How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea

We can’t tell you the number of times we’ve been asked how to brew loose leaf tea. Despite those who would tell you its complicated or exacting, brewing loose leaf tea is simple! At its most basic, making loose leaf tea only requires a bit of attention to water temperature, a working clock, and some way to separate the leaves from the water after steeping. Nothing complicated there.

How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea: Leaf Separation

How to brew loose leaf tea - use a modern infuser

A modern infuser will help brew a better cup of loose leaf tea.

It is extremely important to separate the tea leaves from the water after about 3-5 minutes unless you like bitter tea. This is no different when brewing loose leaf tea vs a tea bag. When brewing from loose leaf tea, removing the leaves requires a strainer of some kind and this is where you have several options.

  • Grandma’s Tea Ball  – Perfectly acceptable but generally does not give the tea leaves enough room to move and expand which will affect the taste of the tea. Also, it may very well be real silver, which means it should not be going through the dishwasher. There are lots of updated designs which look fun but still provide little room for tea to breathe.
  • The Modern Infuser – Our recommendation in most cases is the modern day tea ball, aka an infuser. Designed to give tea leaves lots of room to move, absorb water, and release plenty of flavor, the modern infuser will fill a large portion of your mug. Most are metal and dishwasher safe and sit comfortably on the lips of an 8-14 oz. cup.
  • Single Use Tea Bag – If you find it more convenient to use a tea bag there are are several options available, though all generally provide ample room for the tea to move around and allow easy removal and disposal of the leaves. You can even pre-make several single-use tea bags in advance. Just be sure to store them in an airtight container away from other varieties of teas.
  • Kitchen Strainer – You don’t really need an infuser of course. You just need vessel to brew the tea in and you can then pour the liquid through a standard kitchen strainer or use a spoon to trap the tea leaves in the vessel as you pour off the liquid into your cup.  You can also use a French press, just be careful if you have brewed coffee in it before, as it is highly likely your tea will come out tasting like coffee no matter how many times you try to clean it.

You will also need a teaspoon or tea scoop to measure the tea, and if you are one for precision a small kitchen scale you measure your tea by weight.

How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea: Time, Temperature & Amount

Typically you will want 3 grams of tea per 8 ounces of water. Knowing that most people don’t have a kitchen scale handy that weighs that small amount, 3 grams is approximately 1 teaspoon. Note that the 1 teaspoon rule does not work with light, very large leaf teas, like White Peony, Asian Pear & Spice White, or Cherry Blossom White, where you will want to use 1 tablespoon. Place the tea leaves in your choice of above infuser or add them to a small pot if you plan to pour the liquid off through a strainer. Hopefully your water has been coming up to a boil while you were measuring out your tea. A quick side note on water. Do not reboil water as it looses the oxygen and minerals causing the water to become flat. Always use fresh water and never distilled. The production of distilled water requires the water to be boiled and the steam from the boiling water is collected creating the distilled water. The steam has none of the minerals from the original water so the tea will be flat and lack flavor. So before you rule out a tea as not having a good flavor, double check your water. Once your water has reached a boil we need to put it in the cup. However, we need to know what kind of tea you are drinking before telling you whether or not to pour the boiling water on to the tea leaves. Take a look at the chart below for guidelines on how to introduce your tea leaves to the water and for how long they should stay there.

How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea: Time, Temp, and Amount
Type Temp/Steep Time Amount/8 oz. Water Quick & Easy(From Boiling)
White Tea 170-185°F for 1-3 min 1 Tbsp. Wait 2-5 minutes before putting tea leaves into the water

Green Tea 170-185°F for 3-5 min 1 tsp. Wait 2-5 minutes before putting tea leaves into the water

Yellow Tea 160-170°F for 1-3 min 1 Tbsp. Wait 5-7 minutes before putting tea leaves into the water

Black Tea 190-212°F for 3-5 min 1 tsp. Pour boiling water immediately over the tea leaves

Oolong Tea 185-212°F for 3-5 min 1 tsp. Pour boiling water immediately over the tea leaves

Rooibos, Tisane, Herbal Tea 180-212°F for 5-8 min 1 tsp. Pour boiling water immediately over the tea leaves

Allowing the boiling water to cool slightly before putting the tea leaves into the water ensures a better cup of tea. White, green, and yellow teas take on a very bitter flavor if you pour boiling water on them. Now that you know how to brew loose leaf tea correctly, there are plenty of teas worth trying, so explore them all!

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