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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

How to Make Tea: A Complete Guide

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Brewing the perfect cup of tea is an art. In this post, I cover everything you need to know so that you can learn how to make tea from choosing the leaves, the best type of water to use, and all the tools necessary to make the best cup of tea every time!

black or green tea in a teacup - how to make tea using loose leaf tea

The History Of Brewing Tea

The art of brewing (and enjoying) tea has a rich and long history going back ages. Having its start around the southern border of China anywhere from 3000-5000 years ago, tea has been the beverage of choice for a huge portion of the globe up into the present day!

But where do new and curious tea drinkers begin? Luckily, those centuries of cultural development and exchange have led to pretty simple and easy ways to brew tea! Whether you like your tea green, black, white, or Oolong (more on these a bit later), this guide will help you get started and will help you perfect your own pot of delicious tea.

Video: How To Make Tea (Black or Green Tea!)

What Are The Different Types Of Teas?

There are many different types of tea out there! There are actually two main families of tea. 

First, there are “true teas” which come from the camellia sinensis plant. These teas are the descendants of the same ones enjoyed in China and elsewhere in Asia for centuries. These teas are naturally caffeinated.

True teas include green, white, Oolong, black, yellow, pu’erh and fermented teas. The second main family includes herbal teas.

The main difference between true teas and herbal teas is how long the leaves were allowed to sit and soak up oxygen before they were exposed to a heat source. This is called oxidization and it leads to the leaves having different flavors, aromas, and colors. Other factors come into play too but oxidization is a big one.

Each of these teas has a different flavor, aroma, mouthfeel, and caffeine catalog. They are also brewed slightly differently.

Green Tea

The second least oxidized of the true teas. Green teas are usually brewed at 150-185 degrees Fahrenheit though lighter greens may require a lower temperature. They can steep for about 3 minutes before they get too bitter.

Green tea leaves are generally a deep yellow to a dark alpine color range, they have a grassy and vegetal flavor and aroma palette, and possess a moderate caffeine level compared to other true teas. Green tea is known for its health benefits, as it’s packed with inflammation-reducing antioxidants and polyphenols.

White Tea

The least oxidized of the teas. 140-185 degrees is ideal for white tea. Though often delicate, some whites can be surprisingly robust, even providing more caffeine than the formidable black tea at times!

More often than not they provide similar or slightly lower caffeine levels, floral, fruity, and exotic flavors and aromas, charming yellow colors, and a steeping time of 2 minutes or so.

Yellow Tea

A considerably rarer tea, yellow teas can be found in China and Korea and are very similar to green teas, though they are allowed to oxidize just a bit longer.

They follow the same steeping and brewing steps as green but can offer up a bit of a different color, flavor, and aroma palette from a typical green tea, too. Their caffeine levels are similar to green tea if not a bit higher.

Oolong Tea

The next most oxidized tea after green and yellow tea is oolong. This tea can be brewed at 195-200 degrees Fahrenheit and steeped for 3-5 minutes.

These type of teas range from pale yellow to a deeper amber color. Their flavor palette is diverse, some are malty and akin to a breadlike flavor, while others are fruity and floral. Their caffeine level is similar to green tea.

Black Tea

One of the most popular teas in the world, black teas are robust in just about everything. Black teas are some of the most oxidized teas and have a complex flavor. They require 200 degrees for brewing and a steep time of 3-5 minutes.

Black tea has the most caffeine of any of the true teas, and a color that tends to be a reddish-brown to a deep, dark, brown. The flavor and aroma can be malty, savory, earthy, and robust.

Pu’erh (or pu-erh) And Fermented Tea

Pu’erh and other fermented teas are often sold in large bricks or balls of tea that must be chipped apart to be brewed. They are more oxidized than black tea and possess a real novel catalog of flavors and aromas. Their brewing and steeping is around temperatures of about 200-210 degrees Fahrenheit and a steep time of 3 to 5 minutes.

These teas can be malty, savory, earthy, musty, fruity, sweet, and even grassy. Their colors can range from dark brown to an almost maroon color.

Pu’erh has the distinction of offering a different flavor and aroma after each steeping so make sure to rebrew your pu’erh a few times! Their caffeine levels are similar to black tea and some report a kind of light and airy feeling when they drink a lot of pu’erh in a sitting!

Herbal Teas And Tisanes

So where does this leave teas like mint tea, rooibos, chamomile, and the like? They are grouped together as herbal teas or herbal blends. An alternative name for them are the tisanes. They include teas made from any ingredients or a blend of herbs not immediately from the true tea family.

