Brewing Tea: 3 Steps to Make the Perfect Cup


I’m pretty sure that you know tea is the second most popular beverage after water. What you might not know is that brewing tea at the right temperature can make or destroy your tea. So, if you are looking to steep a glorious cup of tea without it tasting super bitter, this is definitely the blog post for you.

There are three main things to keep in mind when making the perfect cup of tea.

  1. Type of tea
  2. Water temperature
  3. Steeping time

I grew up drinking peppermint tea. I would boil the water until the kettle whistled and pour the water over my teabag. Then it would steep for a few minutes. I never read the instructions on the box and loved how my tea always turned out. Then, one day I tried to make sweet iced tea and completely destroyed the tea. It tasted burnt because it was. LOL. So, I just gave up on drinking sweet tea from home and Chick-fil-A became my go-to for sweet tea. When I tried to make green tea, it was extremely bitter and made my mouth dry. So, I decided that was not for me either. So I stuck with peppermint tea until I felt like venturing into other herbal teas. That’s when I learned that peppermint tea (my childhood favorite) was not “real tea.” It is actually a tisane. A tisane is a beverage made from herbs, spices, and other plant parts to make a warm drink. True tea comes from the camellia sinensis plant.

There are 5 main types of tea. Most people in the United States still call herbal tea a tea and not a tisane. I still call herbal tea, tea and it is one of the main five types of tea. The remaining four times are true teas and are made from the parts of the camellia sinensis plant. They are white tea, black tea, green tea, and oolong tea. There are other types of tea, and an unthinkable number of combinations that can be made with tea, herbs, and spices.

When preparing to make the perfect tea, it is important to remember TWS:  type, water, steep. This 3 step process will surely help you brew that delicious cup of tea you have been dreaming about. 

Step1: Know the Type of Tea

  • Black tea is the most popular tea in the United States and is typically what you are ordering from a restaurant (i.e. sweet tea or breakfast tea). Many chai teas start with a black tea base with other spices like cardamom, cloves, ginger, and cinnamon added. People sometimes add milk or milk substitutes to various black teas for added flavor. Black tea may also help with anxiety.
  • White tea is a very delicate tea and has a very mild flavor. It is harvested when the plant is still young and has a white appearance, hence the name. This is a great tea to drink if you are looking to reduce stress.
  • Green tea is another delicious option and can have many different tastes from sweet, bittersweet, buttery, fruity, to vegetal. The taste of green tea depends on the type of green tea you drink and how you prepare it. It a great option for relaxing.
  • Oolong is a semi-oxidized tea (click here to read about oxidation). There are about 6 different types of oolong tea. So, the tastes of this tea are going to range from grassy to floral, to toasty. Oolong may help boost metabolism.
  • Herbal tea is an infusion made from herbs, plant parts, and/or spices. The taste of herbal tea is going to vary depending on the herbs being infused. The benefits of herbal tea are infinite as each herb, spice, and plant offers different benefits.

It is important to know the type of tea as that will help you determine the approximate temperature of your water.

Step 2:  Water Temperature

You do not need to bring your water to a rolling boil before steeping all types of tea. Some tea tastes better with warm water while others need a very hot temperature to fully activate the release of flavor and potential benefits.

There are a few ways to determine the temperature of the water. You can use a cooking thermometer, electric kettle with a thermometer, or watch the water as it warms.

Since preparing tea is a major part of my mommy break, I like to watch the water as it warms as it gives me something to focus on, it’s calming, and the steam is invigorating. If you choose to watch the water as it warms you want to pay attention to the bubbles that form at the bottom. As the water continues to warm, those bubbles become larger. Then they start to rise. Lastly, the bubbles become so vigorous that it resembles rolling waves. At each of these stages, the water is a different temperature. (Sidenote:  the first few times I actually paused to watch the water I was amazed at how the bubbles change as the water warms. I was equally amazed at how relaxed I became.)

Check this chart to determine the best temperature water to use for the type of tea you want to prepare.

Type of Tea

Preferred Temperature

Open Pot Boil Look Fors

White Tea

175°

Small bubbles form on the bottom of the pot

Green Tea

185°

Small to medium-sized bubbles start to rise in the water

Oolong Tea

195°

Strings of bubbles also know as “strings of pearls” start to rise from the bottom. This usually occurs along the sides of the pot.

Herbal Tea

206°

Right before the rolling boil, the large bubbles will continuously rise in the water.

