Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea Article -
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Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea

Get the answers to the basic questions about brewing tea.

Tea Brew FAQ

What temperature should the water be? Most black teas do best in boiling water. Green and white teas prefer hot, but not boiling, water. It all comes down to how oxidized the leaves are: black teas are more oxidized and can handle the hot, hot heat.

VIDEO: How to Make the Perfect Cup of Tea

How long should the tea stay in the water? Anywhere from one to five minutes, based on personal preference. For bracing black teas, two to three minutes is the recommended time for this process, called "steeping." Too much steeping can produce a mouth-puckeringly bitter brew. But, hey, maybe that's the way you like it!

Does it matter what I steep the tea in? Your tea cup will work fine, though the steeping will be affected by the type of cup and the temperature of the room. If you're getting serious about tea, consider investing in an unglazed earthenware teapot. These brew the tea faster and more consistently.

    The Three Types of Tea

    Tea is the processed leaves (along with twigs and buds) of the tea plant Camellia sinensis, a bush native to warm, rainy climates. Processing freshly harvested tea leaves begins the same for all types of tea. Fresh leaves are sorted out, cleaned, and allowed to wither. From there, a few nuances come into play.

    Black--English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Darjeeling, Assam

    The most common kind of tea, black tea leaves are allowed to ferment before being dried. Westerners call it "black tea" because of the dark color of the leaves. The Chinese know it as "red tea" because of the reddish color of the liquid. Black tea tends to have depth of flavor and lack bitterness.

    • Most teas from India (Darjeeling, Assam) are black.
    • Earl Grey is black tea scented with bergamot.

    Green--Gunpowder, Tencha

    From the same plant as black tea leaves, green tea leaves are steamed and dried directly after being picked to prevent fermentation, which develops a light, gently bitter flavor much like the fresh leaves themselves. Japan is a leading producer of green tea.

    Oolong--Formosa Oolong

    Partially fermented large-leaf tea, oolong tea is delicate in flavor, occasionally scented with rose petals, jasmine, or gardenia. Formosa, Taiwan, is an important producer of oolong tea.

      Loose-Leaf Tea

      Until the middle of the 20th century, there were no tiny cloth bags of individually parceled tea. For thousands of years, the leaves and buds were either placed in a tea pot or were held in a tea infuser (a tea ball, for example). For tea-making perfectionists, there is no comparison: it is loose-leaf tea or nothing.

      TIP: In a pinch, a French press coffeemaker approximates the infused-tea experience.

      To make loose-leaf tea, use one teaspoon of leaves for each cup of water plus "one for the teapot." Of course, the outcome will be determined by how strong the tea leaves are and by how much hot water the tea is steeping in. You'll probably want to experiment to find the right flavor for you. 

