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52Teas

Tea Brewing Tips

I've been drinking tea for more years than I care to admit to and with all the time that I've dedicated to a delicious cuppa, I've learned that nothing is as important to achieving that delicious cuppa as how it is brewed.  

To the people who say they don't like tea, I like to challenge them and ask what kind(s) of tea they've tried, how much tea they've tried and finally, how they brewed the tea that they've tried.  As tea is the most consumed beverage on the planet (second only to water), I believe that most people would actually love tea if they had a properly brewed cup.

The Basics:

There are different types of tea and for every type of tea, different steeping parameters work best. However, there are a couple of things that I think are standard with every tea to ensure good flavor:

  1. Start with freshly filtered, cold water drawn from the tap.  Many people will tell you that bottled water is the way to go however, it's been my experience that because bottled water has been sitting around a while, it becomes a little stale and flat and this results in a flat tasting tea. It has to do with the oxygen molecules and scientific stuff like that. I'm not a scientist nor do I pretend to be on the internet so I can't begin to explain to you why it is that tea brewed with bottled water is flat tasting as opposed to the freshly filtered water drawn from the tap. I just know that it is. If your tap water is not suitable for drinking even after being filtered (I guess there are some areas like that) - then by all means, use bottled water but if your water is good after being filtered then I highly recommend using the filtered tap water. I use one of those Brita® water filter pitchers - they're not too pricey and they do the job sufficiently.
  2. Tea needs room to steep. Whether you're using bagged tea, DIY loose tea bags, infuser balls, the infuser basket that came with your teapot or you're letting the tea steep loose in the teapot and straining it (or some other method to steep the tea) it's important to ensure that the tea is not cramped in its infuser. As the tea steeps, the leaves unfurl and this process releases the flavor into the brewed tea. If the tea doesn't have room to unfurl, the tea simply isn't going to taste as good because it wasn't able to release its full flavor. There are a lot of cute and clever tea infusers out there and if you have an infuser that you just love, that's cool - just make sure there's plenty of room for your tea to do its thing.  
  3. If you're drinking flavored teas (which is what we sell!), it's a good idea to let the tea cool slightly before you start sipping. This not only allows the tea to come to a drinkable temperature and avoids burnt tongues but it also allows the flavors to develop. I usually let a black tea cool for about 10 minutes and other teas a little less time since they start out with a lower temperature - usually somewhere between 5 - 10 minutes. 

Now, it's time to get more specific. Here are some brewing suggestions to help you get the most out of your tea from 52Teas.

Black Tea

"Black tea" means fully oxidized tea leaves. The complete oxidation process means that the tea leaves can withstand the higher temperatures of water. Again, every palate is different, so feel free to tinker around and find what method works best for you.  Here's the best way I've found to brew black tea:

  1. Start by giving your tea a good "shake". Before opening, turn the pouch upside down and give it a gentle but thorough shake to ensure that the ingredients are incorporated throughout the blend. This is especially important with chai-type blends where there are a lot of spices in the mix, or any blend that has vanilla bean as those ingredients may filter and settle to the bottom of the pouch over time. If those ingredients aren't well-incorporated in the blend, it will affect the taste of your cuppa!
  2. 2 - 4 grams of tea per 12 ounces depending upon what type of tea it is. If you're using a finely chopped (ctc) tea, you want to go with 2g or 2.5g. This is a little less than 1 teaspoon of tea. If you're using a whole or broken leaf tea (but not finely cut one), you want to go with 3g which is at least a rounded teaspoon of tea. I usually prefer this to be with a little 'fruit' additions as possible as this will obviously affect the weight of the tea. I usually measure the tea first and then add a piece of fruit or two to the measured tea. If you're using a 'chai' blend - that is, something with a lot of spices in it - you want to use a little more tea - at least 4g which is about 2 teaspoons - because the spices will displace the leaves in the measurement. To get a full flavor of both spice and tea, you need a little more leaf in your measurement.
  3. Bring freshly filtered water to a near boil - 205°F. 
  4. pour the hot water over the leaves and let them steep for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes.
  5. Strain and enjoy.  

Please Note: In the past, I recommended 'boiling' water to steep black teas. I no longer do this. I suggest dropping the temperature by at least 6 degrees - 205°. I've come to realize that by dropping it by even just 6 degrees, the black tea is less astringent/bitter. 

 

Darjeeling and Nilgiri Tea

Darjeeling (and Nilgiri) Teas are often considered black teas and I usually categorize them as such, however, they do need some special consideration when steeping, because they aren't always fully oxidized.  (They usually aren't.)  In fact, many of these teas look more green than they do black, so it's important to have a lower temperature water so you don't scorch the leaves.  I find that when the water is too hot, the tea is a little bit bitter and it's a bit too astringent for my liking, so if you experience this with Darjeeling or Nilgiri tea, it might not be that you don't like these but that you're brewing it at too high a temperature.  Try a lower temperature.  

  1. 3g of tea to 12 ounces of water.
  2. Heat freshly filtered water to 195°F.
  3. Pour water over tea leaves and let them steep for 2 - 2 1/2 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy.

