If it doesn’t come already packaged in a bag, many people are intimidated to purchase tea, only because they’re unsure how to brew it. But the fact is that loose leaf tea is incredibly easy to make. A cup of brewed loose leaf tea is also spectacularly tastier – not to mention better for your health and the environment.
Try it for yourself with our step-by-step guide to brewing loose leaf tea in the “Western style.”
There are three key considerations when brewing tea: the quantity of tea, water temperature and steeping time. These will vary depending on the type of tea, as well as how it has been prepared by the grower.
Keep in mind that you can make adjustments based on your own preferences, and are invited to experiment with tea leaf amount and temperature.
Step 1: Measure your tea
Start by measuring your loose leaf tea. Generally, you should measure 1 teaspoon of loose leaf tea per 6-ounce cup of water. (A six-ounce cup is about the size of a conventional Western tea cup, just smaller than a coffee mug.)
However, fluffier blends such as white teas and tisanes like lemongrass may require as much as one tablespoon or more, while denser teas such as Jasmine Pearls may require less than one teaspoon. If you have a small kitchen scale, it is preferred for you to measure your tea in grams. Check the label on the packaging of your tea to find the recommended quantity.
Next, put the measured tea into a tea infuser like our brewing basket, which fits conveniently into your cup and is spacious enough to let the tea leaves to completely unfurl. You can also place the leaves into a tea pot with a built-in infuser (like our Kuwana Kyusu), an empty disposable tea filter or even a French press. If your tea pot doesn’t have a built-in infuser, you can remove the tea leaves by using a filter when pouring into your cup.
Step 2: Heat your water
Next, heat your water to the temperature outlined on the label, or using the guidelines below. Use fresh water (preferably spring water) whenever possible. Water that has already been boiled or has been sitting in your kettle for a while may result in a flat or stale taste. Never microwave your water to heat it.
Be careful not to boil your water for too long. Over boiled water can sometimes create an unwanted taste.
- Black and Puerh: 200-212° F
- Oolong: 195° F
- Green and White: 165-180° F
- Herbal: 212° F
I highly recommend investing in a temperature-controlled kettle to ensure your cup is perfectly brewed in the way the grower intended. (If you’re into design, I highly recommend you check out the brand OXO for items that are both beautiful and functional. I use this beautiful temperature-controlled kettle by the brand.)
If you don’t have a temperature-controlled kettle or a thermometer, you can use the following guidelines to gauge the temperature of the water.
- Bubbles form on the bottom of the pot: 180° F 195° F
- The first bubbles begin to rise: 195° F
- Full rolling boil: 212° F
Step 3: Steep your tea
Pour your heated water over the tea-filled brewing basket (or other infuser). Ensure that the tea is covered completely with water. Steep your tea for the amount of time shown on the label or use the guidelines below.
When enough time has elapsed, remove the infuser. If you are steeping directly in your vessel, simply wait until most of the tea leaves have sunk to the bottom of your cup.
Remember that brewing your tea for too long can extract undesirable bitterness from the leaves, so steeping time is quite important. If you prefer a stronger brew, don’t steep longer; rather, just use more tea leaf.
Once you’ve enjoyed your tea, you can resteep your tea leaves as desired. Many whole-leaf orthodox teas, like those Gachi sells, can be resteeped multiple times. Simply increase the water temperature by a few degrees and the steeping time by 10-15 seconds with each infusion.
- Green & White: 2-3 minutes
- Black & Puerh: 3-5 minutes
- Oolong: 4-7 minutes
- Herbal: 5-7 minutes
A few things to note
You can also create cold brewed tea using loose leaf tea. It’s actually even easier than making it in the traditional hot method as described above.
As a powdered tea, matcha has a vastly different preparation method. Click here to learn an easy way to make matcha or here for a guide on traditional Japanese preparation methods.
Happy sipping, y’all!