        Jul. 2, 2009 7:23 pm
        I love tea hot or cool. love the england teas when I was over in london
        Aug. 13, 2009 7:22 am
        I also love tea in either form and make mine basicly by the suggestions above. JH
        Aug. 17, 2009 6:27 pm
        I love the white teas! I enjoy makuing ife tea from them. Really good!
        Sep. 18, 2009 6:35 am
        the reason for heating the tea container first (wether it be cup or pot) is so the water stays hot. Otherwise the container takes some of the heat and the temperature of the water is not optimum to get the full flavour out of the tea. To me they taste flat and dull if not done that way.
        May 21, 2010 8:48 am
        I want to be a tea drinker, but I am so hooked on coffee that tea seems unsatisfying to me. Any tips?
        sheila slatts 
        May 28, 2010 8:42 am
        I was in Boston lately and stopped for a cup at the teamasters in the Prudential Centre. They put the leaves in the infuse, topped them with ice cubes and then added the boiling water. Anyone have any idea why? When I asked the follow preparing it he said it would be too hot otherwise.:(
        May 31, 2010 4:22 pm
        Melissa,It's just about breaking a habit and starting a new one.You have to train your taste buds. I was always a tea drinker until I worked where it wasn't available. Though I didn't like coffee at the time I started drinking it and that habit lasted for 20 years. I just quit coffee about two months ago and went back to tea. Start with a strong tea, with a flavor if you like. I like Assam and black current flavor or black berry sage by Republic of Tea is a good one. Hope that helps. Your breath will smell better drinking tea too, if that's any incentive.:)
        Jun. 13, 2010 2:09 pm
        @Melissa, I was also a heavy coffee drinker but when I tasted Lapsang Souchoung Green Tea (smoked tea) I fell in love with it and soothes me all the way.
        Aug. 1, 2010 2:28 am
        Great article, giving a go to whatever species of tea leaves available is a long term goal of mine.
        Aug. 19, 2010 7:15 pm
        I like Earl Grey
        Aug. 21, 2010 1:27 pm
        When I lived in Poland my husband and I would walk down to our favorite resturant called The Turtle and have the best Rose Hip tea. Fresh rose pedals were floating in it and I would it them and the flavor was incredible
        Oct. 5, 2010 8:03 am
        I've been a hot tea drinker since I was four years old. Growing up in Atlanta, sweet iced tea was the main beverage; but for me nothing beats strong, black tea with sugar. Bigelow's Constant Comment - although mild as teas go - has been my favorite for a long time (sugar is a must to bring out the flavor of orange and spice). Tea is wonderfully soothing for so many reasons both physiological and psychological. I love tea!
        Oct. 5, 2010 8:05 am
        By the way, I am a coffee drinker as well, but for very different reasons. Coffee, uplifts and brightens my morning, whereas tea calms and inspires me. A little poetic, I know, but where coffee speeds up my body, tea motivates my mind. They each have their place.
        Dec. 2, 2010 12:54 pm
        I used to be an advent coffee drinker for as long as I could hold a cup, thanks to my grandfather. Over 3 years ago I became a tea drinker. I have found numerous brands that are exquisite in taste. Good Earth has a wonderful Jasmine Green Tea, Trader Joes Cranberry Green Tea, and Trader Joe's Pomegranate White Tea. Worth the try.
        Dec. 14, 2010 6:27 pm
        I am an avid tea drinker & even brew it in the coffee pot sometimes, in a hurry & it tastes great. I hate tea with sugar in it; it destroys the taste of the tea itself. I usually drink it cold, but hot also, just not as much. I've been hooked on it all of my life. I like most kinds, but mostly drink green & black teas for some reason, but like most other's.
        Dec. 16, 2010 11:13 am
        We use loose tea, all kinds, and make it in a (designated for tea only) coffee maker. The kind that drips through leaves on a filter. We have become tea lovers and wonder if anyone else has tried making tea this way.
        Dec. 17, 2010 6:16 pm
        I have never really tried loose leaf tea; I am really looking forward to trying it. Also, tea is a natural decongestant, it's great during cold season. Especially peppermint tea.
        Dec. 19, 2010 2:45 pm
        @RobMarie I used to have a tea maker manufactured specifically for tea. I no longer use the maker, but have switched to using a defuser instead. I use several different kinds. My favorite tea is the flowering variety. The tea comes in a tightly packed pod. I have a special glass pot with a glass difusser. It is beautiful to watch your tea "blossom"! And the tea is delicious!
        Jan. 5, 2011 8:18 pm
        I am a coffee addict and would like to switch to tea. I will go for several weeks and sometimes even months on tea instead but I still crave that coffee(I like strong, black french roasted coffee and I use a french press to brew it) I'm looking for a strong tea flavour that will hook me. So far nothing has stuck. Any ideas?
        Jan. 5, 2011 8:23 pm
        oh, I'm trying to do this to minimize pms symptoms which seem to decrease when I'm not drinking coffee. I also need to limit my caffeeine intake as I have weak and damaged vocal chords (occupational hazard) and coffee and caffeine are just not a good mix for my voice. So above, I should've said, I'm looking for a really full flavoured decaf. tea to replace my morning brew.
        Jan. 10, 2011 6:54 pm
        @freezermama... chamomile is a great tea to enjoy and relax with... also lavender. In the spring and summer, I go to my garden and cut a big bunch of mint, rinse it off and pop it in the teapot... it's soul soothing.
        Jan. 10, 2011 6:58 pm
        i'm about to try flowering tea for the first time... it promises to be a lovely experience. my favorite teas of all time... (the short list) are Yorkshire Tea (taylors of harrowgate), Star of Persia (xanadu) ...Ginger Peach (Republic of Tea) ...Rose Tea (first colony coffee and tea, co.) and some loose tea my cousin brought from her native home in Sri Lanka... OMG... good stuff. =-)
        Jan. 13, 2011 6:19 pm
        The only way I like tea is with honey or sugar:)
        Jan. 14, 2011 8:46 am
        My fav is English Breakfast...sweet and with milk. I also like Irish breakfast.
        Jan. 16, 2011 7:49 pm
        have to admit, my favorite tea (that i make) is burnt green tea (cheap kroger brand bags brewed in microwave in mug) just cause i can still taste the tea and have it sweet enough. Im the kind that puts a quarter of a small bottle of honey in a mug of tea. Lapsang is good though i have to be honest its a bit like drinking a good burger or a steak so i don't drink it often.
        Jan. 22, 2011 3:50 pm
        OMG! Republic of Tea's 'Coconut Cocoa'... it's like sippin' a Mounds Bar... mmm...mmm..MMMM!! : )
        Jan. 29, 2011 1:13 pm
        is there a sertant type of sugar or honey you should use if so what kind and how much
        Mar. 22, 2011 3:13 pm
        Any kind or honey or sugar will be good,I drink tea every day-With reg. honey-its healthier..........Yummy-I love peach tea and sleepy time tea.....yum.....
        Mar. 29, 2011 9:07 pm
        It sounds to me like all y'all (guess where I'm from?!) would love, as I do, anything from The Republic of Tea. If you go on you can sign up for their mail order catalog; they even send you a sample tea. Now, as for you coffee drinkers seeking conversion, I must recommend Republic of Tea's Yerba Mate Latte (All Night Samba Tea is the subtitle). Yerba Mate is an herb that naturally contains caffeine. Yay! It has about half the caffeine of a cup of coffee. I recommend Republic of Tea's version because their blend is full-bodied, slightly chocolately, and oh so good. It sustained me over my weekend night shifts when the coffee pot in our ER breakroom broke. Now, I love tea. I've been a coffee and tea drinker (there is harmony!) since I could hold a cup. My babysitter and parents were treating my ADD with caffeine. It calms me down because my brain is different. I used to drink an entire pot of orange pekoe black tea every day as a kid. I didn't drink soda
        Mar. 31, 2011 5:00 pm
        dear freezermama, I am a coffee drinkin fool!! However, I did marry a turk, and have fallen in love with Turkish tea.. Alot like the Turkish coffee, it's strong, dark.. and smooth!! One small pot of turkish tea (also called chi--do not confuse this with starbucks chai, not the same)
        Jun. 1, 2011 11:57 am
        would like to know how much sugar to use in a gallon of tea? Also how much splenda to use in a gallon of tea? Thanks,mcj
        Jun. 15, 2011 11:25 am
        I am norwegian and love my coffee , but, after our evening meal enjoy having a cup of green or black tea even herbal to relax. It also helps me fall asleep at bed time
        Jul. 5, 2011 11:38 am
        Lichilai, a Sung poet, has sadly remarked that there were three most deplorable things in the world: the spoiling of fine youths through false education, the degradation of fine art through vulgar admiration, and the utter waste of fine tea through incompetent manipulation.
        Dec. 10, 2011 6:05 pm
        One of the secrets to a great cup of tea is to NOT allow the water to boil. Why? Well, boiling water drives out any dissolved oxygen that would have been in it (not to be confused with the oxygen that is part of the chemical make up of water: H2O). The dissolved oxygen is what gives water its refreshing taste (yes, water does indeed have a taste). Try the following and you will notice the difference in taste: Boil some water, let it cool and then refrigerate it. Now, refrigerate some water from the tap. You will see that the one that was boiled is quite unpleasant in comparison to the other.
        Jul. 2, 2012 1:56 pm
        @Melissa: Find a tea you love! My dad (who LOOOOVES his coffee) fell in love with a tea from DAVIDsTEA (called Chickory Dickory Dock, if you have a location near you)which has the earthy, dark, and just a little bitter taste of coffee but without the caffine and the health benifits. It's delicious- you should try and find a hickory tea if you want tea that tastes like coffee!
        Dec. 11, 2012 4:28 am
        When I first started drinking hot tea, I bought a tin of raspberry and blueberry black tea. I can never find that flavor in stores anymore though. But, I do love mint tea just as much.
        Dec. 11, 2012 8:14 pm
        Eight years living in England has taught me to love tea: milky and sweet ("Builder's Tea"). I am a nurse, and every day at 3pm the charge nurse would prepare a huge pot of tea and put out a plate of "biscuits" (cookies) for the staff; so civilised! Tea, apparently, is also essential in a crisis; whenever something goes horribly, horribly wrong, invariably someone will say, "I'll put on a pot of tea."
        Dec. 12, 2012 2:32 pm
        I would check out for some great loose leaf teas. They offer sample sizes so you can try a few different teas without having to buy a large size. Go for a full bodied dark tea that has flavor notes you like in your coffee and you will probably like the tea too.
        Dec. 13, 2012 3:56 am
        i am from sri lanka, sri lanka world number one for tea products. so this is a grate article and i have a good recipes for making tea. that's about sri lankan style. and my sri lankan recipe site very have more recipes to make delicious drinks.
        Dec. 13, 2012 4:58 pm
        Sheila, if you pour boiling water over tea leaves, you can "shock" them and then they'll release tannin, which makes the tea taste very bitter. Slightly cooler water (hence the ice first, which cools the boiling water) results in a smoother cup of tea.
        Dec. 15, 2012 6:16 am
        I learned to drink hot tea from my great grandmother when I was very young. She drank it very weak saving the teabag to use more than once. We used a touch of lemon in the tea. I never learned to enjoy coffee but I have enjoyed many different types of tea. My husband always said "someday that lemon will eat your stomach!".
        Dec. 15, 2012 7:57 am
        Being English, I am a huge tea drinker. Yes it has to be hot with milk and sugar! If you want to try a good traditional English brand, I recommend Yorkshire Tea. You can find it over here in the international section of some grocery stores
        Dec. 16, 2012 4:37 am
        Why does this article mention nothing of "washing the tea leaves" before you make the tea. If you go to any high end tea store or spend time in Asia, they wash the leaves everytime they make tea. To wash, just rinse the leaves with the same temp water you will be steeping the leaves in and discard. It results in the most delicious tea out there!
        Dec. 17, 2012 3:17 pm
        I would like to suggest to you fellow tea lovers NUMI teas. You can sometimes find in stores but if you look online you can view the entire line. The teas are organic and fairtrade, beside being delicious. I strongly recommend the pu-erh teas which come from ancient tea trees in Yunnan, China. It comes plain for you purists but also comes in a variety of flavors, my favorite being chocolate. they have loose teas, tea bags, and flowering teas.
        Nov. 17, 2014 11:10 am
        sounds good i love tea with real tea leaves etc
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