I love my tea time and cooking with tea from black to herbal and everything in between. I’ve even turned my morning tea making into an everyday mindfulness practice! To make sure everyone enjoys their tea to the utmost, I wanted to write this guide on how to properly steep your tea.
Tea is such a versatile beverage; I truly believe that there’s a great tea out there for everyone. It can be an amazing alternative to coffee or an addition to your coffee routine.
For tea's caffeine content, you can choose the level you like, and there are so many different flavor profiles and even blends to choose from. Tea has also played a huge role in historical medicine, with their ability to support your immune system and reduce stress.
What are the Different Types of Tea?
For this guide, we’re going to explore how to properly steep the main types of tea that most people will recognize.
- Black tea
- Green tea
- Herbal Tea
- Oolong tea
- White tea
If you’d like to read more about each type of tea and its unique properties, I’ve included some handy resources at the end of the guide.
Loose Leaf Tea vs Teabags
I support tea in all forms but must say that loose leaf tea is of higher quality. It is also usually more pure and aromatic than loose leaf. Overall I think using loose leaves is a much better tea experience. Having said that, I appreciate the ease of use and accessibility of teabags. They are also a bit more financially friendly than some loose leaf options.
Take into consideration that loose leaf tea produces much less packaging than tea bags. I try to buy loose leaf tea in bulk, in recyclable or reusable packaging like paper or metal tins.
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How to Measure Your Tea
One reason someone may dislike tea is because they haven’t had the chance to try tea that is measured and steeped correctly, to give it the absolute best taste as it was intended by the teamaker.
For teabags, the amount is pre-measured for you, but for loose leaf tea you should measure out 2 grams of tea per 8oz of water. I have read some sources that suggest up to 3 grams for stronger tea, but I think 2 grams is a good amount to get started. If you do have a taste for strong tea, you can always experiment with more.
One thing I learned from my tea mentor, Tony Tellin, is to test each tea with different amounts and steeped at different lengths of time to learn your own preference, and repeat the winning batches. There is a traditional way to measure and steep your tea, but you don't have to follow it.
If you have a kitchen scale, you can put the tea in a small container to measure it out. If you do not have a kitchen scale, 2 grams is about one tablespoon of tea.
How to Steep Loose Leaf Tea
Tea doesn’t dissolve in water, it just infuses it with flavor. You will need either a teapot with small mesh barrier between your tea leaves and water or a mesh strainer to transfer the tea from the container you steeped the leaves in to your mug.
Boiling your water is important. Use an electric kettle with temperature presets or a stove if you can and avoid the microwave. Most kettles heat water to boiling point, which is 212 degrees Fahrenheit. This is plenty hot enough to steep your tea, but different teas taste better at different temperatures.
I like to steep my loose leaf tea in a small glass pitcher. Next, set a timer for the tea-specific steeping time, and keep an eye on it. Then, I pour it through a mesh strainer into my teacup.
Remove the tea from the cup when you’re done steeping, otherwise it will over-steep.
How to Steep Tea Bags
If you’re using a tea bag, place it in your chosen cup first. If the tea bag has a string, I like to hold on to it or wrap that around my cup handle so that the little tag doesn't get in my tea with the force of the water pour. Fishing wet paper out of your tea is no fun! Remove the teabag when you’re done steeping.
How to Steep Green Tea
There are many different types of green tea, including sencha, genmaicha, gyokuro, and hojicha. Green teas are all made from unoxidised leaves, which are heated after harvesting to preserve the freshness and nutrients in the tea. For my Japanese green tea, I love drinking Ippodo, and their guidelines for how long to steep green tea have always served me well.
With green tea, you really have to take care not to over-steep the leaves, as this will result in a bitter taste.
- Time to steep - 1 minute
- Temperature - 176F / 80C
- Time to steep - 1.5 minutes
- Temperature - 140F / 60C
Bancha (e.g Hojicha, Genmaicha)
- Time to steep - 0.5 minutes
- Temperature - 212F / 100C
General Green Tea
- Time to steep - 3 minutes
- Temperature - 185F / 85C
How to Steep Black Tea
Black teas (such as breakfast tea, earl grey and assam) are strong, bitter teas meant to be served with a dash of milk and/or sugar to lighten the taste. However, many enjoy these teas without the lightening. Black teas are generally higher in caffeine than other tea types.
To keep the tea from being too strong, you may want to reduce the amount to a little less than 2 grams. If you do like stronger tea, the key is to use more tea, not to steep the same amount for longer.
Fun fact, in the United Kingdom, if you go anywhere and order simply ‘tea’, you will be brought English Breakfast tea as the default. In the US, not so much!
- Time to steep - 3 - 5 minutes
- Temperature - 200F / 95 C
How to Steep Rooibos Tea
Rooibos, the red tea, is an herbal variety of tea completely unlike green and black. It is a favorite as it’s naturally sweet, and in tea blends is often paired with strong flavors like chocolate and cinnamon.
Rooibos is an interesting one because it doesn't come from the camillia sinensis tea plant like black and green teas, but a completely different plant native to South Africa. In terms of history, Rooibos is a fairly new player, but has gained immense popularity for it’s sweet mild taste.
- Time to steep - 5 - 10 minutes.
- Temperature - 200F
How to Steep White Tea
White teas are made by harvesting the youngest and freshest tea leaves from the camillia sinensis plant. The tea is light and delicate, with a mild and slightly sweet flavor. It’s a great beginner tea type for anyone put off by the stronger green and black tea varieties.
- Time to steep - 2 - 3 minutes.
- Temperature - 170F
A Note on Matcha
Matcha is a very special tea, and the preparation is unique for this one. Like tea, matcha doesn't actually dissolve into hot water. The matcha powder particles are so small that when you mix them with hot water, they are suspended in the water and then show the characteristic earthy green color.
For a step by step traditional matcha, use my recipe here.
- Time to whisk - 0.5 minutes
- Temperature - 175F
You can find many recipes on the blog that use matcha.
My favorite matcha are from Ippodo and Mizuba Tea Co. If you’re new to matcha, try the Mizuba Daily or House variety. If you’re making a matcha latte or a fun matcha drink, all you need is the Culinary matcha and this matcha on Amazon works great.
Resources for Tea Enthusiasts
- Penn Medicine Health Benefits of Tea
- Sencha Tea Bar Green Tea Guide
- Mizuba Tea Matcha Guide
- Artful Tea Comprehensive Tea Type Guide
- White Lion Tea 101
- Healthline Tea vs Coffee Information
Apart from a traditional cup of tea, here are some fun ways to introduce tea into your recipes.
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