyll to grow and stay alive, as it is getting less sunlight.
This process results in a plant with exceptionally green leaves.
An example of this is Matcha Tea. Matcha is fast becoming THE tea of choice of tea fanatics around the globe. It is known for its amazing bright emerald green color.
The quality of Matcha tea is easily seen by simply looking at how bright the color is. Commercial Matcha used for baking or cooking will have a far less intense green color than very expensive Matcha brands offered in specialty stores.
From this, you can see that very few green teas will produce a cup of tea that is green. You may end up with a cup that varies from a pale yellow to a darker brown.
Let your taste buds decide whether you are enjoying the brew.
Frequently asked questions about what color should green tea be
What makes green tea leaves turn brown?
Tea leaves that are not stored in a cool, dark place can begin to naturally oxidize. This will turn the green leaves into a brown color. Always ensure that your tea is not stored in direct sunlight.
What makes Matcha tea such a bright green color?
Matcha tea leaves are shaded a few weeks before harvesting. This forces the plant to produce extra chlorophyll for it to survive and grow. This very time-consuming process creates leaves that are a stunning bright emerald green color.
Can green tea produce a yellow or brown infusion?
Yes, it can. The color of green tea infusions varies from pale yellow to dark brown depending on the type of tea, the age of the tea leaves, and the steeping process.