This historically significant beverage can be enjoyed hot or cold, light or bold, but the quality and flavor all come down to one thing: how it’s made. Brewing a cup of tea — perfectly — well that’s an art in itself.
There are many kinds of tea, and each one has its own specific expectations. However, before we get into those specifications on tea preparations, let’s make sure we have the basics down for general tips when it comes to brewing your perfect cup of tea.
How to Steep Tea
At the core, a perfect cup of tea is just two ingredients: water and tea leaves (in a bag or loose). When you begin making your tea, you are, in fact, brewing tea. The process is typically called ‘steeping.’
Although each tea type has certain nuances, here’s a basic step-by-step process for brewing your cup of tea:
Step 1: Use Fresh Water
If you want the best quality, avoid boiling again or using previously boiled water. Pour fresh water into a tea kettle, boil it, and be sure to only use that hot water to steep your tea.
Step 2: Pouring
Pour the hot water over the tea bag or leaves, always (not the other way around).
Using teabags? Do not squeeze the tea bags after brewing!
Using loose leaf? Remove the tea leaves immediately after its brewed. You can utilize a teapot to steep your loose tea for the recommended amount of time.
Step 3: Steeping
With your boiling water poured in your tea cup or teapot, you have begun to steep tea. Remember to keep your cup covered during the whole steeping process (perhaps a small round ceramic plate). The purpose of steeping is to infuse the water with the tea, and the type of tea you use will affect this.
It is important to know what tea you are steeping, to ensure you brew it to perfection (and avoid over-steeping, which can make your tea bitter).
Lifehack: Want more? Loose leaf tea can be re-steeped multiple times per cup — and they will provide better taste and aroma with each steep.
How to Steep Different Types of Tea
Whether you prefer green tea or herbal tea, everyone has their personal favorite, and each tea has its own unique specifications! These preferences vary based on many factors, including caffeine content. While black tea has about 30-40 milligrams of caffeine, rooibos tea is completely caffeine-free.
The steeping process is also heavily contingent on whether the tea is in a bag or loose leaf. For tea bags, the proper instructions will be listed on the packaging. With loose leaf tea, you might need to figure out the optimal steeping time on your own. Here’s an overview of how to steep different types of loose leaf tea, according to the tea manufacturer Silk Road Teas.
Black, pu-erh, herbal and oolong teas are heartier and can be steeped in fully boiled water without the risk of over-processing. For more delicate teas, like white tea and green tea, the water should be poured right before the boiling point to really appreciate all that the tea has to offer. If you add anything to your tea — like milk, honey, lemon or any sugar — be mindful of how these ingredients may adjust your steep time and alter the full flavor of your cup of tea.
How to Steep Iced Tea
If you want to make cold brew tea, you’ll have to take a slightly different approach. It will require a greater amount of tea and cold water, for starters. Here’s a relatively simple step-by-step process to brew iced tea courtesy of culinary website Epicurious:
Step 1: Pick Your Loose Tea or Teabags
First, place five tablespoons of loose tea or 10 tea bags into an 8-cup container. Feel free to combine different types of tea or flavors. This is where you can really get creative with fruit-flavored teas or mixing herbal flavors.
Step 2: Add Cold Water
Add at least four cups of cold filtered water into the container. You can always add up to eight cups, but this will take up more room in the refrigerator.
Step 3: Let it Chill
Store the tea in your refrigerator and let it chill between 8 to 12 hours. Technically, you can leave it for up to 48 hours and still get tasty and smooth iced tea, but who has the patience for that?!
Step 4: Strain the Loose Tea or Remove Tea Bags
Finally, it’s time to remove the tea and prepare the iced tea for serving. If you used tea bags, you can simply pull them out of the container, but make sure to wring out the tea bags to release any leftover liquid back into the tea. For loose tea leaves, you can use a tea strainer, coffee filter, or fine-mesh sieve to separate the leaves from the tea.
If you want to sweeten the tea, you can make a simple syrup by fusing equal parts sugar and hot water. Add it to the iced tea and mix it before serving. Keep in mind that the cold brew tea will likely be naturally sweet, so don’t overdo it on the simple syrup.
After that, you’re ready to serve your iced tea!
The Art of Steeping
Steeping your tea when brewing your perfect cup is really an important process and considered by many — individuals and cultures — to be an art. At the end of the day, it is up to you to decide how strong you like your tea and how much you want in your cup. It is important to keep all these recommendations in mind to find your own balance for your perfect cup of tea.
And now, with your steeped loose tea leaves, you have brewed yourself a soothing cup of tea. Time to relax with a good book or a good friend, and enjoy the moment.
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