Trader Joe’s can be a great place to pick up…
To be honest, I almost never buy bagged green tea unless it is flavored with something fruity. The reason is that, while there are lots of excellent green teas out there, many of the more “mass produced” teas don’t have a flavor that appeals to me. They can range from bland to having somewhat unpleasant vegetal notes to them. In fairness, as green teas have become more popular the overall quality of what is widely available at grocery stores has improved tremendously, and a supermarket tea is likely to be much more affordable than a specialty blend. In the most recent issue (Aug/Sept 2011) of Cook’s Country magazine, the test kitchen set out to taste test a bunch of supermarket green teas to pick out a winner. They were looking for something with good flavor that was affordable for everyday drinking and for cooking with (cooking being a category where you really don’t want to use the most expensive wine or coffee out there, either!).
They tasted five nationally available brands and tested them brewed, infused in a custard and rubbed on their luau-style Kalua pork. The test kitchen admitted that none of the options blew them away, but they still were able to find one that fit their needs. The winner was Celestial Seasonings Authentic Green Tea, with a “clean” flavor and a “nice grassy quality” that was good plain and in recipes.
Twinings Green Tea, Bigelow Green Tea and Lipton Green Tea were all “recommended with reservations.” The Twinings tea had a harsh, astringent flavor that the taste testers didn’t like, but that balanced out fairly well in recipes. The other two were subtle and bland, with the Lipton barely squeaking into this category. Tazo China Tips Green Tea was “not recommended,” with its overly strong “harsh,” “soapy,” and “tinny” flavor that verged on an unpleasant bitterness, even in recipes.