How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea
Before getting my job at Teavana, I was really intimidated by the thought of brewing my own loose leaf tea. “How the heck do you do it?”, “What do you do with the leaves?” “YOU MEAN THERE’S NO TEA BAG?!” kind of thing.
Truth be told, brewing your own loose leaf tea isn’t intimidating at all, in fact I find it to be way more therapeutic than just steeping bagged tea, plus the tea leaves are so darned pretty and aromatic. (Not to mention it tastes a lot better than bagged tea.)
This guide is only for brewing hot teas, I might write up an iced tea guide eventually.
Here’s how you should brew loose leaf tea:
1. Getting Into Hot Water
Put your water in a kettle or a pot and warm it on your stove, NEVER USE A TEAPOT! (Teapots are used only for steeping tea and as pretty additions to tea sets and such. You could really hurt your teapot if you put it on your stove!)
You’ll want to warm your water to the specific temperature recommended for the tea you’re brewing. (If you buy your tea at Teavana, you’ll get a nice little printout of what temperature you should warm your water to. If not, you should be able to find out with a quick Google search.) If it’s not the right temperature, the tea could end up tasting funny or gross.
The general temperatures are:
- 175 degrees for White Tea
- 175 degrees for Green Tea
- 195 degrees for Oolong Tea
- 195 degrees for Black Tea
- 208 degrees for Herbal Tea
- 208 degrees for Rooibos Tea
- 208 degrees for Mate Tea
Hot water dispensers can make brewing tea nice and easy. It can totally knock out the guesswork of temperature. It’s on the expensive side, but it’s a good investment if you drink a lot of tea. Kettles with built in thermometers are also a good idea.
2. Make a Nice Home for your Tea Leaves
While the water is warming, gather your teapot, teacup(s), mug, or whatever you plan to put your tea in. It’s very helpful to know about how many ounces your cup, mug or teapot holds, just for the purposes of how many teaspoons of tea you should put in. (More on this in the next step!)
If you want to use sugar, you should spoon however much you’d like into your cup or teapot before you put the hot water in. Once your water is at the right temperature, pour it into your cup or teapot!
3. Steep Dat Tea!
Steeping is by far the most attentive part of brewing your own tea. You have to pay attention to how long your tea leaves are in, otherwise the tea might taste horrible and you’ll have wasted some tea leaves. (But more on that in the next step.)
Using a teaspoon, spoon the amount of tea leaves directed into your infuser or strainer. Just like with the temperatures, if you buy your tea at Teavana the amount of teaspoons directed is printed out with your purchase. NOTE: Teavana directions show the amount you should use for every 8 ounces of water. 8 ounces isn’t much, so for a nice big mug you’ll probably double what’s directed. (I can only speak for the Teavana teas though. Google search is your friend if you’re not brewing those.)
The basic teaspoon amounts (per every 8 ounces of water) are:
- 1.5 tsp for White Tea
- 1 tsp for Green Tea
- 1 tsp for Oolong Tea
- 1 tsp for Black Tea
- 1.5 tsp for Herbal Tea
- 1.5 tsp for Rooibos Tea
- 1.5 tsp for Mate Tea
But you should always double check with your particular tea type.
Teavana sells nifty little “Perfect Teamakers” that are either 16 or 32 ounces, you can put your sugar in, then your water, then steep the leaves in it directly, then just set it on top of whatever you want to drink out of to dispense it! The tea leaves stay in the teamaker, and makes for super easy cleaning later. Check them out HERE.
4. Timing is Everything
Steeping your tea for a set amount of time is a necessity to a good brew. Steep too short, and it’ll be too weak and watery. Steep too long, and it could become bitter and far too strong.
You should use either a kitchen timer or Teavana’s iPhone/ iTouch app. The app is really useful (and not to mention FREE!). I have the app and use it for everything from actual tea steeping to boiling hot dogs. You can also toggle time on the timer to fit whatever need you have!
Start the timer right when you put your infuser, strainer, or other device into your water. Take the leaves out as soon as the timer goes off or runs out. If you’re using a Perfect Teamaker, just pop the leaves right into it, and put it on top of your mug or cup when 15 seconds are remaining on the timer. That way, the tea is being released into the mug while it’s still steeping and the timer will run out right when the timer runs out.
Steeping times are generally:
- 2 minutes for White Tea
- 2 minutes for Green Tea
- 3 minutes for Oolong Tea
- 2-3 minutes for Black Tea
- 5-6 minutes for Herbal Tea
- 5-6 minutes for Rooibos Tea
- 5-6 minutes for Mate Tea
Congrats! You’ve made yourself a cup of loose leaf tea! Not that hard, right? Brewing loose leaf tea is just as fun as it is sharing and drinking with your friends. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy your cup of mini heaven.