Essential Guide for Tea Brewing

Preparing tea is an exercise in simplicity, nothing but boiling water, pouring it over the leaves, waiting for a while and then serving. However true this statement is, there are hundreds of teas on the market that need attention and knowledge in their preparation. Making a delicious cup of tea is a play of tea leaves, the amount of water used, water temperature, the time of infusion, and the vessel the tea is brewed in. Our tea brewing guide covers every green tea to white tea, black tea and herbal infusions.

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General Guidelines

The following instructions are our key tips on tea brewing:

1. Bring freshly drawn, cold water to a boil in a kettle.

2. When water is at a gentle boil, remove heat.

3. Pour hot water into teapot and teacups and pour off. By warming the cups, the water temperature will be more consistent.

4. Add the proper amount of tea leaves per person to the pot.

5. Allow water to cool to the proper temperature, if necessary, and pour over the tea leaves.

6. Steep for the proper length of time.

7. Strain completely into another teapot or directly into the serving cups.

If you want to learn about the art of tea, there are now many online resources including whole eBooks. My personal favorite is The Art and Craft of tea by Joseph Wesley Uhl. This book taught me a lot about green tea to include the craze matcha green tea.

The Art and Craft of Tea by [Uhl, Joseph Wesley]

Steep for the Proper Length of Time

The time it takes for tea to brew depends on the leaf size. The smaller the leaf, the faster the tea infuses. Until familiar with a particular tea, steep for a minute or two, then taste. Pay attention to the taste rather than the color. When the tea tastes right, serve or pour off all the liquid to avoid oversteeping. Here are some general guidelines:

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See chart below for more information:

Tea Tsps Minutes Degrees Equipment
White 2-3 tsps 3 minutes 176° – 185° F Glass, porcelain
GREEN
Japanese (Steamed)
Chinese (Pan Fired)
1-2 tsps
2 tsps
1-2 minutes
2-3 minutes
158° – 176° F
176° – 185° F
Glass, earthenware
Glass, porcelain
OOLONG
Light (Green)
Heavy (Dark)
2-3 tsps
2-3 tsps
2-3 minutes
3 minutes
185° – 203° F
203° F
Porcelain, yixing
Yixing
BLACK
Broken Leaf
Full Leaf
1-2 tsps
1-2 tsps
2-3 minutes
3-5 minutes
203° F
203° F
Porcelain
Porcelain
PU-ERH (FERMENTED) 1-2 tsps 3 mins 212° F Yixing
TISANES/HERBAL 1-2 tsps 3 minutes 212° F Glass, porcelain

Brew (steep) the tea for the correct time, the suggested times in the table above are only a starting point. Once you become familiar with the different teas you like you will be able to adjust the steeping time to your taste.

Some believe that tea made from second or third infusions can taste even better and/or different. If you follow these guidelines when you start out you should end up with a very enjoyable cup of tea.

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Equipment

There is a ton of options on the market for tea brewing equipment,  below I have a review of my affordable tea brewing equipment that I use.

Leaf teas are generally best brewed in a pot, where the leaves can flow freely. Black teas have a limited extraction time, which recommends that the tea is poured into a heated pot beyond the infusion. Alternatively, you can buy a large tea strainer, where the leaves have most room, which can be removed beyond the infusion.

Basic Tea Brewing Equipment

Two years ago, when I first became interested in tea, I found getting the right equipment for a good price to be difficult, now I have a number of low cost and beautiful pieces that I would recommend.

Ceramic Cup with Tea Infuser and Lid

This is by far my favorite and easiest way to brew tea. This KATI Lotus Single Cup by Tea Forté is super pretty! This cup is only $20.00 with free shipping, which makes it an affordable all-in-one solution to get started with.

A Kettle

Most kettles will do the job perfectly, but if you wish to go that step further, you may want to invest in a kettle with temperature control. Some teas require more precise temperaturs, so be careful when brewing not to kill your tea with water that is too hot.

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Advanced Equipment for the More Exact Brews

The deeper you get into tea, particularly East Asian styles, the more you see a trend toward smaller brewing vessels filled with more leaves. The tea brews for less time than in larger Western teapots, then gets re-brewed anywhere from once to a couple dozen times.

You can brew this way simply by filling your basket infuser with more leaves and using it for shorter steepings, but there are also some key Asian tools designed for this sort of thing. The following pieces are beautiful and cost effect solutions on the market with top reviews!

Gaiwan

This classic Chinese brewing vessel is called a gaiwan, and it’s nothing more than a cup with a lid that you fill with leaves and brew in, then decant, using the lid as a strainer. This Porcelain Gaiwan Teacup Mug Tea Brewing Cup With Lid And Saucer is a steal coming in at only $11.55.

Kyusu

If you want to brew larger servings of tea in one go, or if you’re a really big fan of delicate Japanese green teas, you may prefer a Japanese-style kyusu teapot. These pots typically run a more ample 200 to 300 milliliters (about 7 to 10 ounces), and they come with a built-in filter to strain out tiny leaves.

Yamakiikai Tokoname Black Kyusu(Japanese teapot) Japanese Leafs pattern with a strainer 290cc M542 from Japan

A Gram Scale

You can easily just go by how much looks right, or use teaspoons and other measuring materials. Nonetheless a gram scale is a great kitchen appliance for tea, spices, herbs and more. This is a fool proof way to get the perfect ratio, especially helpful for tea combinations, but not a necessity.

Clay Teapots

clay can directly interact with the tea while brewing. A good Yixing pot can subtly improve the depth, flavor, body, or sweet aftertaste of a tea, and some tea fanatics won’t brew with anything else. Since the tea works its way into the porous clay, you typically pair a pot with a single style of tea, and over time that tea will form a distinct patina on the pot’s interior. This beautiful tea set comes in at $19.99, which is really inexpensive for a whole set of clay tea pot and cups.

Yixing pots

This pot will smooth out the rough notes in some teas, making them more rich, mellow, and harmonized. They’re typically used with darker teas rather than greens or whites; think dark oolongs, black tea, and pu-erh. These beautiful pieces of pottery have a strong history and aesthetic.

Matcha Tea set 

There are not many brands that do quality tea sets like this one for affordable prices, matcha being such a premium product. I was very happy with my set!

Matcha Tea Gift Set - Matcha Tea Ceremony Set by Matcha DNA (Set)

I hope you enjoyed our ultimate guide to tea steeping! We hope you found this article both helpful and insightful.

If you want to find out more about the world of teas check out our blog.

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