Herbal teas are all infusions made with pure or blended herbs, spices, flowers and fruits. Unlike real loose leaf teas (white tea, yellow tea, green tea, oolong tea, black and dark teas made from Camellia sinensis) they are usually caffeine free. Most herbal teas can be brewed with boiling water or nearly boiling water, like most black teas, which makes brewing very easy. The main difference is that you should never steep black tea for more than 2-3 minutes, and almost all herbal teas will take longer to give a best tasting cup.
Before brewing, check if there are any special instructions printed on the label. You may need to steep some herbal teas for more than 5 or 10 minutes to get the best health benefits and flavor, and some may need only a minute or they might become very bitter.
Here are the general guidelines for brewing herbal tea, and some important exceptions.
How to brew herbal tea
Unlike real types of tea such as green and white teas, herbal teas are much easier to brew. Borrowing some common steps from brewing real tea may enhance the flavor of herbal tea too. Regardless which herbal tea you are brewing, always try to do the following:
- Boil fresh spring water in a clean kettle
- Preheat your mug or a teapot by pouring hot water in and out
- Use at least 1 teaspoon of tea leaves per cup of water, or even more with blends that have very big, fluffy leaves
- Add water and cover with a lid or a small saucer if using a mug
- Let it steep for at least 5 minutes
- Find a clean small saucepan with no strong scents.
- Add at least ¾ teaspoon of tea per cup of water into a saucepan.
- Add fresh spring water into a saucepan with tea. If you want to make one cup of tea, use at least 1 ½ cup of water because some of it will evaporate.
- Bring water to a boil over a medium fire, then reduce to low and simmer for another 5-15 minutes.
- Strain and pour into cups.
- Add sweetener if needed.
Teas like ginger, turmeric, rose hips and most dried fruits can be boiled in water rather than just steeped. This method is great for making tea from raw ingredients such as like ginger. Others, like mint, rooibos, chamomile, lavender and rose you should simply infuse. Be careful with rose and lavender because they may release too much bitterness if brewed with boiling water for too long.
Pay attention when brewing following herbs and fruits:
- Lavender is one of those flowers that are both sweet and bitter, so some blends may need special attention. Although you may be able to brew most of them with boiling water for 5-10 minutes, if the infusion is too bitter, lower the temperature and steep for less than 5 minutes.
- Orange and lemon peel are a very common ingredient in blends, but they may become bitter if over steeped. Pay special attention when brewing a tea blend with orange peel for the first time. The best temperature for brewing them may be around 194-203 °F.
- Unique eastern herbs such as Kuding tea may have a lot of benefits, but you should avoid brewing them as regular herbs or you may end up with an infusion so bitter it will be undrinkable. Try lowering the water temperature to 203°F and steep for 30-60 seconds.
How to cold brew herbal tea
Some herbal teas are great for cold brewing too. Just like green or black tea, you will need a pitcher or a glass teapot and your favorite herbal tea. We recommend using 1-2 spoons of leaves per pitcher (about 1.5 liters).
- Choose a big glass teapot or a pitcher.
- Add 1-2 spoons of tea leaves.
- Add lukewarm or cold water.
- Cover with a lid to protect from odors.
- Put in a fridge for at least 10-12 hours.
- Use within 24 hours.
Keep in mind that you will need to steep herbal tea longer than green tea. Some of the best herbal teas for cold brewing are lavender, lemongrass, rose, chamomile, hibiscus, yerba mate, mint and rooibos. Try some of the following blends: Blood Orange, Lavender Raspberry, Prickly Pear Herbal.
Herbal tea temperature
You can brew most herbal teas with boiling water and even simmer in water over a low fire. Therefore, the best temperature to brew tea will be 212°F. However, let the water cool for a second or two in the kettle when it’s boiled. This will reduce a chance of any hard water deposits from tea kettles ending up in your mug or burning yourself with steam.
Here are the best temperatures and times for the most common herbal teas:
- Chamomile – 212°F for 5 minutes, use 1-2 teaspoons of leaves
- Mint – 212°F for 5 minutes, use 1-1 ½ teaspoons of leaves
- Rooibos – 212°F for 8-10 minutes, use 1 teaspoon of leaves
- Rosemary– 212°F for 10-15 minutes, use ½ -1 teaspoon of leaves
- Linden flowers– 212°F for 10 minutes, use 1 teaspoon of flowers
- Rose hips– 212°F for 10-15 minutes, use 1-2 teaspoon of rose hips
- Hibiscus– 212°F for 5-10 minutes, use 1-2 teaspoon of flowers depending on their size
- Yerba mate– 203-208°F for 3-5 minutes, use 1 teaspoon of leaves
For blends with two or more ingredients, follow the instructions on the label. In the absence of instructions, use the water temperature and steep time recommended for the most delicate ingredient in the blend.