How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea

Water, Temperature, Quantity & Steep Time

Water for tea is best when it is entirely free of chlorine, low in alkalinity and, soft, with a clean, clear, crisp taste. The ideal water is pH neutral and contains few minerals. Spring water is the first choice. Of course, there are other options such as filters that will reduce or eliminate chlorine and alkalinity to help the tea leaves reveal their true flavors.

To get the best possible flavor from an infusion, there are recommended water temperatures for varieties of tea. Water that is too low in temperature may not bring out all the flavors the tea maker has crafted. Conversely, water that is too high in temperature can cause a scolding of the tea and or loss of nuance and lighter notes in a specialty tea.

Water heated toward boiling goes through identifiable stages that can be applied to the type of tea to ensure a full range of flavors. Here, we present tea types and classic, visual and numeric stages for temperatures ideal for steeping.

As for quantity, our basic rule of thumb is tablespoon of leaf per 8-12 ounces of water. As you’ll see from our details below, this will vary as you use differing styles of tea. Start at 3 grams, or a teaspoon, steep and taste. Experimenting here is key as you want to find the teas’ best taste and one you enjoy. Experiment, explore!

White Tea

 

160-185° F
1 tbs. per 8-12 oz. water
2-3 minutes

As the water heats, look for pin-size bubbles “fisheyes” at a range of 160 to 185°F. White teas and handcrafted specialty greens, varieties made of buds and leaves harvested early in the spring, brew well in this range. Leaves open and yield the widest range of flavors and crafted notes at 2-2.5 minutes. At 3 minutes, leaves offer more body.

Green Tea

 

185-195° F
1 tbs. per 8-12 oz. water
1.5-2 minutes

As water heats to a temp of 185-195°F, bubbles will begin to break the surface. Early-spring pick full-leaf varietals do well at this temp to ensure a balance between sweet, vegetal notes and any astringency. This range works well with low-oxidized oolongs and blacks too. Steep for 1.5 to 2 minutes for full-leaf, spring teas and taste. Always, there is more body, fuller notes with longer steep times.

Oolongs, Pu-erhs, & Blacks

 

205-212° F
1 tbs. per 8-12 oz. water
1.5-4 minutes

When large bubbles break the surface, briefly rinse the oolong and/or Pu-erh leaves, pour this off and re-infuse. The temperature is now between 205 and 212°F. For black teas, water can be used at this temperature as it quickly opens all flavors and aromas. Generally, these temps are considered too hot for greens and whites.

Herbals & Tisanes

 

195-205° F
1 tbs. per 8-12 oz. water
3-4 minutes

A tisane is made using herbs, such as flowers, berries, leaves or roots, which are infused with either hot or cold water. Our suggested temperature will open the herbs without scorching them and bring forth a range of flavors. A tisane contains no Camellia sinensis leaf and no caffeine.

Tea Vessels

Every culture has developed methods and preferences for steeping tea. While it is personal, there are ways to enhance your experience and adapt it to fit your lifestyle. Values you might consider in your selection are how you like to drink your tea, the quality of the leaf and the number of cups to be served. Following is a brief overview of different kinds of vessels or teapots.

Teapots

Traditional and widely used, teapots range from single-to-multiple cup capacities and usually have a filter built into the spout to control the loose leaves. Ceramic and glass are recognized for quality and the fact they are suitable for steeping all varieties of teas. In choosing your teapot consider its size, the handle and its shape for ease in pouring.

Gaiwans

Simple but wonderfully engineered, the Gaiwan provides the tea drinker with the tools needed to brew and taste tea. A porcelain cup, lid and saucer, it can be used for any tea. For many lovers of tea, the Gaiwan is the best vessel to nurture and appreciate the flavors and aromas of tea.

Yixing Teapot

The Yixing teapot also receives high praise as a vessel for steeping tea. The clay used is known, due to its high iron content, to make a flavorful tea. It is the perfect vessel for Gong Fu style tea service. Practitioners of tea often dedicate these teapots to specific types of teas and thereby build flavors over time further enriching their service.

Cups & Bowls

We suggest high-fired ceramics: stone ware and porcelain, as the best choices for tea service.