However, many herbal tea blends may use true tea leaves along with other choice ingredients like lemon, cinnamon, ginger, and flowers. These teas do not possess caffeine unless they are found in a blend with a true tea.

Their brewing temperatures usually range around 190-200 degrees and their steeping times can clock in anywhere from 3-5 minutes in length. Their subtle flavors and aroma palettes will all be different depending on what their ingredients include!

strainer on top of a cup

Tea FAQs

What does a perfect pot of tea look like?

The ideal pot of tea is hard to pin down, because there are so many different ways to make tea! Additionally, tea, as a category, is rather broad. As mentioned above the tea family includes green, black, white, Oolong, yellow, and fermented tea like pu’erh. Each of these different varieties has various brewing conditions and as a result, comes out as pretty different final products. 

Generally speaking, though, the ideal pot of tea will be hot enough that the leaves have been fully brewed but not so hot the leaves have been burnt. The water to leaves ratio should be strong or mild enough for you to enjoy but not too overpowering or too weak. Tea taste depends on personal preference. In regards to color, this depends on leaf type of course. But oftentimes a vibrant and richer color is indicative of healthy tea leaves and an overall masterful brewing of tea. 

A pot that is a truly top-tier example of tea is often brewed with whole leaves and filtered, fresh water. These different variables all coalesce to make a great pot of tea!

Is it better to make tea with a teabag or loose-leaf tea?

You will always achieve a better tasting pot of tea using loose leaves than you will with a teabag. Loose leaf tea tends to be fresher and more flavorful.

When you brew with whole leaves, chances are you are using a fresher product. The leaves have most likely been harvested, processed, and then shipped. You can also know what grade your tea leaves are when you choose whole leaf tea. Whole leaf tea retains its freshness longer due to an increased surface area, and when it is brewed the larger surface doubles to provide a fuller, richer, and more delectable aroma, flavor, and color.

With tea bags, more often than not the tea filling those bags are the clippings, dustings, and remains of lower quality tea from the processing room floor (sometimes including twigs, debris, and all!) Since the leaves are mostly ground into a powder, their surface area is tiny and they become stale and musty much quicker.

When compared to whole leaf tea leaves, tea bags are generally blander and can be staler or mustier. While you can find organic tea bags that have good flavor, you don’t run the risk of getting neutral or mild flavored tea when you choose whole leaf tea. It is guaranteed to please every time!

What Do You Need To Make Tea?

The art of making tea requires a few key instruments, but the ingredients are simple: you need tea leaves, water, and depending on the tea, a sweetener of choice and milk of choice.

ingredients for how to make tea using loose leaf tea

Tea Leaves: The most important of course is your leaves! Now we know we all live in a fast-paced and hectic world where convenience is king. But I do strongly encourage you to use whole leaf tea over tea bags. There are a few reasons for this: 1) Loose leaf tea often has the best flavor 2) You can control the strength of your tea by measuring out your loose tea leaves accordingly (vs. a tea bag that is always pre-measured). 3) There are a larger variety of loose leaf teas to choose from vs. pre-bagged tea.

Quality Hot Water: The next most important factor when brewing an incredible pot of tea would be the water quality. After all, tea is mostly water. I do not suggest using tap water but rather filtered, spring water, or purified water instead. This really does have an impact on the taste of your tea by giving it a rich and smooth taste that allows the leaves to shine. 

Sugar and Milk: Optional and only necessary for certain types of tea (most commonly used in black tea). Any type of sweetener: cane sugar, brown sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar, stevia extract, honey, etc. all work; and most types of milk — whole milk, lowfat, nonfat, almond milk, oat milk, etc. work as well.

Kettle: Next would be your kettle of choice. The kettle can be up to you, but a great type to choose would be any kettle that has a timer or temperature setting (typically found with an electric tea kettle). This will help streamline the brewing process. While an electric kettle works great, you can also use a regular kettle and brew tea on the stove, using a thermometer to achieve the optimal water temperature for the type of tea you are brewing.

Thermometer: Used for the water, but optional. Different teas require different water temperature, so a thermometer can be helpful. This is because if you use water that is too hot, you could burn the tea leaves, while using water that is too cool can leave you with flavorless tea that is weak and bland.

Teapot: The teapot you choose can depend on your tea leaves. Some leaves work really well with certain pot types. For a standard ceramic pot, green and white tea should be fine. But black tea, which needs to be kept hotter for longer may need something a bit more robust, so consider using a thicker material for black tea. Additionally, you’ll need a strainer if you plan to make loose leaf tea – I prefer a stainless steel strainer since it won’t change the flavor of the tea at all.

Scale and Spoon: Though optional, a scale and spoon for making exact measurements of tea per brewing certainly can come in handy. You can still brew without them but if you’d just like a little extra certainty with your brews, make these items part of your tea arsenal. 

