Brewing Tea – Small Details That Can Make a Big Difference

Brewing tea is a fairly easy and simple task that takes no more than a few min-
utes to do.  You put water in the tea kettle, boil it, pour it over the tea leaves or
add a 
tea bag, let it steep for two or three minutes and it’s done.  You have
yourself a nice hot cup of tea.
When it comes to brewing tea
most people don’t spend much
time thinking about the details.  You run some tap
water into the kettle and wait for it to heat.  You
know the water is hot when steam starts to rise,
bubbles form, and it turns into a full rolling boil.
Then you pour it over the leaves or add a tea bag,
let it steep for what seems like the right amount of
time, or until it looks about right, and you have an
okay cup of tea.
Alright…sometimes not even an

okay cup.  But you
drink it anyway.
But did you know that you could have an awesome
and perfectly delicious cup of tea with the very
same steps and same amount of time (or even

The Devil is in the Details – How to
Brew a Perfect Cup of Tea Every Time

First off, use good cold water.  If your tap water tastes good, then it’s fine to use.  But if it has a
bad taste or odor, use filtered or bottled spring water. You will be surprised at the difference this
one small step makes.
Second, if you don’t have a good tea kettle, invest in one.  You can find a
good kettle anywhere from $15 to $25, on up to $100 or more that should
last forever.  (See

The Tea Detective’s Gift of Tea Store under the tea
kettle category for a nice selection of tea kettles that will do the job right,
with a price range that fits everyone).
A simple porcelain enamel over steel, like Le Creuset will do the job.  Try to
avoid using aluminum to heat water for tea, as you’ll end up with a metallic
tasting cup.

Now that we have good tasting water and a proper tea kettle, let’s get down to business
heating the water.  Different teas require different water temperatures to brew properly.  The
Chinese have a unique method of telling the temperature of the water by watching it for signs.
They describe the four basic temperatures needed to brew most teas, like this:

1.  Column of Steam Steadily Rising – this
means the water temperature is between
170-180 F (72-82c).  You will see the steam
rising from the water’s surface in a nice,
steady plume.  This water temperature is per-
fect for brewing all standard green teas.

For white teas, new spring green teas, and

Japanese green teas, let the water cool down
for a minute or two.  These teas brew perfect-
ly at between 160-170F (71-77c).
2.  Fish Eyes – this is when you see large bub-
bles rising slowly and just begin breaking the
surface at approximately 180-200F (82-93c).
This water temperature is just right for brew-

oolong teas.3.  String of Pearls – this is when the water is nearly
at the point of boiling, when strings of small bubbles
begin to rise and form a sort of loop at the surface
around the perimeter of the pot at a temperature of
approximately 190-200F (88-93c).  This water temperature is just right for

brewing black teas,
Lapsang Souchong, and teas with a base of black tea.
4.  Turbulent Waters – this is when the water is at a full, rolling boil at between 200-212F
(93-100c), and is best for brewing

pu-erh teas.Next comes the last…and possibly most important step of all, and that is
steeping. This is the step where most people go wrong and do incorrectly
and can have the most impact on the final taste of your tea.  If you steep
it for too long you can end up with a bitter, overly astringent cup of tea.
Steep it for too short a time, and you’ll likely have a weak, bland watered
down cup.

As with water temperature, steeping times also vary for each

type of
tea.  We will start with black tea because it is the only type that cannot
be infused more than once.  Black tea should be steeped anywhere from
3-5 minutes with only one steeping.

Oolong teas are made to be infused many times.  Large, more mature tea leaves are used to
manufacture oolong teas.  The more mature the leaf, the more flavor is packed in, which means
they are perfect for multiple infusions.  Oolong tea should be steeped from 60-90 seconds, up to
two minutes.
This is the same for spring or new green teas, white teas, and yellow teas-several steepings of
one to one and a half minutes, up to two minutes.

Standard green tea should be steeped for two to three minutes with several steepings.

Lastly, pu-erh teas should be steeped for two to five minutes, with many steepings.

As with all tea preparations, there are no hard and fast rules.  You should feel free to
experiment to find just the right combinations of water type, temperature, and steeping
times that creates a cup of tea that tastes absolutely perfect to you.

You may want to infuse it less times, but for a longer period of time for a stronger tasting
cup-or vice versa-steep more often for a shorter amount of time for a less assertive taste.

Use this information as a guide and experiment with different types of water, steeping times, and number of
infusions-even water temperature, going a few degrees higher or lower.  Try brewing your tea a number of different
ways until it truly is “your cup of tea.”  Enjoy.