A well-made cup of hot tea can warm the heart and soul of any tea lover, but it can be unpleasantly bitter or disappointingly tasteless when improperly steeped. Fortunately, it's easy to prepare a tasty cup of tea. Decide what type of tea you want to brew and choose loose leaves or tea bags. Then heat your water and pour it over the tea. Let the tea steep for the right amount of time according to the tea type and then remove the tea. Enjoy your hot tea on its own or with milk and sugar.
Step 1: Heating the Water
- Use a stovetop kettle that will whistle when the water boils or turn on an electric tea kettle that will turn off automatically once the water boils.
Variation: If you don't have a kettle, pour the water into a saucepan. Heat the water over high heat until it's as hot as you need.
2. Heat the water according to your tea type. Since the water that's too hot can damage delicate tea, it's important to heat the water based on what kind of tea you're making. You can use a thermometer or pay attention to the water so you know when to turn off the heat. Heat the water according to these types:
- White teas: 165 °F (74 °C) or once the water becomes hot to the touch
- Green teas: 170 to 185 °F (77 to 85 °C) or just when steam begins to come out of the spout
- Black teas: 205 °F (96 °C) or after cooling boiling water for 1 minute
3. Microwave water in a mug if you don't have access to a kettle or stove. Although your water will heat more evenly in a kettle or pot on the stove, you can fill a microwave-safe mug about 3/4 full with water and place a wooden skewer or popsicle stick into it. Microwave the water for 1 minute or until the water begins to bubble.
- The wooden skewer will prevent the water from superheating which could cause an explosion.
4. Pour a little water into the teapot or cup to preheat it. If you pour hot water into a cold teapot or cup, the water temperature will drop dramatically and your tea won't steep properly. To preheat the vessel, fill the teapot or cup about 1/4 to 1/2 full with some of the hot water. Leave it for about 30 seconds and then pour it out.
- If you're in a hurry you can skip this step, but your tea will be hotter and taste better if you preheat the vessel.
Step 2: Steeping the Tea
1. Place tea leaves or bags into the teapot or cup. If you're using tea bags, plan on using 1 bag for each cup of tea you want to make in a teapot or put 1 bag into 1 cup. To use loose leaf tea, plan on using about 1 tablespoon (2 g) of loose leaves for each cup of tea you want to make.
- If you like your tea stronger, feel free to use more leaves.
2. Pour the hot water over the tea. Carefully pour the water into your kettle or cup. If you're using a cup, fill it about 3/4 full so you'll have room to add milk later. If you're making loose leaf tea in a teapot, pour about 3⁄4 cup (180 ml) of water for each serving of tea. For tea bags in a teapot, pour around 1 cup (240 ml) of water for each tea bag.
- If you're making loose leaf tea in a cup, consider putting the tea into a mesh tea ball or place a strainer into the cup before you add the tea and water. Then you can lift the strainer or ball to remove the tea leaves.
- Consider measuring the water the first few times you use the teapot. Then you can begin to eyeball how much water to use once you're comfortable with the teapot.
- 1 to 3 minutes for green tea
- 2 to 5 minutes for white tea
- 2 to 3 minutes for oolong tea
- 4 minutes for black tea
- 3 to 6 minutes for herbal tea
Did You Know? The longer you steep your tea, the stronger the flavor will be. Use a spoon to taste the tea so you don't over steep it, which could cause the tea to taste bitter.
4. Strain the tea leaves or remove the tea bags. If you used tea bags, lift them and let excess tea drip back into the cup or teapot. If you used loose leaf tea, remove the tea ball or place a strainer over a cup and pour the tea through it. Save the tea leaves for another brew or discard them.
- Compost your tea bags or leaves once you've finished making tea.
Step 3: Serving the Tea
- Lower-quality teas that are often sold in tea bags might benefit from additional sweetener or milk.
2. Add milk to black tea for a creamy taste. Traditionally, milk is only added to black teas, such as breakfast tea. Since there's no wrong or right way to drink tea with milk, pour the milk into the cup first or after you've poured the tea. Then stir gently and place your spoon on the saucer next to the cup.
- Although you may hear people ask if you take cream, avoid using heavy cream or half-and-half in your tea. The high-fat content will create a heavy taste that masks the flavor of the tea.
- Masala chai is typically sweetened with granulated or brown sugar.
- Honey is a great choice to sweeten green or white teas.
4. Include lemon, ginger, or mint if you'd like to give the tea a bright flavor. Try squirting a little freshly sliced lemon into your tea or adding a few sprigs of fresh mint. If you'd like to add a slightly spicy flavor, add a thin slice of fresh ginger to the tea.
- For a festive way to flavor bold teas, add a short cinnamon stick directly to the teacup.
Tip: Since citrus can cause milk to curdle, avoid adding lemon to tea if you're also adding milk.
5. Chill the tea to make iced tea. If you'd rather be drinking cold tea, put your tea in the refrigerator and leave it until it's completely cold. Then fill a glass with ice and pour the cold tea into it. Enjoy the iced tea before the ice melts.
- You can make iced tea out of any type of tea. Try making iced sweet tea with black tea or an iced herbal hibiscus tea.
Step 4: Selecting Tea to Brew
- Look for flavored black teas, such as Earl Grey, Lady Grey, or masala chai to include a floral, citrus, or spicy taste.
2. Pick green tea for a light, earthy flavor. Green tea has less caffeine than black tea and has a more delicate flavor. If you prefer to drink tea without milk or sweetener, try a green tea so you can detect its subtle flavor.
- If you're interested in green tea, learn how to make matcha. Matcha is a stone-ground green tea that's traditionally used in Japanese tea ceremonies.
Tip: If you enjoy black and green teas, try oolong tea. This type of tea is oxidized like black tea, but not as processed so it keeps some of its grassy flavors.
3. Select white tea for mild flavor and a little caffeine. White tea is the least oxidized and contains very little caffeine. Choose this tea if you like a smooth tea that's easy to drink without adding sweeteners or flavors.
Because it's so minimally processed, you can usually only buy white tea as loose leaf instead of in bags.
4. Look for herbal tea if you want to avoid caffeine. If you're watching your caffeine or just want to try a delicate tasting tea, pick a few herbal teas to try. Classic peppermint tea is refreshing hot or cold and chamomile tea is known for its soothing quality.
- Rooibos is another popular herbal tea that's often blended with dried fruit or vanilla.
5. Choose between loose leaves or tea bags. If you'd like to use high-quality tea leaves that you can steep multiple times, use loose leaf tea. These are uncut and dried when you buy them, although they'll unwrap and expand as they steep. For a convenient way to make tea, buy tea that's been cut and portioned into bags. Unfortunately, you can only steep these once.
- For high-quality tea bags, choose pyramid style bags that allow the tea to expand as it steeps. If you can't find these, look for round tea bags that are filled with finely-cut tea.
Did You Know? The most popular type of tea bag is square with a string and tag. Although these are easy to find, they're usually filled with lower-quality, shredded tea, and powder.