How to Steep Tea So You Have a Perfect Cup Every Time

Drink up!

In This Article
View All
In This Article

Jill Battaglia/Getty Images

If you’ve witnessed more people drinking tea lately than ever before, or you’re swapping your afternoon coffee for a mug of tea, you’re onto a trend. Tea consumption is on the rise. 

“Tea has enjoyed a rekindling of interest in the past few years in the U.S.,” says Rudra Chatterjee, CEO Luxmi Estates, an India-based tea company. “Consumers are increasingly seeking daily rituals of wellness, be it mental or physical. Especially with the pandemic amplifying daily life stressors in the past few years, consumers are seeking options with functional benefits that help with good sleep, immunity, energy, and digestion.”

Caffeinated tea offers an energy boost, but unlike coffee, its lower levels of caffeine and other functional nutritional benefits can offer a more mellow sipping experience. “Tea provides jitter-free energy that comes from the naturally occurring compound L-theanine, which is associated with relaxation and alertness,” Chatterjee says.

Properly brewing tea is a science, but one that can be easily mastered with a knowledge of temperature and time.

“The water temperature at which the tea is brewed is essential,” Chatterjee says. “If you boil water for tea, you should let the boiling water cool off for a few minutes before steeping your tea. This will produce a smoother cup with less chance of over-steeping. The same is true for the steeping time—by experimenting with the recommended time range and being mindful, you'll learn your perfect steep time for your own personal taste, and will be able to make a perfectly brewed cup each time.” 

To help you get started with precise temperatures, try an electric kettle, which can be set to an exact temperature. A stovetop kettle works too, just use a food thermometer to confirm the temperature before you steep. Set a timer on your phone to remember the ideal steep time for each type of tea.

“Over-steeped tea can be bitter in taste due to the over-extraction of the leaves,” Chatterjee notes. “If you find yourself in this situation, try adding natural sweeteners, like honey or agave, which can help improve the taste and balance the bitterness. For black teas, you can dilute with some milk and sweetener, or try adding a slice of lemon that can help mellow out the brew.”

Here’s how to brew the best tea to get the most out of each leaf.

A chart of how long to steep different types of tea

Illustration by Kailey Whitman

How to Steep Black Tea

Black tea, which can also be sold in blends such as English breakfast, is a popular morning beverage thanks to its caffeine content. The ideal temperature for steeping black tea is 194 F, for four to five minutes, Chatterjee says. For loose leaf tea, he suggests a ratio of one teaspoon of tea to one cup of water. Once steeped, add honey, agave, raw sugar, or milk for the cup to suit your taste.

Black tea also works well for iced tea. For steeping iced tea, use two teabags and steep for five minutes so it’s extra concentrated. Let it cool and add ice cubes, plus sugar or simple syrup, if desired. 

How to Steep White Tea

White tea is the most delicate type of tea, thanks to minimal processing, which means it should steep for a shorter time. “The ideal temperature for steeping white tea is 194 F for just two to three minutes, less time than other varieties,” Chatterjee says. He recommends using one to one-and-a-half teaspoons of tea for one cup of water.

How to Steep Green Tea

The ideal temperature to steep green tea is 194 F. Steep green tea for between three and four minutes. “We recommend the same 1:1 ratio for green tea as we do black tea, one teaspoon of tea for one cup of water,” Chatterjee says.

How to Steep Oolong Tea

Oolong is its own variety of tea that’s neither black nor green, but comes from a unique oolong plant. The ideal temperature for preparing oolong tea is 194 F, and the steep time should be between three and four minutes. Use one to one-and-a-half teaspoons of tea for one cup of water.

How to Steep Herbal Tea

The ideal temperature for steeping herbal tea is 194 F, with an ideal steep time of three to five minutes. The ratio should be one to one-and-a-half teaspoons of tea for one cup of water. “With herbal tea, try adding honey, agave, or raw sugar, as per taste,” Chatterjee advises. “You can also add a slice of lemon or splash of lime to make it refreshing.”

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles