Making Tea: Tea Steeping & Preparation

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There isnt a problem in the world that cant be solved over a nice cup of tea.

I get as much enjoyment out of tea preparation as I do drinking it. Theres something relaxing about just going through the motions; stress starts to ease away before Ive even sat down with my cup of tea. Today, were talking about making tea and how to get the best flavor out of your favorite blend.

A person in a rose colored sweater pours tea from a teapot with owls on it. The tea is poured through a metal tea strainer and into a matching teacup with owls. The overlay text reads

Teaware Recommendations

Presentation is often as important as functionality for many tea drinkers. Here are some recommendations but these are just a starting point.

Start with something to heat tea in: a traditional kettle, electric kettle, or one of these higher-end kettles that allows for better temperature control and keeps your tea warm. You know, for people that tend to forget about their tea (myself included).

Next, look for a teapot and cup. Tea-for-one sets are great if youre enjoying tea on your own. There are also some affordable sets that come with a teapot, set of cups, saucers, and a hanging rack.

Making Tea: Choosing a Blend

Theres an appropriate tea for every situation an energizing oolong or green tea, bold black tea that holds up to the usual cup of coffee, or soothing herbal teas to wind down in the evening before bed. Theres even a blend for light evening work and reading just enough caffeine to keep you awake for a little longer, but not so much that it keeps you up all night.

Overhead view of things for making tea, including a blue tea kettle, a teapot with owls on it, a bag of loose leaf tea, a metal tea strainer, a mesh tea ball, and a wooden scoop of rock sugar.

Choosing Your Water

Almost as important as the tea itself is water. You might not immediately think of water because of how tasteless it is, but it can have a huge impact on the taste of tea!

I used to use primarily tap or filtered water until I tried this wonderful, floral, earthy/minerally tasting jasmine oolong at our local tearoom. I loved the blend so much that I decided to bring it home with me only to find it tasted nothing like the tea at the tearoom.

I talked to them the next time I was in and explained that Id prepared it exactly as theyd described. When asked about what I brewed the tea with, my response something along the lines of, Well, I dont remember. Justwater, I guess?

They left and came back with a tray and four cups, unlabeled and asked which I liked best. I picked out the second and third ones, which tasted almost the same, like the first time Id tried the oolong: wonderfully sweet and minerally. The two middle ones were brewed with different spring water, the first with tap water, and the last with distilled water.

The first and last didnt taste terrible, but they didnt come close to how I thought the tea should taste after trying it the first time. So, choose your water wisely. Tap water can be great depending on where you live, but youre often better off with spring water or something to give the tea a little more body. Tap water often makes the tea come out way too bitter, and distilled or purified water just falls flat.

Heat the Water (But Dont Microwave It)

Most teas can steep for 3-5 minutes, but it largely depends on the kind of tea leaves and how strong you like it. Making tea at the right temperature can be the difference between the perfect cup of tea and one thats too bitter to drink without copious amounts of sugar and milk. (I mean it right after I wrote in a blog post that you could never over-steep Earl Grey, I had to make a latte out of a cup that was too bitter to drink.)

Most darker oolongs and black teas can be steeped with water thats just been boiled. With more delicate green and white teas, remove the water just before it boils while its barely simmering. If you accidentally let it get to boil, just let it sit and cool off for about 4-5 minutes.

Whatever you do, just dont microwave it. Check out this post if you want to know why.

A person in a rose colored sweater pours tea from a teapot with owls on it. The tea is poured through a metal tea strainer and into a matching teacup with owls.

Steeping (and Re-Steeping) Your Tea

First off, youll want something to steep your tea in. I still prefer steeping my tea in a pot and pouring it over a strainer, but some people just steep it straight in the cup. (I like some tea getting through, but not that much!) You can set these cute dragonfly strainers on top of your cup and pour straight from the pot. Strainers are best if you want to completely avoid tea leaves in your cup.

Another method is to use an infuser. You can use infuser tongs or tea ball infusers with a chain to steep tea in a cup, much like you would with tea bags. There are also infusers that are similar to strainers but sit in your cup, like this cherry wood tea nest infuser set. If youve never used an infuser, you can learn more about infusers here.

Then youll want to decide how much tea to use. A general rule of thumb is a teaspoon for each cup and one for the pot. But a lot of other factors can come into play and change how much tea you would use, such as what kind of tea, the size of your cup, and whether youre having your tea hot or as a cold brew.

Now for the hardest part: steeping your tea for the right amount of time. (Which means not forgetting about it for half an hour while youre working!)

Luckily, tea timers do exist. There are even tea apps that recommend times based on what tea leaf youre steeping.

If you dont let it steep too long, tea is often good for two cups. I can sometimes get three steeps in my little tea-for-one set (about 1 teaspoon in 8oz of water, brewed three times). Its a slightly different flavor each time. Here are some recommendations on tea that re-steeps well.

Two mugs in the shape of owls sit side by side; one has a metal tea strainer balanced on the top. In front of the mugs is a sample size bag of loose leaf tea and a wooden scoop full of rock sugar.

Making Tea: Finishing Touches

Now for the fun part: putting the finishing touches on your cup of tea.

For the most part, flavored teas are wonderful just as they are. Theres often enough flavor that they dont need any sort of sweetener or cream. But you might occasionally enjoy tea a little more on the sweet side, or you may want to mellow out your chai just a touch.

Your taste will gradually develop and youll figure out what unique additions you like, or whether you like any at all! There are many different ways to enjoy tea (some a little less common, like a wonderful tea steamer).

Want some more ideas on what to add to your tea? These add-ins are a great way to give a unique twist to your usual cup of tea.