Tea 101: How To Make Loose Leaf Tea
When it's time to brew tea, you want to have the knowledge required to nail the perfect cup every time. It's easy to learn how to make loose leaf tea once you get a handle on a few rules of thumb. That's why we've created this step-by-step guide to help you brew loose leaf tea.
How To Make Loose Leaf Tea:
Step 1: Scoop Tea Leaves
To make the perfect cup of tea, you need to use the right amount of tea leaves. In general for true teas, we recommend using one teaspoon of tea leaves for every 8-ounce cup of water. This includes white tea, green tea, black tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea. For herbal teas, use or 1 tablespoon or 1.5 teaspoons of tea for every cup of water or 8 ounces of water instead.
You can use slightly less for strongly flavored teas such as Lapsang Souchong and Chinese Gunpowder teas. For delicate teas such as white tea, you may need to use a tad more depending on your desired flavor.
Remember that flavor becomes stronger when you use more tea leaves and when you steep the leaves longer. As you drink tea more frequently, you'll learn exactly how much of each tea type you need for your flavor preferences. To make things easier, our Cup & Leaf teas feature labels showing exactly how much tea you should use for that particular blend.
Step 2: Heat Water
You need to use different water temperatures depending on which type of tea you are brewing. Fortunately, there are general guidelines to make finding the right temperature easier. As a rule of thumb, use the following temperatures for your chosen tea type:
- White Tea: 170 to 185° F
- Green Tea: 150 to 170° F
- Oolong Tea: 180 to 190° F
- Black Tea: 200 to 212° F
- Pu-Erh Tea: 190 to 200° F
- Herbal Teas: 212 °F
Japanese green teas should be brewed at the lower end of the temperature range while Chinese green teas should be brewed higher. Traditional brewing of green teas also involves warming the cup with hot water and rinsing before pouring in the hot water and adding tea leaves.
The best way to ensure the proper temperature is to use a temperature-controlled electric kettle. If you don't have one of these, you can use a thermometer to test the water temperature. Alternatively, a full rolling boil is 212°F while 180°F is indicated by bubbles forming along the bottom of the pot. You can also simply bring water to a rapid boil and then allow the boiling water to cool for 1 to 3 minutes before adding the tea leaves.
It's also important to only use high-quality water when brewing tea. Distilled water won't develop flavors well and tap water contains chemicals and additives that can alter the natural flavor profile of teas. Instead, use spring water, fresh water, or purified water for tea brewing.
Step 3: Steep Tea Leaves
For loose leaf tea, you can choose to steep using Asian techniques or western methods. In Asia, many tea drinkers simply add the loose tea leaves to a teacup and sip contentedly. The tea leaf adds a visual dimension to drinking and the flavor deepens with each sip. In the western world, tea leaves are generally steeped for a few minutes and then removed using tea accessories.
If you want to remove the tea leaves before drinking, use a tea strainer or tea infuser. There are many different types available ranging from handy tea infuser spoons and tea balls to tea baskets and infusers you can place directly in a teapot. If you need help choosing the right steeper, check out our guide to the best tea infuser right here.
The longer the steep time, the stronger the flavor becomes. For herbal teas, this can deepen the flavor. However, for delicate teas such as green tea, long steeping times can result in bitter tastes. Here's how long you should steep each tea type:
- White Tea: 2-3 minutes
- Green Tea: 2-3 minutes
- Oolong Tea: 4-6 minutes
- Black Tea: 3-5 minutes
- Pu-Erh Tea: 3-5 minutes
- Herbal Teas: 5-10 minutes
Choose Your Favorite Flavors
Whatever flavor or types of tea you love, it's important to purchase high-quality tea blends. Organic teas are a good choice because the flavor won't be altered by additions such as fertilizer. We tend to avoid tea bags because they constrict the tea leaves and don't allow them to fully infuse flavor. Instead, we prefer premium loose teas that can be brewed using a tea ball or kettles with built-in strainers. Here are some of our favorites!
Rooibos tea is a tasty tea that is grown exclusively in South Africa. The tea grows along the high Cederberg Mountains and features a flavor that is similar to cranberries. it's a sweet and tart delight the works perfectly as a hot beverage or a refreshing iced tea. The tea also brews into a vibrant magenta hue that makes it perfect for cupping, traditional tea ceremonies, and backyard tea parties.
Sleepy Time Mint Tea
Tea has long been used to help induce relaxation. It's a pleasant way to unwind after a hectic day at the office or to simply enjoy the quiet pleasures in life. This tea blends invigorating peppermint with the calming nature of chamomile for a tea that is uplifting and relaxing. The flavors include hints of green apple and a tingling sensation that make drinking this tea a true joy.
Silver Moonlight Wild White Tea
White tea is a type of true tea that offers a delicate flavor profile. The tea offers a mild flavor that can be enjoyed by beginner tea drinkers. The flavor profile is also complex, making it a great choice for tea enthusiasts that enjoy the nuanced flavor.
This white tea is considered the highest quality of the white tea varieties. It's a silver needles tea made using only the first spring buds of the tea plant. It offers a delicate flavor with notes of baked almond and a soft finish.
Mango Black Tea
Our Mango Black Tea combines an English breakfast tea with dried mango pieces for a fruity tea blend that is similar to Earl Grey.
The tea offers bold black tea flavors with earthy notes and hints of chocolate. The mango pieces add a touch of tangy flavor that will delight taste buds.
Milk Oolong Tea
Milk Oolong tea is a unique tea flavor that combines the bold floral and earthy flavors of oolong tea with the creamy texture and taste of milk. These tea blends don't contain any milk, making them a great choice for even non-dairy tea drinkers.
The tea gets its name from the milky notes and a creamy finish. the tea offers a bold flavor that can be resteeped up to eight times, making it great for your budget as well as your taste buds.
Organic Sencha Fuji Green Tea
Sencha Fuji is a popular Japanese green tea varietal. The tea is made using only the top buds and leaves of the tea plant. It brews into a pale yellow or light green hue. The tender leaves offer a mellow flavor with grassy and vegetal notes. The tea also often features notes of seaweed and accounts for 80 percent of green tea production in Japan.
Egyptian Hibiscus Petal Tea
Hibiscus tea is a wildly popular herbal tea. it can be made using fresh hibiscus petals from the garden or dried loose tea blends. Since it is an herbal tea, hibiscus tisanes are naturally caffeine-free.
This tea delivers a kick of flavor with tart and sour notes that are contrasted by a sweet finish. The tea is also popular in iced teas thanks to its lemonade-like taste.
Emperor Pu-Erh 4-year Aged Tea
Pu-erh tea is a unique true tea in that it is aged rather than fermented. Some of the highest quality pu-erh teas are aged for more than 50 years. Most pu-erhs aged for 4 years or more offer deep flavor that is unlike other true teas.
Earthy notes become richer during the aging process, much like a fine wine. Pu-erh teas feature strong flavor profiles and a smooth finish, making it a good alternative to a cup of coffee or for a change of pace from black tea or oolong tea.
Put Your Own Spin On Tea
The beauty of making tea is that it is truly an art form. For many cultures, serving up tea involves elaborate multi-step processes that highlight the aroma, flavor, and cultural importance of drinking tea. Don't be afraid to take these basic brewing instructions and put your own spin on things.
You can whip up a cup of sweet tea using a French press or brew fruit-infused delights in an iced tea pitcher using cold brew or sun tea methods. You can make your own tea using fresh flowers and roots from the garden or opt for dried loose leaf blends like ours. Boil water in a tea kettle and enjoy the delicious world of flavor that loose tea offers.