Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Four easy steps and tips for brewing a perfect cup of tea.
This is one of the most important questions when you are into tea drinking and brewing. There is nothing worse than over-brewed green tea or under-brewed black tea. Steeping your tea the right way is a true secret to an amazing cuppa.
This is why we have put together some general guidelines and watch-outs when it comes to tea making, however, for best results we suggest you read the brewing instructions on your tea packaging and follow these carefully. There are a lot of different varieties and depending on provenance, type, and processing method it may all impact the brewing instructions.
Brewing really depends on the type of tea you have. The rule of thumb is that you use either hot or cold water and let it steep for the right amount of time at the right water temperature. The keywords here are time and temperature to create a perfect cuppa.
General dos and don’ts for tea brewing
Before we jump into the nitty gritty of tea making, let’s begin with some high-level guidelines.
Pick loose leaf tea for real authentic flavour
Follow brewing instructions on the packaging
Store your tea properly so it’s always fresh when you want a cuppa
Know what tea you are brewing - is it herbal? Is it black, or maybe green?
Ensure you have the right temperature to brew your tea
Ideally, warm up your drinking vessel (when making a hot drink) so it’s ready for your tea
Don’t microwave your water for a brew / or brew tea in a microwave
Avoid tea bags - it’s just tea dust and there is very minimal flavour (unless you get really good quality ones which can be great!)
Don’t use boiling hot water for all different tea types
Don’t boil the same water in a kettle over and over again (twice is fine, but if you have brewed it 6 times already it’s going to affect your tea flavour as the water has lost most of its oxygen and the tea will turn out flat)
Step 1: Get the tea basics right
Ensure you know what tea you are brewing - sometimes it can be confusing if you get flavoured ones and are unsure what the base tea is, e.g. tropical paradise tea - is it black? Is it green? This will inform your brewing temperature.
Step 2: Choose your brewing vessel and tea amounts
Are you making a cuppa just for yourself? Maybe you are hosting and making a whole pot to share with others (or just for yourself!)? This will help you figure out how much tea you will be using. Proportions are quite important because you definitely don’t want to make it too weak when making a whole pot, but you also don’t want to add too much for it to become too strong. The rule of thumb is that you add a teaspoon of tea per person.
Step 3: Get the water going
It sounds a little funny, but considering that tea is almost 100% water it’s important to get it right. Experts recommend boiling freshwater (avoid using the same water in a kettle multiple times, just pour enough water for however much you will be needing) for a perfect cuppa. This will make your tea fresh and brisk and far from flat.
Step 4: Pour the water over your leaves
Now, this gets interesting and maybe a little tricky for an untrained eye, but once you have tried different teas a few times it will become second nature. Let’s have a look at how to steep specific tea types:
How do I brew black tea?
Generally, most black teas will require boiling hot water with a steep time ranging from 1-5min. If you are adding any milk … well, milk tea is an interesting one where some argue whether to put milk first or last. We recommend brewing your tea first and then adding the milk. Also, remember not to add too many things - milk, lemon, sugar and a little bit of honey please …(yep some people do that). This will ‘kill’ the tea flavour and turn it into a sweet milky feast.
How do I brew green tea?
Temperature and steeping time is very important for green teas. Depending on the tea variety it usually needs 70-95 Celsius degrees with a steeping time between 1-10min. We suggest starting with a short steep, tasting it, and increasing the steeping time by 30 seconds until you like the taste.
How do I brew herbal infusions?
Herbal infusions such as chamomile, peppermint or rooibos generally like boiling hot water and a longer steeping time. Unlike tea, these don’t undergo any additional steps such as oxidation or fermentation, they are just dried. Because of that, they need to be steeped for longer to fully release their flavour. If you steep your chamomile tea for 1 minute it will be quite weak and won’t have much depth - let it brew for 3-5 minutes to enjoy its full taste, particularly if mixed with roses, lavender and other dried herbs - in order to make it a truly flavoursome tisane they need time.
