All I want is a nice cup of green tea. I enjoy it hot and cold, sometimes plain, sometimes with a little honey or lemon, and sometimes I mix up a fruity punch. For many years, I drank Bigelow, then more recently upgraded to Tazo, the flavor was a little cleaner and less bitter to me. I knew nothing about tea, and I was happy.
Fast forward just a few years and I found myself in a slightly different place. I still enjoyed green tea, but I started noticing the difference between the green tea I was used to drinking at home, and the stuff I had been getting out and about at local restaurants and tea shops. I could taste the difference, and it was starting to bug me.
Following my usual pattern, I did some online research. Bad choice. Let's start with all the claims I have read online: tea bags are killing you, plastic sachets are worse than paper, tea is loaded with pesticides and chemicals so organic is the only way to go, organic tea makes no difference... Down the rabbit hole I fell, but to no avail. My tea at home wasn't tasting any better and now I was paranoid about what I was putting in my body.
Next stop then was a local tea and spice shop. Maybe some professional advice would help. But no, as soon as I started talking to the salesperson I realized my mistake. I wasn't looking for tea euphoria. Yes, the tea I drank there was delicious, but delicious in the tea world is hugely based on subtlety of flavor, and that subtlety does not come cheap. Plus, it was work. I didn't want to deal with fancy-pants strainers and gadgets, special pots, exacting temperatures and more. I just wanted a tasty cup of green tea that didn't cost me a fortune.
Three different green teas, steeped for 3 minutes. The darker the color, the richer and more bitter the flavor.
So I decided to go to the grocery store and taste-test myself. Using Tazo and Bigelow as my baselines I started going through brands to see which tickled my fancy. The first thing I learned? There are no absolutes in the grocery store tea world. In most of the brands, I actually found the organic version tasted worse than the non-organic stuff. I had decent cups using paper tea bags through loose-leaf tea, and while price does make a difference, more expensive does not equal better. Also, when it comes to iced drinks, in my humble opinion the cheap stuff is infinitely better. A sweet and aromatic loose-leaf tea is completely wasted if you mix it (as I like to) with lemonade.
Look at those big leaves in the Mighty Leaf pouch. No wonder its such a tasty cup.
So if like me you are interested in a tasty cup of green tea and you want the ease of getting said tea at your local grocery store, I've listed my favorite grocery store green teas, from least to most expensive, with my favorite uses for each. I hope it helps, and if there is a brand you love that I haven't tried, please recommend it in the comments section!
Let's start with my favorite value brand, Salada. I've read that people online like their decaf version, but I feel no need to limit my caffeine so I didn't try it. At $3.39 for a 40 count box, Salada is in the same price range as Bigelow, cheaper than Tazo, and way smoother than both. I can drink of cup straight, but my favorite use is mixed in a green tea punch. Brew up 4-6 cups of Salada green tea, add the juice of 2 lemons and a touch of honey and you have a refreshing drink to serve over ice. Another great option is to make frozen juice concentrate (I like MinuteMaid fruit punch) but replace the water with 1.5x the amount of brewed Salada green tea. Mmm. Tasty.
Lifestyle Awareness makes an organic green tea but I don't think they make a non-organic version. It's twice the price of the Salada, a little more than $3 buys you 20 tea bags instead of 40, but this is my morning go-to green tea. It's great plain or with a touch of honey, and first thing in the morning, when I'm barely awake to begin with, its got just enough punch to get me going, but the flavor is sweeter, fresher and a bit more round than the Salada.
Going up in price, we've got Mighty Leaf. For my taste, this is lovely tea. My grocery store sells a 15-pouch box for $6.39, and when I want a cup to savor, this is what I go to. The hint of tropical means it needs no sweetener and it's my tea of choice after dinner or late at night. If I've had a bad day or if I'm making tea for a friend, Mighty Leaf feels appropriately special.
As the only loose-leaf style of tea my grocery store carries - I have to add one more tea to this list - although for me, this is a recommended with reservations.
Zhena's makes their ultimate green mix. It is organic and free trade and a very lovely tea, 1.5 oz. sold at my grocery store for around $9. I have two complaints. The first is minor in that it is loose-leaf so a little more fussy than a bag or pouch to brew, you end up having to strain it. My big complaint is that the tea mix includes Stevia. I am not a fan of artificial sweeteners and frankly, I would not have bought this tea had I noticed it contained Stevia while at the store. That being said, it does brew a subtle and aromatic cup of tea that I enjoyed quite a lot. I'll use up my jar, but do not plan on buying again.
Other brands and comments:
I've chosen the teas above based on their relative availability, quality, and value for the money. That being said, there are a handful of other brands of tea in general that I like but could not recommend because either they did not have a green tea available for me to try, or they were prohibitively expensive. Other tea brands I like that may be more available where you live include: Traditional Medicinals, Numi and Yogi. Tea brands that I have tried and definitely do not recommend include Bigelow and Tazo mentioned above as well as Lipton, Twinnings, Celestial Seasonings and Republic of Tea. Some of these brands just brew a bitter cup, but others are either overpriced, or the tea tastes more like mint or fruit than actual green tea. I've also heard on very good authority that if you are looking for the best prices on high quality green teas, your best bet might be an Asian supermarket. Best of luck on the tea hunt!