New to tea brewing or just looking for new tea tips and tricks? Turns out, brewing tea is pretty straightforward. In this guide, we will touch on the basics of brewing your best cup of tea yet.
People have been brewing tea for centuries. From the first cup of tea (purportedly made by tea leaves falling into a cup of spring water), to the working-class English tea brewed on lunch break, to our home offices today, tea has always had a way of simply being in people’s lives. This may be due to its ability to enhance our mental and physical selves, or possibly to its ease of brewing. Although tea and tea vessels used to brew vary widely, the basics of brewing remain consistent. It’s time for a refresher of the main considerations when brewing tea.
To brew tea simply, there are 4 main things to keep in mind:
- quality of the tea leaves you intend to brew
- cleanliness of the water used when brewing
- the amount of time and temperature at which you brew your leaves
- Enjoying your finished product!
The type and quality of leaves you brew will make or break your drink. If you haven’t tried full leaf organic tea yet, now is the time. Steeping quality organic tea leaves will dramatically improve your tea game. These leaves have more integrity and flavor nuances than your run-of-the-mill tea bags. In addition, drinking organic tea often supports smaller-scale farms and farmers, and results in less environmentally damaging cultivation processes. Whole leaf teas (as opposed to crushed tea in tea bags) yield multiple infusions, instead of losing all the flavor in the first steep. Subsequent infusions often lend to slight changes in flavor and aroma, which can be fun to experience and observe.
Lastly, just as fresh ingredients make for a better dish, fresh tea leaves make a better cup. Be sure the tea you select to brew is properly stored to maintain its freshness and flavor. Keep your tea in airtight containers to maintain its freshness post purchase. Tea likes tea, so store loose tea leaves in quantity. This helps retain its natural essence and character.
Clean water is a vital component of brewing an outstanding cup. Simple tap water often has chemicals for purification (such as chlorine) that can affect the flavor of your tea. If you are investing in a quality tea, why have its essence altered by treated water? Using spring or filtered water is the best option for brewing a cup of tea that tastes true to its region and processing methods. Flavor and profile nuances can be noticed with clean water. And if you drink a lot of tea, chemical additives in the water will build up in your tea brewing system.
Steeping Time & Water Temperature
Both steeping time and water temperature for brewing tea are equally important variables to pay attention to. Depending on the type of tea you are brewing, time and temperature for steeping will vary widely.
Black and puerh teas can withstand boiling water, or water just settled from boiling when being brewed. In fact, puerh teas often need boiling water to release their unique flavors. Black tea needs to be timed (usually 3-5 minutes) and not over steeped. Prolonged steeping can create an astringent and bitter cup. On the other hand, puerh teas are more forgiving and can be steeped for long or short infusions.
Oolong teas are similarly robust and forgivable, and can usually be steeped with water anywhere between just boiled and 180 degrees. Oolong teas, however, are some of the most intricately processed teas, and using the specific time-temperature recommendation for the variety will give you a cup that will not disappoint!
Green and white teas are some of the most delicate when it comes to tea brewing. Many think they do not like green teas because of their bitterness and strength. However, this is likely due to over brewing! Green tea in particular can develop a cup that is unpleasant to drink when over brewed. Green teas should be steeped between 170 and 190 degrees depending on the variety, and never longer than 3 minutes. If unsure, err on the side of cooler water when brewing, or if using hotter water, shorten your steeping time dramatically. White tea can withstand slightly higher water temperatures, but do not use water over 200 degrees. Brew white tea around 180 to 190 degrees, and cooler for more delicate types, such as Yin Zhen (Silver Needles).
When in doubt, look for time and temperature recommendations listed on the teas you purchased.
Enjoying your cup of tea is the final step of the tea brewing process. This is the MOST important thing to remember. There is no point to making a cup of tea you do not intend to enjoy! Brewing and drinking tea can be a mindful process, a time for meditation, and a way to reconnect with something simple. It can also be a way to test methods, get a little “science-y”, try new techniques and hone your tea game. Enjoying tea can also be done with others to connect, converse over and share an experience. Make brewing and drinking tea your time.
Now that you know the tea brewing basics, you can successfully enjoy any cup of tea you steep! Although it may seem complicated, remember that the basics of brewing tea remain consistent. Even kids can get into the simple art of brewing tea! Watch as our friend Aiden shares how he brews tea. Brewing tea can teach us all something, and there is always room for experimentation and creativity. Go forth and brew with simplicity!
For videos on brewing basics, check out: