How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea
The first thing to know about how to brew the perfect cup of tea is that it really comes down to your personal preference. I can give you all the guidelines in the world, but you may like to do something completely different, and that’s okay. No judgment here.
Although I’m talking about brewing loose leaf tea, these guidelines also apply to tea in tea bags. The tea dust/particles in tea bags brew quicker because they have more surface area, so be careful. Tea dust has a tendency to taste astringent or bitter because it’s lost the complex flavor found in the loose leaf counterpart. If you brew it too long, it’s going to taste bitter.
Remember, tea is (or was) a living plant. It reacts to hot water the same way any plants does. Think about how boiling a vegetable makes it soft and imparts flavor to the water. Tea cooks just like any plant does when steeped in hot water. And it cooks faster when it’s in little bits, which is why tea dust doesn’t need to be steeped as long as you may think. (Be sure to take your tea bag out of your cup after it’s flavored the water.)
With that said, here are 4 guidelines on how to brew the perfect cup of tea.
1. How strong do you want your tea?
If you like a stronger brew, no matter what kind of tea you’re drinking, add more tea leaves instead of brewing it longer. The hot water cooks the leaves, and the longer they’re cooked, the more bitter your tea becomes. Adding leaves helps avoid the bitter aftertaste.
2. How much tea should you use?
If you’re brewing tea alone, then you use about 1 tsp of tea per 8 oz. of water. (A standard coffee mug hold 12 oz. of water.)
If you’re brewing a tea or herbal blend (like my Signature teas), then you’ll want to steep 2 tsp of the blend per 8 oz. of water.
Use more if you want a stronger cup.
3. How hot should your water be?
White and green teas are brewed with water just off boiling because they’re more delicate teas. THey’re the least oxidized of the teas, which means they’re closer to the natural version of the tea plant and more of the leaf’s original oils are in tact. So if you use water that’s too hot, then the leaves will be overcooked, and your tea will taste bitter,
For black teas, use boiling water. Black teas are heartier and more oxidized, so the boiling water brings out the flavor. If the water isn’t hot enough, your cup of tea is going to taste weak.
Herbal blends are a little different. I suggest using off boiling for delicate blends that have herbs in them. For example, chamomile is a flower, and if you use boiling water, you may overcook the plant and make a bitter tasting chamomile tea. On the other hand, if you’re brewing a heartier plant like rooibos, you can use boiling water to draw out the flavor.
Here’s an easy brew chart.
4. Can I re-brew the same tea?
If you’re using loose leaf tea, then the answer is yes. When you brew loose leaf teas, not all of the flavor is drawn out on the first brew. Re-steeping allows you to get a new cup of tea that may have different notes.
If you’re using a tea bag containing tea dust, then the answer is no. Tea dust is a completely oxidized tea product that exposes the maximum surface are of the tea “leaf.” When you pour hot water on tea dust, almost all of the flavor is extracted. Additionally, tea dust doesn’t have the same complex flavors as leaf tea because the process of crumbling the leaf into tea particles (or simply sweeping them off the floor of tea warehouses) exposes most of the tea leaf’s natural oils. The oils are what contribute to tea’s flavor.
Bonus: How do I perk up a bland tea?
There are lots of easy (and healthy) ways to add a bit of pep to a disappointing cup of tea. Here are a few:
- add a couple cloves, some cardamom seeds or a cinnamon stick to the cup to add some spice
- add a small bunch of fresh mint leaves to make your bland tea minty
- add some honey, maple syrup or agave syrup to sweeten
- add some almond milk to cut the bitterness of a black tea
If you like to add milk to your tea, here’s an FYI: if you’re drinking tea for the antioxidant health benefits solely, don’t add milk. The proteins in milk bond with the antioxidants in tea, so that the antioxidants pass right through you rather than being absorbed into your body.