Cups and Saucers: When it comes to standard brewing, your cups, saucers, and tea-stirring spoons are up to you! Keep in mind that shorter, wider cups are ideal for tea you want to cool off quickly, while taller, more narrow cups are for brews you’d like to keep hot for a while. 

Gaiwan Teacups: For curious brewers who have maybe seen the regal-looking Chinese porcelain cups with the little cover on top? They are known as gaiwan! They are for brewing whole leaf tea right in the cup, with the little top used to fan the hot tea and to keep the leaves out of your mouth when you sip it. We suggest giving them a try if you would like an authentic brewing experience. But they are not mandatory tea wares and any standard mug can work just fine!

Chinese Yixing: This teapot variety is really neat. It has a charming appearance and are made from a distinct reddish-brown unfinished clay. This clay is porous and can amplify and enrich the flavors and aromas your tea leaves are capable of unleashing. Oolong and pu’erh do really well in a Yixing pot. But be aware! The porous interior of these pots retain flavors and aromas, so try to only use one type of leaf per Yixing pot if you can! 

How To Brew The Perfect Cup Of Tea With Loose Leaf Tea

I mentioned the different tea varieties are nuanced. So to keep it simple I am going to give a guide to brewing green tea, which is similar to how to brew black tea. Why green? It is one of the most common, iconic, and delectable of teas around. The brewing method is quite standard and can be applied with other types of teas including black, or herbal teas and tisanes.

Step 1: Measure out your tea. The amount of tea you need depends on how much water you use. I recommend one teaspoon of loose leaf tea or one teabag per one cup of water you plan on using to brew. More tea per water will lead to a stronger brew, while more water per tea will lead to a milder one. Add leaves to your tea infuser or tea ball and then place your teapot.

tea set on a table

Step 2: Heat your water in your kettle. You’ll want to start with fresh cold water, and allow it to heat in the kettle (vs. starting with warm or hot water from the tap). Once your kettle has boiled wait for about a minute to two minutes for it to cool a bit so it does not scorch your leaves but not too long that it isn’t hot enough to brew the leaves! Your thermometer will come in handy here.

Follow these guidelines for the ideal temperature depending on the leaves you are using for the best results.

  • 140-180 degrees Fahrenheit for Green and White tea leaves
  • 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit for Oolong tea.
  • 200 degrees Fahrenheit for Black tea.
  • 210 degrees Fahrenheit for Pu’erh, Herbal teas, and Tisanes.
tea set on a kitchen table

Step 3: Now, pour your water onto the leaves in your pot. Tea steeps for anywhere from 2-7 minutes depending on the type of tea you are using. If you like a stronger tea flavor, let your leaves steep a little longer than these guidelines. But remember, steep too long and you may end up with a bitter taste! Your timer will come in handy here. Look below at the recommended brew time below.

  • 3 minutes for it to steep for Green
  • 2 minutes for White and Oolong.
  • 3-5 for Black and Pu’erh.
  • 5-7 minutes for Herbal teas and Tisanes.
water poured into kettle

Step 4: Pour your tea into your chosen cup using a tea strainer if you did not use a tea infuser. Let it sit for a bit so it can unfurl its fine aroma and the full catalog of flavors. Sip your tea and enjoy! Optional, add sugar and milk for a sweet tea.

tea poured into a tea cup over a strainer

I encourage you to experiment while brewing until you find the perfect brew for your personal taste. Happy brewing!

How To Make Tea Using A Tea Bag

This is by far, the easiest way to make tea! Here’s how:

Step 1: Put a tea bag in your mug.

Step 2: Bring cold water to a full boil. Then pour the boiled water on the tea bag and steep according to the directions above based on which type of tea you have chosen.

Step 3: Once the steeping time is over, squeeze the tea bag into the cup, releasing any liquid the tea bag has absorbed. Then, remove the tea bag from the cup.

Step 4: Add your choice of milk and sugar (coconut sugar, honey, cane sugar, stevia, agave, etc.) if you like, then drink and enjoy!

tea in a teacup - how to make tea using loose leaf tea

How To Make Iced Tea

These instructions are for making iced tea for one, but you can scale this recipe to make it for a crowd as well. As a general rule, use a tea to water ratio of: 1 tea bag (or 1 serving of loose leaf tea) to 8 ounces of water per person.

Making iced tea is actually just as easy as making hot tea, you just have one extra step at the end to chill the tea. Here is how you make iced tea using a tea bag.

Step 1: Put a tea bag in a mug or large glass container (if making for a crowd).