How do I brew oolong?
Oolong can be a little bit difficult because it very much depends on how it’s been processed - some oolong teas will like water temperatures closer to boiling and others will prefer lower, more green tea like brewing temperatures. You can just use your ‘typical’ tea accessories, however, oolong fans prefer to use traditional methods such as gongfu method.
Some oolong teas taste fruity and others nutty or even earthy - these wide flavour profiles happen largely because oolong tea lands between green and black teas in terms of oxidation. While green tea has no oxidation and black tea is completely oxidised, oolong tea has varying levels of oxidation ranging from 10 to 80 per cent. Different oxidation levels and even the shapes of the leaves can have an effect on steeping time and proper brewing techniques. Use the following instructions as a general guideline and adjust each step to suit your favourite oolong tea varietal. Generally, if your oolong is more on the green side (lighter, more fruity) - it’s going to be 85 to 90 Celsius degrees. Good examples here are Milk Oolong or Tie Guan Yin (also known as Iron Goddess of Mercy). If it’s darker and more ‘nutty’ (and often may have a slightly smoky aroma) it’s going to need hotter water, closer to almost boiling hot. A good example here is a Da Hong Pao variety which likes 95 Celsius degrees.
To add to it, for some varieties it’s recommended that you pour boiling hot water first to just rinse the tea and ‘awaken’ the leaves. The best tip is to read the instructions thoroughly and just give it a go.
How to make an iced or cold brewed tea?
For iced tea depending on the tea type you either start with boiling hot water and let the beverage cool down, or you can steep in cold water. It’s easier if you just brew it like a typical tea and then let it cool down to room temperature followed by refrigeration. A tea like this is fine to drink for a few days (the longer it sits in a fridge the weaker the flavour). It’s recommended to consume within the first 24 hours. After that, it’s still fine to drink but not as tasty. There are numerous benefits of brewing tea this way - less bitterness and astringency (if brewed within the right timeframes) and less caffeine released.
Herbal teas (peppermint, chamomile, rooibos) - 12 - 14 hours
Green or white tea - 6 - 8 hours
Black tea - 8 - 12 hours
Oolong - 8 - 10 hours
Pu erh - 10 - 12 hours
These timings are just indicative and you can experiment on your own with slightly shorter timings. Be careful not to leave your tea for too long or it will turn bitter. The best way to do it is to steep it overnight (so you don’t have to wait impatiently)
How do I know my water temperature?
Sometimes it’s a little hard to know the exact temperature if you don’t have a thermometer but still want to ensure your brewing temperatures are right. There are two super easy tricks that can help (we do it all the time esp. when travelling and not carrying a thermometer!).
If you need lower than boiling hot temperatures (which will be required for most green teas and some oolong teas).
The trick involves adding cold water to your boiling hot water - the rule of thumb is that:
- if you pour ¾ of your hot water and add ¼ of cold water your temperature is approx. 80 Celsius degrees.
- if you pour ⅔ of hot water and mix in ⅓ of cold water you get approximately 70 Celsius degrees.
- if you just want slightly colder water from boiling hot adding a few splashes of cold water makes it approximately 90-celsius degrees.
If you prefer to not do any water mixing (or if there is no access to cold water) you can also just wait - this is more time consuming but also works well.
- 30 seconds of wait will cool it down to 90
- 1min of cooling down will make the temperature drop to 80
- 2min will make it drop down to 70.
Tea brewing has 4 key steps and it boils down to understanding the tea you are handling, knowing the right temperature to brew it for and sticking to the timings as per the guiding instructions.
There are two ways to brew your tea: cold and hot and depending on the desired outcome you can pick what works for you best
There are hacky ways of knowing your brewing temperatures that include wait time for the water to cool down or adding the right amount of cold water
What are your favourite ways of tea brewing? Do you have any amazing tea hacks you would like to share with us and our community? You can either leave a comment here jump on our tea forum to learn more or share your expertise. Let’s work together on making each cuppa a perfect drinking experience!