For many of us, tea is one of life’s little pleasures. It’s a delicious, healthy beverage that can perk us up, compliment our day, and soothe our souls. But there are others among us who haven’t yet tried loose-leaf tea, or have tried it and had an unpleasant experience, deeming tea a beverage they simply don’t like.
The most common responses from those who don’t like tea are to the effect of, “It has no taste” or “It’s too bitter”. In these instances, the truth is most likely that the tea is not of high quality, or it isn’t brewed well. The wide variety of pure and blended teas encompass so many flavor profiles, making it a great beverage to satisfy most tastes.
Not sure how to brew loose-leaf tea?
The following information will guide you through the brewing process, allowing you to make a great cup of tea every time.
The taste of the tea is determined by three factors:
- The quality of the water
- The type of tea
- The brewing method
1. The quality of the water
Use fresh, cold, filtered/purified water. This is really important. Water from the faucet has a tendency to taste metallic or chlorinated, and warm, hot, or previously boiled water can result in a flat, dull tea.
2. The type of tea
Use the best tea available; you get what you pay for. Grocery store tea bags are generally filled with fannings, or “dust”, of much lower quality than loose, whole tea leaves. Whether it’s black, white, green, oolong, pu erh or even herbal tea that you’re brewing, choose one that is of high quality. Even with some of the very best teas, the cost per cup is still as low as 10-20¢.
3. The brewing method
What you’ll need:
- Water (enough for the number of cups you’ll be serving, plus 1-2 extra)
- Kettle, water boiler or something else to boil the water
- A clock or timer
- Loose leaf tea or tisane of choice
- Disposable tea filters, an infuser, or a teapot with an infuser built in
- Cup(s) and/or a teapot
Helpful, but not essential:
- A beverage or cooking thermometer, or kettle/boiler with a thermometer built in
Step 1: Prepare your tea leaves
Spoon 1-2 teaspoons per 8 oz cup of your chosen tea into an appropriate-sized tea filter, infuser or teapot. You can add a little more than this if you prefer a bolder flavor. If you’re using a filter or infuser, place it into your cup.
Persimmon Tree Tip: A teapot or open/basket infuser will allow your tea leaves more room to expand, yielding a fuller flavor. Some filters and closed (e.g. ball) infusers can restrict the full development of a tea‘s flavor.
Step 2: Boil the water
Find out what temperature is best for your chosen tea. As a general guideline, white and green teas are the most delicate of the teas, requiring a water temperature of 175-185°F; hotter than this and the leaves will most likely burn, resulting in a nasty bitter-tasting tea. Oolong teas do better around 195°F, as do some black teas, and then other black teas, pu erh teas, rooibos and herbal teas brew best at 200-212°F. The optimal brewing temperature for each of our teas can be found on our website, and general brewing guidelines are printed on the back of all of our tea tins.
Regardless of how you boil your water (in a kettle, boiler or pan), it must come to a rolling boil (about 212 degrees) before letting it cool to the desired temperature. Some kettles and boilers have a built-in digital thermometer so you can know the exact temperature of the water at any time, and others have a few preset temperature settings, for example 150°F, 175°F, 195°F and 210°F. If you don’t have either of these, you can check the water using a little beverage or cooking thermometer, or just wait about a minute for the water to cool to 195°F, and a couple more minutes for 175-185°F.
Persimmon Tree Tip: While waiting for your water to reach the desired temperature, it’s a good idea to warm the teapot and/or your cup(s) by pouring the extra hot water into it and leaving it for a minute or two before emptying it out. This will keep your tea hotter for longer once it’s brewed.
Step 3: Pour the boiled water over your tea leaves
For the best flavor, your tea leaves should be covered if possible (if using a teapot, close the lid), and allowed time to sit still and expand during this steeping process. Don’t play with them – extra motion can cause the release of more tannins, which can lead to a bitter-tasting tea. Steep for the recommended time, as stated on our website and packaging. Our guidelines suggest 3-5 minutes for black tea, 2-4 minutes for white tea, 1-3 minutes for green tea, 3-5 minutes for rooibos tea, 5-7 minutes for chai (usually black) tea, 3-5 minutes for oolong tea, 3-5 minutes for pu erh tea, and 5-7 minutes for herbal and blooming teas. These times can of course be altered to your taste – steep a little longer for a bolder flavor, and a little shorter for a milder one. Be careful not to over-steep your tea, as this also can result in an unpleasant, bitter taste.
Once brewed, if you’re using a teapot, pour the tea into your cup(s). If you’re using a filter, remove it from your cup and either dispose of it (it can be composted) or with some black, oolong and green teas you can save it and brew a second and even third infusion from the same tea leaves. The same goes with the leaves in the infuser. If desired, add cream, milk, honey or sugar to taste. If using sugar, natural (unprocessed) sugar is recommended, as it’s healthier and doesn’t affect the flavor of the tea like processed sugar does.
Persimmon Tree Tip: For longer-lasting freshness, store loose-leaf tea in an airtight container away from light, in a cool, dry place.
Practice makes perfect! For those new to loose-leaf tea, you may feel a little intimidated, but once you brew it a few times you’ll find it so easy, you’ll wonder how you did without it for so long! Happy steeping!