How to Properly Steep the Perfect Cup of Tea
What makes a great cup of tea? Certainly, having premium tea leaves is a big part. But how you make it can have an immense impact on the tea’s flavor—and enjoyability.
On the surface, brewing tea is as simple as pouring hot water over the leaves and letting them steep. But you might be surprised that there are a lot of nuances to the process. Getting it right isn’t difficult, but there are some things you should do in order to brew the perfect cup of tea. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of every cup!
Aside from the actual tea leaves, the water you use may have the biggest impact on the flavor. While it’s not necessary to use any fancy bottled water, it is important to start with fresh cold water such as Spring, Purified, or Filtered.
Next, it’s important to know that the temperature you boil your water will vary based on the type of tea you’re brewing. White and green teas tend to be better with lower temperature boils, preferably around 150 – 170F. Other types, including black teas, oolong teas, and rooibos teas generally are best around 200F, while most herbal teas clock in at around 210F.
An infrared thermometer can be helpful here or temperature-controlled kettle but it’s not necessary. You can simply gauge water while boiling. It might seem like overkill, but you’ll quickly taste the difference when you get the water temperature right.
If you’ve ever let a tea bag sit too long in hot water, you probably are familiar with how bitter and pungent the tea can get. Over-steeped tea emits a variety of flavors that are generally unappealing. Some teas are delicate, and the leaves may even burn which also leads to a very unpleasant taste.
Here are the ideal steeping times for each type of tea:
- Green & White Tea: 2 – 3 minutes
- Black Tea: 3 – 5 minutes
- Oolong Tea: 5 minutes
- Herbal Tea: 5 minutes or longer
Set a timer to make sure you don’t go over the recommended steeping times, otherwise you’ll likely find the tea to be very bitter.
Do You Need a Teapot?
This is one of the more common questions we hear. You absolutely do not need a teapot to brew a great cup of tea. You can simply use an over-the-cup strainer, tea ball, or a similar infusing tool and come away with a flawless cup.
But having a teapot is great if you want to have more than one cup, or if you’re sharing with friends!
If you do go this route, it’s a good idea to pre-heat the teapot with warm water. Some people like to brew their tea in a separate vessel, then pour into the teapot, but that’s an extra step. It’s often easier to just pour warm water (not boiling) into the teapot, then let that sit until your tea water comes to the right boiling temperature. Then empty to teapot, place your loose tea in whatever infusing tool you’re using into the teapot, and pour your boiling water over the tea to infuse.