Come taste the difference

The traditional method of making a cup of tea is to place loose tea leaves, either directly or in a tea infuser, into a tea pot or teacup and pour hot water over the leaves. After a couple of minutes the leaves are usually removed again, either by removing the infuser, or by straining the tea while serving.

Most green teas should be allowed to steep for about two minutes, although some types of tea require as much as ten minutes, and others as little as thirty seconds. The strength of the tea should be varied by changing the amount of tea leaves used, not by changing the steeping time. The amount of tea to be used per amount of water differs from tea to tea but one basic recipe may be one slightly heaped teaspoon of tea (about 5 ml) for each teacup of water (200–240 ml) (7–8 oz) prepared as above. Stronger teas, such as Assam, to be drunk with milk are often prepared with more leaves, and more delicate high grown teas such as a Darjeeling are prepared with a little less (as the stronger mid-flavors can overwhelm the champagne notes).

The best temperature for brewing tea depends on its type. Teas that have little or no oxidation period, such as a green or white tea, are best brewed at lower temperatures, between 65 and 85 °C (149 and 185 °F), while teas with longer oxidation periods should be brewed at higher temperatures around 100 °C (212 °F). The higher temperatures are required to extract the large, complex, flavorful phenolic molecules found in fermented tea, although boiling the water reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.


Water Temp.

Steep Time


White Tea

65 to 70 °C (149 to 158 °F)

1–2 minutes


Yellow Tea

70 to 75 °C (158 to 167 °F)

1–2 minutes


Green Tea

75 to 80 °C (167 to 176 °F)

1–2 minutes


Oolong Tea

80 to 85 °C (176 to 185 °F)

2–3 minutes


Black Tea

99 °C (210 °F)

2–3 minutes


Pu'er Tea

95 to 100 °C (203 to 212 °F)



Herbal Tea

99 °C (210 °F)

3–6 minutes


Some tea sorts are often brewed several times using the same tea leaves. Historically, in China, tea is divided into a number of infusions. The first infusion is immediately poured out to wash the tea, and then the second and further infusions are drunk. The third through fifth are nearly always considered the best infusions of tea, although different teas open up differently and may require more infusions of hot water to produce the best flavor.

One way to taste a tea, throughout its entire process, is to add hot water to a cup containing the leaves and after about 30 seconds to taste the tea. As the tea leaves unfold (known as "The Agony of the Leaves") they give up various parts of themselves to the water and thus the taste evolves. Continuing this from the very first flavours to the time beyond which the tea is quite stewed will allow an appreciation of the tea throughout its entire length.

images.jpgBlack tea
In the West, water for black tea is usually added near boiling point 99 °C (210 °F). Many of the active substances in black tea do not develop at temperatures lower than 90 °C (194 °F). Lower temperatures are used for some more delicate teas. The temperature will have as large an effect on the final flavor as the type of tea used. The most common fault when making black tea is to use water at too low a temperature. Since boiling point drops with increasing altitude, it is difficult to brew black tea properly in mountainous areas. It is also recommended that the teapot be warmed before preparing tea, easily done by adding a small amount of boiling water to the pot, swirling briefly, before discarding. In the West, black teas are usually brewed for about 4 minutes and are usually not allowed to steep for less than 30 seconds or more than about five minutes (a process known as brewing or mashing in Britain). In many regions of the world, however, boiling water is used and the tea is often stewed. For example, in India black tea is often boiled for fifteen minutes or longer as a strong brew is preferred for making Masala chai. When the tea has brewed long enough to suit the tastes of the drinker, it should be strained while serving. The popular varieties of black (red) tea include Assam tea, Nepal tea, Darjeeling tea, Nilgiri tea, Turkish tea and Ceylon tea.

images1.jpgGreen tea
Water for green tea, according to regions of the world that prefer mild tea, should be around 80 to 85 °C (176 to 185 °F); the higher the quality of the leaves, the lower the temperature. Hotter water will produce a bitter taste. However, this is the method used in many regions of the world, such as North Africa or Central Asia where bitter tea is appreciated. For example, in Morocco green tea is steeped in boiling water for fifteen minutes. In the West and Far East a milder tea is appreciated. The container in which the tea is steeped, the mug, or teapot is often warmed beforehand so that the tea does not immediately cool down. High-quality green and white teas can have new water added as many as five or more times, depending on variety, at increasingly high temperatures.
Oolong tea
Ollong teas should be brewed around 90 to 100 °C (194 to 212 °F), and again the brewing vessel should be warmed before pouring in the water. Yixing purple clay teapots are the traditional brewing-vessel for oolong tea. For best results use spring water, as the minerals in spring water tend to bring out more flavor in the tea. High quality oolong can be brewed multiple times from the same leaves, and unlike green tea it improves with reuse. It is common to brew the same leaves three to five times, the third steeping usually being the best.

Premium or delicate tea
Some teas, especially green teas and delicate oolong teas, are steeped for shorter periods, sometimes less than 30 seconds. Using a tea strainer separates the leaves from the water at the end of the brewing time if a tea bag is not being used. However, the black Darjeeling tea, a premium Indian tea, needs a longer than average steeping time. Elevation and time of harvest offer varying taste profiles; proper storage and water quality also have a large impact on taste.

Pu-erh tea
Pu-erh tea is also called Pu'er tea.  Pu-erh teas require boiling water for infusion. Some prefer to quickly rinse pu-erh for several seconds with boiling water to remove tea dust which accumulates from the aging process, then infuse it at the boiling point (100°C or 212°F), and allow it to steep from 30 seconds to five minutes.

Further information: Tea culture