How to Brew The Perfect Cup of Tea

If you find yourself saying this beverage "isn't my cup of tea", it might be because you are brewing it wrong. Hear us out. The most common complaints we get when it comes to tea is that it's not as strong as coffee or that it's bitter. That's just simply not true. There are caffeinated teas that can give you an energy kick just like coffee and bitter flavors are mainly the result of poor brewing techniques. We're here to help you enjoy tea. That's why we've made this handy guide to brewing a cup of tea so you can discover a world of flavor and make tea your go-to beverage.

steaming cup of tea

Make Tea Your “Cup of Tea”

Here, we’ll break down the two main complaints we get regarding tea drinking. From a desire to stick to coffee and a distaste of bitter flavors, we’ll show you how you can enjoy tea.

All About Caffeine

There are many caffeinated teas that can give you the same energy boost as a cup of coffee. Teas like yerba mate, black teas, and matcha green teas contain high amounts of caffeine that can give you the energy jolt you're looking for. Even better, tea contains an amino acid known as L-theanine that helps to slow the absorption of caffeine, so you get all the energy-boosting of coffee without the crashes and jitters.

Do you still feel like tea doesn't offer the same flavor or body as a cup of coffee? Brew it differently! Try tea with robust flavors like Lapsang Souchong, dandelion root tea, vanilla pu-erh tea, and acorn tea to get those chocolaty and roasted tasting notes. You can also brew teas as lattes to get a creamy texture that is just like a rich cup of coffee.

Avoid Bitterness

The second most common complaint we hear about tea in general from drinkers in the United States and across the globe is that it tastes bitter. The main reasons tea develops a bitter flavor include poor brewing techniques and low-quality tea. If you're brewing tea using tea bags, switch to loose leaf tea. Loose tea contains the entire leaf of the tea plant — and thus all its yummy flavor components — while tea bags only contain the ground-up dust of the tea leaves.

Poor brewing methods can also cause the tea to develop bitter flavors. Tea contains tannins, an organic substance that is also found in wine. Tannins can create a bitter flavor when they are steeped for too long at high temperatures. The best way to avoid bitter tea flavors is to brew your tea properly. Here, we'll show you the best ways to brew your cup of tea, without bitter notes.

Tips For Brewing A Cup of Tea

Tea Quality

We've already mentioned how important it is to use high-quality tea. The better the quality of your tea, the more authentic and natural the flavor will be. Look for teas that are certified organic and stick to loose tea for the best flavor.

Water Quality

Using clean, fresh water can also mean the difference between a delightful cup of tea and one that tastes funky. For tea brewing, it's best to use spring water or filtered water rather than tap water. Tap water contains additives and chemicals such as chlorine that can affect the flavor of the tea. It's also a good idea to avoid distilled water as this type of water doesn't develop flavor well. Always brew tea using hot water, not cold water. To make iced tea, simply brew using hot water and let the tea cool to room temperature before serving with ice.

Water Temperature

Water temperature plays a major role in the development of great tea flavors. Some teas should be brewed in boiling water while others should be brewed at lower temperatures. White tea and green tea are more delicate true teas and they require lower water temps during brewing. If you brew these with boiling water, you'll get a bitter blend. As a rule of thumb, use the following temperatures for brewing different tea types:

  • White tea: 160°F to 185 °F
  • Green tea: 150°F to 170°F for steamed green teas and 170°F to 180°F for roasted green teas
  • Oolong tea: 185°F to 205°F
  • Black tea: 200°F to 212°F
  • Pu-erh tea: Around 195°F
  • Herbal Tea: 212°F 

Steeping Times

The fastest way to get a crappy, bitter cup of tea is to leave a teabag soaking in a cup of water for an hour. For the perfect cup of tea, you want to steep the tea leaves only as long as is necessary. Different types of tea should steep for different lengths of time to avoid bitter notes. In general, the longer the steeping time, the stronger the flavors. Here are some guidelines for the recommended tea steeping times:

  • White tea: 1 to 3 minutes
  • Green tea: 1 to 3 minutes
  • Oolong tea: 2 to 3 minutes
  • Black tea: 3 to 5 minutes
  • Pu-erh tea: 2 to 5 minutes
  • Herbal tea: 4 to 5 minutes

Use the Right Tea Tools

Teaware can help you perfect the brewing process by making things simpler. A tea spoon can help you portion out the right amount of tea each and every time. As a rule of thumb, you should be using one teaspoon of tea leaves for every 8-ounce cup of water. A tea strainer helps to contain tea leaves during the steeping time and allows for easy re-steeping of multiple cups of tea and clean-up.

A temperature-controlled tea kettle can help you nail the right temperature so you don't brew bitter tea. If you're one of those people who forgets about a cup of tea until an hour later, choosing a stoneware teapot can help keep your tea warm for longer, without altering the flavor quality.

Certain types of tea also benefit from the use of traditional teacups or tea mugs. Matcha tea tastes even better when brewed in a chawan — a traditional wide-brimmed bowl. That's because the wide opening allows your nose to inhale the fragrant aroma and cupping the tea between your palms helps to include all your senses in the tea-drinking process. Chinese teas are typically consumed in a gaiwan and the British love their Earl Grey in fancy tea party-ready teacups. 

Tea drinking should be fun and tea tools can make the process that much more enjoyable. From dainty porcelain cups to travel tea mugs, you can express your personality through practical pieces that are functional. Choose from silicone tea infusers featuring fun shapes like sloths and scuba divers that are trending everywhere or opt for classic style with a bamboo tea infuser basket.

Making the Perfect Cup of Tea

Think tea isn't quite your "cup of tea"? Well, maybe you're brewing it wrong. With these tips and techniques, you can make the perfect cup of tea every time. With thousands of flavors from floral and sweet to roasted and spicy, there is a tea flavor for everyone. Brew up a cuppa today and discover what the world of tea has to offer you. Not sure where to start when it comes to tea, check out our tea quiz which will help you figure out the best teas depending on your taste preferences. You can also join our Tea Club and we’ll send you two new teas each month including some of our best sellers.

October 02, 2020 — Sencha Tea Bar