Don't waste leftover tea. Pour over ice for refreshing cool drink.
Learning how to brew tea properly is easy, and once you know a few brewing techniques and tips you'll know how to brew a perfect cup of tea. Although hundreds of varieties and flavors of tea are available many of the best are sold only as loose tea and not available in tea bag form. When you hear the words loose tea, unfurling, infusion and other tea terms, it can be a little intimidating. Relax, learning how to brew tea using loose tea is easy and not much different than using teabags. There are only a few basic steps to brewing tea. There are only slight differences in brewing the three main types of teas which are black tea, green tea and semi-fermented tea. The differences in brewing are steeping time and water temperature. Learning how to brew tea is easy, there are only a few basic steps. With a little practice you will quickly become a tea brewing pro. Whether you want to know how to brew tea from loose tea leaves or from tea bags a few simple steps is all it takes.
In order to brew the perfect pot of tea you will of course need tea. There are hundreds of choices available and we will review the basic of teas including green tea, semi-fermented tea and black tea. You will also need a pot or tea kettle to heat the water, a teapot in which you will brew the tea and teacups to serve the brewed tea. Tea should always be brewed in a pot separate from the pot used to heat the water. You may elect to simply brew individual servings so you may only need cups but we do recommend a teapot. A tea cozy or thermal carafe to keep brewed tea hot are also helpful if brewing enough for second servings. Unless you are using teabags you will also want an infuser, strainer or tea ball, please see Tea Ball, Infuser and Tea Strainer for additional information. For other recommended products and sources see Where to buy Coffee, Tea and Brewing Accessories Online
The first step in brewing a pot of tea will be to heat the water and for this you will need a pot or tea kettle. For heating water glass, ceramic or stainless steel is best. Try to only use this pot for heating water. Simply rinse and let dry after each use. Unless you will only brew single servings you should also have a teapot in which you will brew the tea, see Teapots, Tea Kettles, Infusers and Accessories Be sure the teapot has a cover, or if brewing direct in teacup make sure it has a cover or use a saucer. A glass teapot is best, followed by ceramic. Ceramic, despite cleaning, might retain some flavors which can transfer between brews. If you like both black teas and green teas you would therefore need a separate teapot for each. It is far easier to have a glass teapot which is more easily cleaned and rinsed. You will also need cups to serve the tea. Again glass or ceramic are recommended. Pre-warm both the teapot and cups before using. If the teapot is not warmed valuable heat will be absorbed when you fill with the boiled water and your tea may not brew properly. Using a cold cup to serve might cause the tea to be served at less than optimal temperature.
Tea leaves will be placed in your pre-warmed teapot. The tea leaves can be placed in an infuser, a basket like container, or in a tea ball or left loose and strained out. An open top infuser is recommended or simply leaving the tea leaves loose and straining the tea. These methods allow more water to more quickly come into contact with the tea leaves. If you decide to use a tea ball, tea should be loose and able to move to help ensure proper brewing. You will need about 1-2 teaspoons of tea leaves for each 6 ounces of water. Adjust this according to taste. If you are using tea bags simply use approximately 1 tea bag per 6 ounces of water. Whether you are using a teapot or are brewing a serving directly in a cup, cover the teapot or teacup while steeping to maximize the flavor. Using the glass pot or cup allows you to actually watch the tea brew. As the tea brews or unfurls swirls of color will dance, a very relaxing image.
The temperature of the water is important. Water should usually be boiling for black tea, dark oolong tea and fruit teas and below boiling (or at 180 degrees Fahrenheit) for most green tea, light oolong and white tea. Steeping time refers to how long the tea leaves sit in the water. On average it is 5-7 minutes for the darker teas, 5 minutes for most fruit teas and 3 minutes for the green teas. If unsure of how long to steep start use these guidelines start at the shorter time and gradually increase each time until you have the desired strength.
After the desired steeping time has passed either remove the infuser with tea leaves or strain off the leaves. Do not allow the tea leaves to remain in the pot or cup. Pour the brewed tea into your cups. If any tea is left and you want to save it for a second or third cup use a tea cozy or thermos to keep the tea warm.
The quality of water is as important as the quality of the tea. As mentioned earlier in How to Brew A Perfect Pot of Coffee a good rule of thumb is if your water doesn't taste good out of the tap you should use filtered or bottled water. Do not use distilled water as it will lack some of the minerals necessary to properly brew tea. If using tap water always let the water run a few seconds (again save that for your houseplants).
Although there are hundreds of teas available, perhaps a little overwhelming when you first start out, there are three main types. The three main categories of tea are fermented or black teas, unfermented or green teas, and semi fermented teas. Herbal tea is not included in these three main types. Herbal teas are not actually brewed from leaves of a tea plant but from parts of plants other than tea plant. Hundreds of varieties of tea plants can be found growing in all parts of the world. Each tea plant has it's own distinct flavor and most teas that you buy are a blend of more than one plant. Black teas are the most common tea drunk with green teas rapidly gaining popularity. Semi fermented teas, oolong or pouchong, from a variety of a China plant, have an almost smoky taste. There are many varieties of tea and tea blends within each category available on the market. Many flavors can be added to teas including fruit flavors and spices, and even chocolate tea. Experiment with the wide variety of teas available. A good way to taste new teas are by purchasing tea samplers which will have 3 or more different varieties for you to try. For a specific suggestions visit A Tea for Every Taste, A Tea for Every Occasion and Today's Featured Brew.
The rules for storing tea are simple. You want to avoid exposing tea to extreme heat or cold, light, moisture and air. Store tea in an airtight non-plastic container. Tea will readily absorb a plastic flavor. Do not place your tea near your spices or scented candles as it will absorb those flavors and odors as well. Keep it separate from other foods and at room temperature away from heat. A darkened container is best as it will prevent your tea being exposed to light. See Tea Storage for options.
To summarize here are the steps to brew a great pot of tea. Start with clean pots, infusers and cups. Properly store your tea at room temperature away from heat, light, moisture and odors. Use fresh cold water and heat to correct temperature. Heat to boiling for most teas except for green, light oolong or white teas which do best with water that is approximately 180 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour the heated water into your pre-warmed teapot or cup containing the tea leaves and cover. The tea leaves may be left loose to float or can be placed in an infuser or strainer. Steep the desired time using guidelines mentioned above, then remove and discard tealeaves. Pour brewed tea into pre-warmed tea cups. Keep any leftover tea you wish as a second or third cup hot by using a tea cozy or thermos. Sit back, sip and enjoy.