April 16 2021 – Diana L
Ready to brew a cup of tea you just purchased, but not sure about how much loose leaf tea to use per cup? A perfect cup of tea relies on three factors that each play an important role in creating the flavor in your cup:
- Water temperature
- Length of steeping time
- Amount of tea
Common mistakes made when brewing tea
Mistake 1: Using the wrong water temperature
The temperature of the water is very crucial and varies depending on the type of tea. You may remember your Mom putting the teapot on the stove and awaiting the screech announcing that the water was "ready". In reality, for most teas, it was too late.
If you are a tea newbie, you will be amazed at the difference in the flavors that are released by using the right water temperature when brewing tea. Different tea varieties release the polyphenols (or tannins) at different temperatures which can alter the flavor caused by an over-extraction or under extraction of these tannins.
It is best to start with fresh, filtered cold water. Added chlorine or other minerals and sediment that may be found in tap water can affect the true flavors of your tea.
Using water that is too hot (screeching hot) is called "burning" the tea. This means the tannins have been over-extracted, causing green and white tea to become astringent. Studies have shown that water that is too hot may also destroy the health-promoting compounds in tea such as catechins. If you use water that is not hot enough, then your tea will lack its full flavor potential due to the under extraction. Boiling water and then letting it cool hoping to reach the right temperature removes oxygen from the water, decreasing the resulting flavor of the tea.
The optimal temperature for herbal teas is much higher than a delicate white or green tea. Herbal teas do not contain tannins which is why they can handle the higher hot water temperature. Using a lower temperature for the delicate white and green teas keeps the leaves from losing their flavor due to over-processing. Use this quick chart to find the proper water temperature for your favorite tea:
- Green tea 150-175°F
- White tea 175-185°F
- Black tea 205°F
- Oolong tea 195°F
- Rooibos tea 205°F
- Herbal tea 212°F
It's really simple to achieve the right temperature if you have an electric kettle with temperature control. If not, just remember the rule of thumb that water simmers at 190°F, so for green tea keep the water just below a simmer. The teapot "screech" indicated that the water was a full boil, and at sea level this means 212°F, so hopefully, your mom was steeping herbal tea!
Mistake 2: Not steeping the tea for the right amount of time
Steeping time allows the loose tea leaves to diffuse and release the unique aroma and flavors of the tea. The steeping process begins the instant you pour heated water over the tea leaves.
Our general rule of thumb for steeping time:
- Green tea 3-4 minutes
- White tea 7-9 minutes
- Black tea 3 minutes
- Oolong tea 3-6 minutes
- Rooibos tea 3-5 minutes
- Herbal tea 5-8 minutes
A common mistake is to steep tea longer in search of stronger flavors. Over-steeping can simply lead to bitterness. So it's crucial to use the proper steeping times for each type of tea. If you are looking for a stronger flavor in your cup of tea, then add more tea instead of more time. Or likewise, if you prefer a lighter flavor, reduce the amount of tea. Which brings us back to the question of how much loose leaf tea per cup?
Mistake 3: Not using the right amount of loose leaf tea
What is the right amount of loose leaf tea per cup? If you are brewing one cup of tea at a time, the rule of thumb is one teaspoon per six ounces of water. Teas that are less dense such as white, herbal and oolong teas require two teaspoons. If you use a tea infuser (that will brew a mug size serving) we recommend a tablespoon size scoop. (And don’t forget you can typically steep twice through your infuser!) If you are brewing a pot of tea, gauge the amount of tea on the ounces of water you add to the pot.
If you don't have a perfect tea spoon just for tea, you will be playing a bit of a measuring guessing game. Tableware spoons will not give you a consistent measure. So make sure you have all the right tools and you'll enjoy the perfect cup of tea every time.