Herbal Teas

Herbal Teas include all teas that contain no camellia sinensis leaves.  Honeybush, Rooibos, Yerba Mate and Guayusa fall into this category as well as 'fruit teas' and chamomile tea and spice melange teas.  I've come to realize that all these herbals/fruit teas/spice melanges do best in a slightly lower than boiling temperature.  I find that Honeybush and Rooibos don't have that weird, sour wood flavor when the temperature is a little lower and Yerba Mate & Guayusa don't end up bitter tasting with a slightly lower temperature.  

  1. 4g - 5g of tea to 12 ounces of water.
  2. Heat freshly filtered water to 195°F.
  3. Pour water over herbs and let them steep for 8 - 10 minutes.  (If you have a tea blend with hibiscus in it 5 - 6 minutes.)
  4. Strain and enjoy.

Oolong Teas

Oolong Teas are partially oxidized.  There are many different types of Oolong teas and each is processed differently.  The world of Oolong Tea is so vast that I could dedicate an entire blog to just the different Oolong teas but I'm not going to do that because I'm sure that there are people out there who know more about Oolong tea that would be better at such an endeavor than I would be.  Oolong teas can be 5% oxidized all the way up to 90% oxidized (and they might even have more oxidation to them) and some are rolled into pellets. Different flavors can be achieved depending upon where the tea is grown and the elevation of the location where it's grown - as well as the process and amount of oxidation. Some Oolong teas are roasted and/or smoked to impart flavors.  Like I said ... the world of Oolong is vast!  

Because Oolong is not as oxidized as a black tea, lower temperatures are recommended.  I also recommend highly that Oolong teas are brewed in a gaiwan.  I don't always brew a flavored/blended Oolong in a gaiwan, but if I'm drinking a pure Oolong, a gaiwan is the best way to achieve the best flavor.  

Since the world of Oolong is so vast, I am not going to offer brewing tips for every type of Oolong.  Instead, this is how I'd recommend you steep the Oolong teas that we sell here at 52Teas.

Gaiwan Brewing:

  1. I use a little less than 1 full bamboo scoop of tea in my gaiwan.  
  2. Heat the water to 180°F.  
  3. Pour just enough water in the gaiwan to cover the tea leaves.  Let the tea steep for 15 seconds.  Strain off the liquid and discard.  This is called "the rinse" or "the awakening of the tea leaves."
  4. Fill the gaiwan with water (180°F) and let the tea steep for 45 seconds.  Strain into tea cup.  
  5. The tea leaves can be infused six times or more.  I usually combine two infusions in my cup.

Teapot Brewing:

I do not recommend steeping Oolong in a DIY loose leaf tea bag because Oolong teas tend to expand more than other tea types and there just isn't enough room for the leaves to do their thing in those tea bags.  The same is true for infusers.  If you're not using a gaiwan, steep the tea loose in a teapot or use one of those smart brewer devices which allows maximum space for the leaves to steep.  

  1. I measure 1 1/2 bamboo scoops of tea per 12 ounces of water (be sure to heat enough water for the rinse, too!).
  2. Heat the water to 180°F.
  3. Pour just enough water to cover the leaves and let it steep for 15 seconds.  Strain off the liquid and discard.  This is the rinse.
  4. Pour the water in the teapot or smart brewer and let steep for 3 minutes.  
  5. Strain and enjoy.  Tea leaves can be resteeped 3 or 4 times.

Green Teas

Green teas have not been oxidized but have usually undergone a certain drying/pan firing process.  Green tea is very delicate and can be scorched rather easily, so it's important to ensure that you not over heat the water or oversteep the tea.

The world of green teas is almost as vast as the world of Oolong ... maybe even larger.  Chinese green teas should be steeped a little differently from Japanese green teas.  Again, I'm not going to delve into all the different types of tea, so I'll just focus on the types of green teas that I'll be selling.  

Genmaicha

  1. I use 1 bamboo scoop of tea per 12 ounces of water.  
  2. Heat the water to 170°F.
  3. Pour water over tea and allow the tea to steep for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy.

Houjicha

  1. I use 1 bamboo scoop of tea per 12 ounces of water.  
  2. Heat the water to 180°F.
  3. Pour water over tea and allow the tea to steep for 2 - 3 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy.

Chinese Green Teas

  1. I use 1 bamboo scoop of tea per 12 ounces of water.  
  2. Heat the water to 175°F.
  3. Pour water over tea and allow the tea to steep for 2 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy.

White Teas

White teas have not been oxidized and have endured the least amount of processing and are therefore more delicate than other tea types.  

  1. I use 1 1/2 bamboo scoop of tea per 12 ounces of water.  
  2. Heat the water to 160°F.
  3. Pour water over tea and allow the tea to steep for 3 1/2 minutes.
  4. Strain and enjoy.

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Please note:  I have only included teas that we're currently selling - if we expand our line to include other tea types, I will add those brewing suggestions to this page.

A few parting words:  every palate is different.  The above methods are what I have discovered that best work for me when I'm brewing tea.  You are encouraged to tinker around with temperatures and times as well as measurements to find what works best for you!