Step 2: Bring water to a rolling boil, then pour over the tea bag and steep tea according to the directions above.

Step 3: Once the steeping time is over, remove the tea bag (or bags).

Step 4: Add sugar (coconut sugar, honey, cane sugar, stevia, agave, etc.) if desired.

Step 5: Add a few ice cubes to the mug or glass container, or place the mug/container in the fridge to allow it to chill before serving.

How To Make Cold Brew Tea

In order to make cold brew tea, you’ll need a french press! But this can be a convenient way to make tea if you don’t have a way to boil water.

To make 1 serving of cold brew tea:

Step 1: Add 1 serving of loose leaf tea + 1 cup of cold water into a French Press. Make sure the plunger is up.

Step 2: Refrigerate for 8 hours (at a minimum, you’ll need to steep for 4 hours, but really, overnight is best!)

Step 3: Take the french press out of the refrigerator, press the plunger down, and pour the tea over ice. Add sugar or your favorite sweetener if desired.

black tea in a teacup - how to make tea using loose leaf tea

More Drink Recipes And Tips!

If you have tried this recipe, then please rate it and let me know how it turned out in the comments below!

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Printable Tea Recipe Card

black or green tea in a teacup - how to make tea using loose leaf tea
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5 from 6 votes

How To Make Tea

Brewing the perfect cup of tea is an art. In this recipe, I cover everything you need to know so that you can learn how to make tea from choosing the leaves, the best type of water to use, and all the tools necessary to make that perfect warm and comforting cup of tea! Works for black tea, green tea, and most other tea varieties!
Prep Time10 mins
Steep3 mins
Total Time13 mins
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: Asian
Diet: Gluten Free, Low Calorie, Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 1
Calories: 1kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • tsp Loose Leaf Green Tea or Black Tea
  • 8 oz purified water

Instructions

  • Measure out your tea. One teaspoon of loose leaf tea or one teabag per cup of water you plan on using to brew. More tea per water will lead to a stronger brew, while more water per tea will lead to a milder one. Add your tea to your teapot.
  • Heat your water in your kettle. Once your kettle has boiled wait for about a minute to two minutes for it to cool a bit so it does not scorch your leaves but not too long that it isn't hot enough to brew the leaves! Your thermometer will come in handy here. For green tea the temperature should be between 140-180 degrees Fahrenheit. See the notes for the recommended temperature for other types of tea.
  • Pour the water onto the leaves in your teapot and allow to steep. For green tea steep for 3 minutes. If you like a stronger tea flavor, let your leaves steep a little longer than the recommended guidelines. But remember, steep too long and they may become bitter! See the notes section for the recommended time to steep your leaves for the different types of teas.
  • Pour your tea into your chosen cup. Let it sit for a bit so it can unfurl its fine aroma and the full catalog of flavors. Sip your tea and enjoy!

Video

https://youtu.be/bNSCc8XKVTU

Notes

Temperature for Different Types of Teas
  • 140-180 degrees Fahrenheit for Green and White tea leaves
  • 190-195 degrees Fahrenheit for Oolong tea.
  • 200 degrees Fahrenheit for Black tea.
  • 210 degrees Fahrenheit for Pu’erh, Herbal teas, and tisanes.  
Steeping Times for Different Types of Teas
  • 3 minutes for Green tea
  • 2 minutes for White and Oolong
  • 3-5 for Black and Pu’erh
  • 5-7 minutes for Herbal teas and tisanes
Nutritional information assumes tea with no milk or sugar added.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup | Calories: 1kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Potassium: 3mg

Sources

  • Editors, Epicurious. “How to Brew a Perfect Pot of Tea, Every Time.” Epicurious, Epicurious, 9 June 2017, https://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-brew-tea-perfectly-article.
  • Taste.com.au. “How to Brew the Perfect Pot of Tea.” Www.taste.com.au, 4 Aug. 2010, https://www.taste.com.au/entertaining/articles/how-to-brew-the-perfect-pot-of-tea/jl5ctv6z.
  • Taste.com.au. “How to Brew the Perfect Pot of Tea.” Www.taste.com.au, 4 Aug. 2010, https://www.taste.com.au/entertaining/articles/how-to-brew-the-perfect-pot-of-tea/jl5ctv6z. 

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10 responses to “How to Make Tea: A Complete Guide”

  1. I was just gifted some loose tea from a local shop. I can’t wait to explore the different flavors. Thank you for the tutorial.5 stars

  2. This is such a handy guide! I had no idea that so much goes into brewing the perfect cup of tea. 🙂5 stars

  3. These are some great tips and tricks to make your own tea! I usually use prepackaged tea bags but am excited to give this a try!5 stars

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