Steeping Tea


Are you ready for extraordinary flavor?

Photo by Mary Lou Heiss © Tea Trekker, all rights reservedTea comes in a variety of leaf sizes, shapes and six classifications: black, green, oolong, heicha ( including Pu-erh), white, and yellow. How to proceed when steeping a new tea can be puzzling but with our guidelines you will be able to steep delicious tea – easily – every time.

You will find links to steeping information for tea by type at the bottom of this page. Also, every tea that we sell on our website has a detail page with specific steeping instructions for that tea.

Our tea-steeping instructions are based on the guidance we have been given by the artisans who make our teas and the Tea Masters we visit during our tea sourcing trips to Asia

Our methods are theirs, and the variations we suggest come at their encouragement. Tea preparation is both collaborative and evolutionary – there is no right or wrong – just recommendations based on the collective wisdom of seasoned tea drinkers. Our guidelines will help you understand how to proceed when steeping a new tea or how to tweek your technique to improve  the taste of your favorite tea.


A Great Tasting Cup of Tea is the Result of Many Factors
Seasoned tea drinkers understand that steeping a great cup of tea is not something that ‘ just happens’ –  it is the result of knowing how to proceed with the type of tea you will be steeping and paying attention to the essentials of careful tea preparation.

1. Each type of tea will taste best when steeped in a certain way.
For example, green tea does not like to be steeped in the same manner as black tea and white tea methods are different again. Understanding these differences is the first step to obtaining delicious results from your tea.

2. Steep each Tea Trekker tea according to our recommended steeping method.
Our whole-leaf teas are selected by us from fresh seasonal batches of premium quality leaf, and from the two highest grades of that tea available each season. Because we know how different our teas are from teas sold elsewhere with the same name, and how much fresher our teas are, we ask you to steep our teas using our tea steeping recommendations to enjoy the best flavor.

3. Use enough leaf
A delicious cup of tea begins with using enough leaf. Using less leaf than our recommended amount will give you a weak-tasting cup.

4. Be mindful of the temperature of the water that you are using.
Different teas have optimal temperature requirements and will not yield their best flavor when the water is too hot or too cool.

5. Longer steeping time does not yield tastier tea
Each tea and each steeping method has a preferred steeping time. Some teas respond well to only a specific time in the water – other teas have more flexibility for longer steep times.

6. Re-steeping tea
Asian-style tea stepping is designed for steeping certain teas a small teapot or tea vessel multiple times. Western-style steeping uses a large teapot and the tea gives up most of its flavor in one steeping ( with some reasonable exceptions).The difference in flavor, body and depth of tea stepped by these two steeping methods is significant – try both ways and see which you prefer.

Steeping Methods: Asian-style tea versus Western-style:
For teas that can be steeped either Asian-style or Western-style  such as oolongs and Pu-erh, we provide information that will familiarize you with the differences between these cultural tea steeping methods.  And we will explain how to use the tea vessels that are used in Asian cultures to steep these teas so that you will obtain the best flavor when using this method.


Asian-style steeping

  • uses small teapots (10 ounces or less) or a gaiwan (3-6 ounces)
  • uses a small quantity of water and a large quantity of tea
  • time in the water for the tea is very short – steep times are 30 seconds to 1 minute
  • tea is re-steeped multiple times to reveal a different facet of flavor each time. Flavor will be rich in dimension and very full bodied due to the ratio of tea to water

Western-style tea steeping

  • uses large teapots (18-32 ounces)
  • uses a large quantity of water and a small quantity of tea
  • time in the water for the tea is long – steep times of 2-5 minutes depending on the tea
  • some teas can be sucessfully be re-steeped but the taste will be thin and light due to the large amount of water used in this method



1: Measuring the Leaf

When you purchase loose-leaf tea you will notice that the appearance and the volume of the tea leaves differs from tea to tea.Some teas are light and leafy while other teas are small and dense. For light and leafy teas you will need to use more leaf that you will with small and dense teas. Our recommended measurements of tea take the weight and leafy-ness of each tea into account.

In general for Western-style tea-steeping we recommend this proportion of leaf to water:

2 to 3 grams of leaf for every 6-ounces of water capacity in your teapot or tea steeping vessel.

This measure will vary in volume depending on the size and heft of the tea leaf. A 2 to 3 gram measure can be any of the following:

1 teaspoon
2 teaspoons
1, 2 or 3 Tablespoons

If you wish to experiment with enjoying many different teas, an easy and inexpensive method for accurately measuring tea is to use an inexpensive electronic kitchen gram scale. These cost approximately $16.00-$35.00 cost and will take the guesswork out of measuring your tea.



2: Water temperature

For every type of tea there is a preferred water temperature that will coax the best flavor from the tea leaves. Water that has cooled from the boil for a minute or two will extract different nuances of flavor and aroma from certain teas than water that is hotter in temperature. Cooler water avoids astringency; hotter water encourages it.

When water is brought to a boil it will drop 10°F every minute it stands off the heat.

Here are our suggested water temperatures for all types of tea:

Pu-erh & other Heicha:
200°F – 210°F
That’s water that just at the boil

Black Tea:
195°F – 205°F
That’s water that is just under a full boil

Oolong Tea ( strip-style):
195°F – 205°F
That’s water that is just under a full boil

Oolong Tea ( semiball rolled-style):
180°F – 190°F
That’s water that has cooled slightly

Japanese Green Tea:
175°F – 185°F
That’s water that has cooled a bit more

China Green & China Jasmine Teas:
170°F- 180°F
That’s water that is cooler yet

China Yellow & White Teas:
160°F – 170°F
That’s the coolest water of all



3: Steeping time

Tea that is under-steeped or over-steeped is disappointing. Each type of tea has a preferred steeping time that brings out the best taste in the tea.

The addition of milk and or sugar will make a difference tea how tea is steeped. Adding milk or sugar will both cut the astringency of a longer steep time, so it may be appropriate to steep certain black teas for 5 minutes if milk will be added. The same tea would be tastier if steeped for 3 minutes when drunk plain.

Also, bear in mind the place of origin of the tea that you are steeping. All tea is made for a particular audience of tea drinkers so the characteristics of these teas will be better suited for milk or not.

How to tell? All Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese teas are meant to be drunk plain, with nothing added. African, Ceylon and India teas (with a few exceptions) are primarily made for a Western export market and are manufactured to accommpdate the addition of milk and or sugar.




More Tea 101 Tutorials:

What is Tea?     Selecting Tea     Storing Tea     Healthful Benefits


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