Making a perfect cup of tea is about paying attention to details – the right timing, the best temperature, clean teaware and – a perfect loose leaf tea. If you are new to tea, our guide is here to help you make those first steps.
How to Make Tea: Step by Step Instructions
Making tea is very easy. But it can be very scary and complicated if you are just starting out on your loose leaf tea journey. With thousands of tea types come thousands of brewing possibilities and a few thousands of potential flavors. To get the best flavor out of each and every loose leaf tea, you will need to learn the basics of making tea.
Most likely you only have a mug and a simple strainer, maybe even a teapot. In any case, you can start brewing straight away, and enjoy the best possible cup of tea, even with a limited set of utensils.
How to Make Loose Leaf Tea
To make a cup of loose leaf tea, you will need:
Something to boil the water
To boil the water you can use either a kettle or a saucepan. There are many different kettles available on the market. Some of them are electric and some will need to be heated on the stove. It always pays off to invest in a good kettle, as you will be using it a lot of times. Some of the best features to look for are a variable temperature feature and a keep warm feature. They will make brewing tea very easy, especially if you are a tea beginner. If you only have a saucepan, you can still guess the temperature of the water by looking at the water bubbles.
Something to strain or infuse the leaves
Unlike tea bags, loose leaf tea is–loose. You will need either a teapot, an infuser, or a strainer. All of them will work with almost any type of loose leaf tea. The easiest and the least messy way is to use a simple strainer or a tea filter. Teapots are a great choice too, especially if you find the perfect one for your needs. Simple strainer is always good to have, even if you are using a teapot. If you don’t own a proper tea strainer, fine mesh flour sifter may come in handy at times.
Something to drink your tea from
You will need a cup or a mug to drink your tea. Mugs are usually bigger than cups and don’t have saucers. But there are many different types of cups too–some have handles and some don’t. If you are just starting out, a regular mug or a coffee cup will be good too. Invest in a good cup or a mug that you like. It will make drinking tea really enjoyable.
How to Make Tea in a Teapot
Choose the best water
If you want to enjoy the best possible flavor, you will need the best water. Tea made with tap water is likely to have a strong mineral note, or even worse–it will taste of chlorine. On the other hand, distilled water will give a dull flat flavor. Fresh spring water is the best choice for making tea.
Choose high quality tea
High-quality tea leaves will always taste better. Your tea should have an attractive color, scent and flavor. Most of the times the scent of dry tea leaves will be more intense once you place them into a heated teapot.
Use clean teaware and utensils
Always keep your teaware and utensils clean. Never use a dirty kettle or a saucepan for boiling water, or a dirty teapot or dirty strainers for making tea. Clean them immediately after using, preferably with hot water only. Don’t use your tea strainer for straining anything other than tea.
Boil the water
Boil enough water to make a pot of tea and to preheat your teaware.
Preheat your teaware
Preheat your teapot and a mug by pouring the water in and out. This will let you enjoy the scent of dry tea leaves, and it will prevent the water temperature from dropping too fast once you start steeping your tea leaves.
Put the right amount of tea leaves into a teapot or a strainer
If you are making one cup of tea, use about 1-2 teaspoons of dry tea leaves. Always use tea leaves that have been properly stored. If you use too much, your tea will be too strong. If you don’t use enough, it will be weak.
Check if the water temperature is right
Different types of tea will require different water temperatures. Never use boiling water to steep green tea. Follow the instructions on the tea packaging to get the best results.
Steep the leaves
Steep the leaves for 1-10 minutes, depending on the type. 1-3 minutes will be enough for green tea, 2-5 minutes for black, while rooibos may taste the best when steeped for 3-10 minutes. Always cover the teapot. Strain it immediately after it’s brewed.
Add sugar, milk or honey
If you like to drink your tea sweet or with milk, now is the time to add the milk and sugar.
Drink the tea while it’s hot. Hot tea will always taste better than cold tea, unless you are making iced tea. In that case, let it cool down and pour into a glass filled with ice.
How to Make Tea on the Stove
If you don’t own a kettle, you can make tea on the stove too. Use a small saucepan to either boil the water for steeping the tea, or boil your tea directly in the saucepan. You can boil water in a saucepan for any tea, but you can’t boil all teas in a saucepan. The best teas to make on the stove are herbal teas including rooibos, teas made with fresh ingredients and spices such as ginger and lemon tea, or black teas.
To boil water on the stove, use a clean saucepan. Add a cup of water. Adjust the heat to medium and pay attention to the small bubbles forming on the surface. Bubbles will start forming once the temperature is around 160 °F. That’s a perfect temperature for making most green teas. Large bubbles forming on the surface are a sign that the temperature is around 180 °F or more, suitable for many oolong and white teas. Once the water is boiling, it has reached 212°F. Let it cool down for a few seconds and use it for steeping black or herbal tea.
To make tea on the stove, bring water to a boil and add tea leaves, spices or other ingredients. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 5-20 minutes, depending on the kind of tea.
How to make tea without a teapot
For making tea without a teapot follow the same steps as above, but place tea leaves into a tea filter or infuser instead or steep them in a mug and strain into a second mug using a strainer.
Making Tea FAQ
Why is my tea bitter?
Your tea steeps into a bitter cup? All teas made from Camellia sinensis tea plant contain EGCg, tannins, caffeine and other compounds. All of them make tea either healthy or energizing, but unfortunately most of them are bitter. The longer you steep your tea, the more compounds you will extract. Hotter water will extract more compounds. Your tea will be bitter because you are either steeping your tea for too long or using water that’s too hot for delicate tea leaves. Don’t worry about not extracting all the beneficial compounds if you steep your tea for only 1-3 minutes. You can re-steep the same leaves and extract more compounds and flavors but without the bitterness.
Read more: How to re-steep tea leaves
How can I make my tea taste better?
You can make tea taste better by:
- Always pay attention to how you store your tea–old and stale tea will never taste great
- Use the right steep time–some teas taste better when steeped for only a minute, others will need 10 minutes to give the best flavor
- Try cold steeping
- Mix your pure loose leaf tea with fruity blends or flowers
- Experiment with steeping time, amount of leaves and water temperature. The best flavor will always be a matter of a personal preference too.
Read more: 20 ways to make tea taste better
Can I boil my water in the microwave?
Yes, you can boil water in the microwave, although it’s not recommended. First, you will never know the water temperature of the water heated in the microwave. Second, water boiled in the microwave is likely to have a different flavor than water boiled in the clean kettle.
I’m new to tea drinking. What tea should I use?
If you are new to tea, get ready to be amazed. There are thousands of different flavors to explore. The best teas to try for new loose leaf tea drinkers are those that are easy to make. They include traditional blends such as breakfast teas, Earl Grey teas, green teas that are not bitter such as Genmaicha and herbal blends, especially rooibos.
Read more: 3 best teas for tea beginners