It seems every time I make a cup of green tea, if I don't finish it while it's still considerably hot, it starts to get really sour and tastes awful.

Why is this and how can I prevent this? What am I doing wrong?

  • Thank you for all the great responses, tonight I tried steeping it for just 2.5 minutes and it tasted a lot better.
    – erator
    Commented Dec 16, 2010 at 5:19
  • My wife prefer very short time, just about 10 seconds. She use Lipton Green Tea in pyramid bags, as the pyramid shape causes all the tea leaves to get quick contact with the water.
    – awe
    Commented Sep 5, 2012 at 18:26
  • Just FYI, if you actually would like to make iced tea, I would recommend not using hot water at all but steeping the leaves in cold water from the start. I usually leave overnight
    – Gamora
    Commented Aug 14, 2019 at 10:03

4 Answers 4


The most likely culprits are:

  1. Steeping too long: 1-3 minutes, depending on the type and grade of tea.
  2. Using water that is too hot or too cold: Again, this depends on the type and grade of tea.

Here is an excellent resource for getting these factors right:

On Steeping Time:

Green tea does not require much time. Too long a steeping time will result in more bitterness and a less balanced flavor. We recommend experimenting with a range of 1 - 3 minutes. Japanese green teas generally taste best at 1 - 2 minutes while Chinese green teas seem to prefer 2 - 3 minutes (the smaller leaves of Japanese teas will extract faster than the generally larger leaves of Chinese teas). Steeping time should be balanced with water temperature: the lower the temperature, the longer the tea can be steeped.

On Temperature

As a general guideline, green teas taste best when brewed at temperatures between 140°F - 185°F (60°C-85°C). The grade of the tea and the time of its harvest will also influence the appropriate steeping temperature. Green teas picked earlier in the spring will benefit from lower temperature brewing due to their overall higher levels of amino acids.


The most accurate way is to use a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water in the kettle. One approach is to heat the water in your kettle to the desired temperature and then pour it into your teapot. Another approach is to heat the water to boiling and then let it cool down a bit before pouring into your teapot.

Read the whole thing for further background.


A Chinese friend of mine says that you need to rinse green tea leaves with boiled water before steeping.

Her technique:

  • Put Tea Leaves in pot.
  • Cover with boiled water. ~ Boiling
  • Immediately pour off the water.
  • Steep. (Kettle should have cooled a bit by now)
  • 1
    That's a commonly used technique for decaffeinating tea without using all the chemicals, but I'm not sure why else one would do it.
    – justkt
    Commented Dec 15, 2010 at 18:01
  • 3
    @justkt This technique is necessary for some teas directly imported from China, which may still have dirt, pesticides, etc on the leaves. Most retail tea in the US is already washed and re-dried before you get it.
    – BobMcGee
    Commented Sep 6, 2012 at 19:00

The tea will have brewed to long. If you remove the leaves when the tea is just brewed correctly, or use a tea pot and pour the tea once brewed this won't happen.


In my personal tea drinking experience, If the green tea tastes sour, it always caused by dirt or storage. For clean green tea often tastes a little bitter and smells fragrant at first, then tastes a little sweet.

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