There’s nothing quite like curling up with a nice cup of tea, and with so many new varieties to choose from, it’s easier than ever to find a personal favorite. The only problem though, is that different teas require different process for brewing. When you follow the right steps for your tea, you can ensure you get the best-tasting tea every time—not matter what flavor you’re trying.
While you may not want to get too technical about your brew, there are a few things you need to check for tea: water quality, water temperature, and steep time. Even if you’re brewing the best loose leaf tea available, it won’t be able to live up your expectations if it’s been thrown into a sub-par cup of hot water. You’ve got to have high-quality water for a truly tasty tea-time.
Think of the water quality as your only constant in tea making. No matter what kind of tea leaves you use, you’ll want to have the best drinking water possible. That usually comes from a high-quality water filter. We like to use reverse osmosis (RO) for our tea because it filters out the chlorine and other contaminants that can linger in plain tap water. RO water just tastes a lot cleaner too, which in turn, makes for a more flavorful tea.
Water Temperature Guide for Tea
Once that’s taken care of, you can start checking the next step: water temperature. While “hot water” will undoubtedly make a cup of tea, the precise temperature really does make a big difference. You’ll be able to extract better flavor when you follow a specified temperature range for your tea leaf types. Fortunately, there are some ways to gauge what that appropriate tea temperature is without whipping out a thermometer.
Start with cold, clean water, and then watch how the water behaves. You can follow our chart below to assess your water’s temperature. Whether you heat water in a clear hot pot, or a tea kettle this is sure to help you out:
Full, roiling boil—lots of steam
Small and large bubbles—rapid steam
Medium bubbles—moderate steam
Tiny bubbles rising to surface of pot—gentle steam
Bubbles forming at bottom of pot—very light steam
Of course, the above chart should only be referenced as a guideline. There are plenty of herbal teas that might take a lower temperature better. Not to mention all the ways of how your own personal preferences might impact how you like your tea. When you listen and watch how the steam and bubbles change, you can take the water off the heat at just the right brewing time.
Mastering Your Tea Craft
The key here, is that you often won’t need (or want) to bring your water all the way up to boil, or 212 degrees F. When you boil water and let it cool, it actually takes oxygen out of the water. This process tends to interfere with how flavor releases from the tea. Rather than boiling water and then waiting for the temperature to go back down, you’ll be more of a tea pro if you just bring the water up to its appropriate temperature for brewing—and no higher.
As for steeping times, it’s best to refer to your tea’s individual instructions. Most every tea will take at least two minutes to steep. This can work as a good checkpoint if you’re still determining your tea practice. Just take a sip then and see what you think!
White teas and green teas do well with shorter time periods, whereas oolongs and black teas might take 3-5 minutes. As for herbals, look at 5 minutes as your checkpoint. That’s when those flavors really start to settle in. Then just remove the tea leaves, kick your feet up, and enjoy.