Taste test: Jasmine green tea

In a sampling of popular grocery items, we pick the best out of three. Items are evaluated for flavor and presentation. Price is not a factor, as it is too subject to change. This week: Jasmine green tea.

Tea is the new coffee, it seems, with every major market brand expanding into green, white, blooming and rooibos teas and beyond.

Green tea is one of my favorite types, and while I prefer it loose and steeped in a teapot, sometimes, convenience demands a tea bag. I sampled three bagged green teas, and while they were all better than expected, one emerged a very clear winner.

A few notes: Ideally, bagged green tea wants a shorter brew time than you might think - about two minutes. Don't let that bag hang out in your cup or you'll be left with a bitter brew.

Also, in some circles, the prevailing wisdom is the lighter the color of the brewed tea, the better the quality of the leaves (and vice versa). I've found that loose green tea produces much lighter-colored tea with much less bitterness.

Also, the best boiled water temp for green (and white) tea is approximately 175 degrees, give or take, which is well below the temp water reaches at full boil (about 212 degrees). Green tea leaves are more delicate than other teas and wilt and turn bitter under too-hot water. For the best green tea, invest in a food thermometer or a teapot with preset water-temperature settings.

In all samplings, I did not add any sweetener.

Twinings: Moderate jasmine aroma. Got dark very quickly and produced a more toast-y flavored tea with slight bitterness that was not unpleasant.

Bigelow: Not much jasmine scent and darkened quickly. Tea flavor was fairly smooth and modestly floral but didn't offer a ton of character.

Equal Exchange: Made with organic tea leaves, lightest color with strongest jasmine aroma. Tea was the least bitter of the three and most nuanced in overall flavor.

Winner: Equal Exchange. I want my jasmine green tea to give me two things: jasmine scent and no bitterness, and while the loose jasmine green teas I've sampled produce the best cuppa, Equal Exchange has become my go-to bagged brand.

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