Black Tea

206°

Right before the rolling boil, the large bubbles will continuously rise in the water.

 

When learning to watch the water for the approximate temperature, you may want to just boil a pot of water once or twice so you can notice how the bubbles change as the water temperature increase. If watching is not your preferred method and you want an exact water temperature, you may want to use a cooking thermometer or electric kettle with a thermometer.

It is also recommended to not boil water and let it cool, but I sometimes do this if I am not fully focused on watching the water and don’t feel like pulling out the cooking thermometer. Your tea, your method, right? You just don’t want to use rolling boiling water on all types of tea because you run the risk of ruining your tea. So, the dream of enjoying a perfectly brewed cup will be deferred.

Step 3:  Steep Time

When steeping tea, you pour water over your tea and let it sit for a few minutes so the water takes on the flavor of the tea. This is another area where I made mistakes initially. Like I said earlier, I did not read the instructions on the boxes of tea I had purchased and would steep the teas for about 5 minutes or so as I did peppermint tea.

Well, that does not work for all teas. The longer you steep your tea, the stronger the tea will be. Also, herbal teas should be steeped a bit longer than “true tea,” but not too long.

The chart below shows the recommended steep times for the different types of teas.

Type of Tea

Preferred Temperature

Steep Times

White Tea

175°

1-3 minutes

Green Tea

185°

1-3 minutes

Oolong Tea

195°

3-5 minutes

Herbal Tea

206°

5+ minutes

Black Tea

206°

3-5 minutes

 

These recommendations should be adjusted to your personal preference. That is the beauty of drinking tea, you prepare it the way you like it. If you want a stronger taste, you can steep it a bit longer to your desired taste. You can also not steep it as long.

Other things to consider:

Making a perfect cup of tea can be simple when you follow the 3 step process: Type, Water, Steep.  There are a few other things to consider when thinking about making a cup of tea.

Equipment:

All you truly need is a cup or mug, a pot or kettle, some sort of steeper, a spoon, and any additives you like. This list contains items you may want to consider if you want to further enhance your tea experience.

  • Pot or Kettle – I recommend using a pot or electric kettle to help you warm the water for your tea.
  • Thermometer – if you want to know the exact temperature of your water, you may want to use a cooking thermometer to determine the temperature before pouring the water over your tea.
  • Steeper – A steeper is a tool that you put the tea in before adding the water. A few types of steepers are snap tong steeper, sieve, infuser cup, chain steeper, reusable tea bag, or disposable tea bags. Depending on the type of tea, some of the tea particles may end up in your water and sink to the bottom. If you do not want to see any tea leaves in your water, you may want to change the type of steeper or use a sieve to strain the tea before drinking it.
  • Frother – If you like the whipped milk topping, you can use a handheld frother to accomplish this delightful whipped milk topping enjoyed with black tea. But again, it’s tea, so you can enjoy it however you like.

Additives:

There are a few ingredients that can be added to your tea. I always recommend trying the tea by itself so you can get a taste of it without additives like sugar, drinking alcohol, milk, or other flavorings. This helps you appreciate the taste of the tea before altering it a bit.

  • Sugar – there are so many different types of sweeteners that can be added to tea. Many people use honey, agave, maple syrup, elderberry syrup (for added medicinal benefits), or just plain granulated sugar. Try different sweeteners until you find the one you like best.
  • Milk/Milk Substitutes – Some people enjoy adding a bit of milk to freshly brewed tea to enhance the flavor. When adding milk, people typically add it to black tea and/or make so sort of latte.
  • Flavorings – Vanilla and sprinkled cinnamon are the most popular flavorings people add to their tea. Your tea, your way.

No matter how you prepare your tea, you will always brew the perfect cup when you follow the TSW method. Know your tea, wait for the optimal water temperature before pouring over your tea, and steep for the recommended number of minutes. Learning to create the perfect cup of tea, really is all about trial and error. We all have different tastes and likes, so you have to try to find what works best for you and your taste.

Now, go steep you a cup of tea and just be, but before you do so, let me know your favorite type of tea.

Talesha


2 comments


  • Talesha

    Toya, who knew??? Now we know!! LOL. Can’t wait to hear about your tea adventures as you try the TWS method.


  • Toya Singletary

    Who knew there was so much science behind the perfect cup of tea!!!! Thanks for sharing. I drink 2 to 3 cups of hot tea daily and I will try incorporating these steps depending on what type of tea I have🤗


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