Properly Steeping Tea

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As part of my training to become a Tea Master, I studied the various types of loose-leaf teas from all over the world.  There are white, green, oolong, black, pu-erh and tisanes (herbal).  In this post I will explain how to obtain the most and best flavor from each.

Please understand I am discussing premium loose-leaf teas, not typical store teabag tea.  You will find, once you begin using quality loose-leaf teas, that the flavors are immensely richer than a teabag.

There are several important steps involved in properly steeping a cup of tea.  To begin, different types of teas should be steeped in different temperatures of water and for different lengths of time.  With the significant variety of premium loose-leaf teas available, it is important to understand what that means.

Another factor that will influence the flavor of a tea is the quality of the water.  For instance, municipal water has chemicals added to it and should be filtered before heating or the tea flavors will be altered.  You can filter it easily using a Brita Filter(available at Amazon).  If you have healthy well water or choose to buy spring water or purified water you will have a more consistent flavor experience.

In addition, using fresh water each time you heat the kettle is important for the best flavor.  Reheated water will cause the tea to taste differently, in part because some of the oxygen is removed when you heat the water.

It is also critical to understand that if you are looking for a stronger flavor from your tea, you must add more tea leaves, but still steep it for the recommended time.  Many people think they should steep it longer to get more flavor, however, this causes the tannins to be released which causes a bitter flavor in the tea.  Adding more leaves will give you the stronger flavor you are looking for without the negative effect of tannins.

Below is a basic information chart to use to steep your tea.  There are teas that may fluctuate from this chart and it is best to do some minimal experimenting with the timing to discover the perfect flavor for you.  Nevertheless, you should maintain the water temperatures in the chart and as we continue I will offer you the perfect way to that temperature.

Tea Serving Temperature Steeping
White 2 t/6 oz 185F 1-3 min
Green 1 t/6 oz 185F 1-3 min
Oolong 1 t/6 oz 190F 3 min
Black 1 t/6 oz 212F 3 min
Pu-Erh 1 t/6 oz 212F 3 min
Tisanes 1 t/6 oz 212F 3-5 min
Rooibos 1 t/6 oz 212F 3-5 min

*Pre-heat cup and/or teapot with hot water first then fill to steep.

*These are generally recommended guidelines only.

To heat the water to the correct temperatures, I recommend using a thermostatically controlled electric kettle.  I have researched and experimented with many brands with price points ranging from $30.00 to $200.00 and can highly recommend the Cuisinart CPK-17 PerfecTemp 1.7-Liter Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Kettle (available at Amazon).

I have used this particular kettle in my tearoom for many years and even with the heavy use in a commercial application I have found it to last for years.  It is also easy to use, particularly for the novice, as it has buttons on the handle listing each type of tea/temp so you only have to know whether it’s white, green, oolong or black to confidently heat the water to the correct temperature.  There is also a warming button that will keep the water at temperature for an extra 30 minutes so you can easily steep a second cup.

Speaking of resteeping your tea.  There are recommendations for that as well.

Typically, a white tea will not steep a second time.  As it is a light tea to begin with having a mild flavor, a second steeping will not result in much, if any flavor at all.

A green or oolong tea can sometimes be resteeped resulting in a slightly different and yet still enjoyable flavor.  For instance, Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess) Oolong Ti Kuan Yin (Iron Goddess) tea can be steeped up to five times and still have a delicious flavor.  The flavor will change slightly after each steeping, but there is still plenty of flavor to enjoy.

Most black teas can be steeped at least twice, some as many as three-four times and still give plenty of flavor.  I often steep my Golden Monkey black tea twice, and my Keemun Hoa Ya A  four times.

Tisanes (or herbals) generally will last for just one steeping.  Some two but expect the flavor to fade dramatically.

If you are using a blended tea, for instance Belgian Chocolate Rooibos which has chocolate bits in it, one steeping will be all you can achieve.  The chocolate will melt with that first steeping so there will be no hint of it after that.

In my on-line Tea Store I offer over 100 premium loose-leaf teas that I have selected from around the world.  If you would like to learn more about these teas, please click here The Confection Cottage Tea Store

In a future post I will discuss the differences between pre-made mass produced teabags and premium loose-leaf teas.

Cheers to a Cuppa,

Lady Kelly