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Steeping Tea

About Our Tea > Tea 101 > Steeping Tea

  

General Tips For Steeping Delicious Tea

The Three Most Important Variables When Steeping Tea

Specifics for Steeping Different Types of Tea

  
We want your cup of Tea Trekker tea to be delicious.

So we provide suggested steeping directions on every package of Tea Trekker tea. This includes our recommendions of quantity of tea to use, water temperature, and steep time.

You will find links to information about how to steep different types of tea at the bottom of this page. Also, each tea on our website has a detail page with steeping informationn for that tea, too. For teas that can be steeped either Western-style or Asian style such as oolongs and Pu-erh, we provide expanded steeping suggestions to help you understand the differences and obtain the best flavor.

Our tea-steeping instructions are based on the guidance we have been given by the artisans who make our teas and the Tea Masters we visit during our tea sourcing trips. Our methods are theirs, and the variations we suggest come at their encouragement. Tea preparation is both collaborative and evolutionary, so in your experience it may change from time to time and tea to tea. Learning how to steep each tea successfully is part of the fun of tea drinking!

Until we are familiar with a particular type of tea, we steep it according to recommended steeping parameters. If we make a conscious decision that we would rather enjoy a tea steeped differently than that, we try a variation or modification and see what happens. We suggest this practice for all of our customers as well.

Ultimately, however, your cup of tea is your cup of tea; and you should enjoy it the way you choose to prepare it.

A. GENERAL TIPS FOR STEEPING DELICIOUS TEA

     Tip #1:  Know yourself - whether you are a  ‘supervisor’  or a  ‘wanderer’.

If you are a ‘wanderer’, you should select and enjoy teas that offer a substantial margin-of-error
regarding temperature and timing.

If you are a ‘supervisor’, you should select even finicky and challenging teas with confidence,
knowing that you will be able to successfully coax complex flavors from any style of leaf.

Neither steeping style is ‘better’ – what is important is that you enjoy your tea!

     Tip # 2:  Steep your tea with awareness and purpose.

If you really want to learn about tea and feel comfortable navigating your way amidst the hundreds of tea choices in the marketplace, we sugest that you keep track of what you are drinking. Jot down the results of your tea drinking experiences in a notebook, your laptop or on a smart phone. In fact, when you find a tea you really like, take a picture of the package or the label. Use this reference guide as your list of  tea drinking experiences grows.

     Tip # 3:  Explore several different steeping methods.

Know the differences between steeping tea Western-style or Asian-style as this will allow you to appreciate the nuances that each method brings to the flavor in the cup. Western-style steeping uses large teapots (24-32 ounces) and more water than tea. Steep times tend to be 2-5 minutes depending on the tea. Asian-style steeping uses small teapots (10 ounces or less) or a gaiwan ( 3-5 ounces); a larger quantity of tea to a smaller quantity of water and very short steep times of 30 seconds to 1 minute. This method allows tea to be re-steeped several times, whereas Western-style tea steeping does not.

It doesn’t take long to recognize the unique qualities of these two distinct steeping methods. However one can spend a lifetime becoming proficient at the art of steeping tea.
 

 

B. THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT VARIABLES WHEN STEEPING TEA:

     Variable #1: Measuring the leaf

A delicious tasting cup of tea uses neither too much nor too little leaf. There is no good reason to use more leaf than you need, although we think it is much worse to use too little and end up with a flavor-less cup.

The goal in preparing a delicious cup of tea is to have the water extract the proper balance of soluble solids (amino acids, tannins, alkaloids, and volatile compounds, plus vitamins and minerals ) from the leaf into the cup. We think that the most accurate way to ensure a tasty cup of tea each and every time you steep your tea is to use an inexpensive electronic kitchen gram scale (approximately $16.00-$35.00 cost).

For most teas our suggested measure is: 2-3 grams of leaf and 6 ounces of water for every 6-ounces of capacity in your teapot or steeping cup. Depending on whether your tea tea is small leaf, medium or large leaf,  a measure of 2-3 grams may be 1 teaspoon, 2 teaspoons or 1-2 tablespoons.

If you are measuring your loose-leaf tea by volume ( teaspoons, etc.) rather than by weight( grams) you will notice that the volume of leaf differs from tea to tea. A pound always weighs a pound, but the volume of a pound can vary dramatically - think of the difference in volume between a pound of nails and a pound of feathers. Tea fits this example, too. Some teas are light and fluffy while other teas are small and dense. So the volume of any tea is related to the density of the leaf.

When using our recommended 2-3 grams of leaf, you will notice that this measure will be a greater volume of leaf when the leaf is large (bulky whole leaves or buds) than it is when the leaf is small (tiny leaves, CTC, broken leaf, etc).  Awareness of this weight-to-volume ratio will ensure that you will be able to steep every tea you encounter easily and with delicious results.

A good rule of thumb is that 4-ounces of loose-leaf tea (of any leaf-size or shape), portioned into 2-3 gram measures, will yield 40-to-50 measures of tea, enough to steep 4-to-50 six ounce cups of tea. Some types of loose-leaf tea can be re-steeped several times which will increase the number of cups of tea obtained from the same 4-ounce quantity of tea.
 

 
     Variable #2: Water temperature

Water is a friend of tea, and as such, water temperature is the second critical factor in extracting the best flavor from your tea leaves.

Different teas will deliver the best flavors and aromas when steeped with lower water temperatures than what is used for other teas. So it is advisable to pay attention that  you are using water that is at the appropriate temperature for the type of tea that you are steeping and not TOO HOT.

Most tea leaves (even black tea) do not like to be blasted with boiling hot water, and more delicate grades of tea such as green and white teas can easily be scorched. To avoid over-extracting the flavor components of the leaf, it is better to steep the leaves slightly longer at a cooler temperature than with water that is too-hot.
 

     Variable #3: Steeping time

After measuring and water temperature, final variable is the amount of time that the leaf is steeped. Tea that is either under-steeped or over-steeped is disappointing. Each type of tea has a steeping time that it responds to best. So, by paying attention to this third element of good tea steeping practices, you will ensure a better tasting cup of tea.

In general, when steeping teas Western-style  the following guidelines can be followed:

  • black teas prefer steep times of 3-5 minutes
     
  • green, white, and yellow teas prefer short steep times of 1-2 minutes
     
  • oolong teas prefer steep times of 2-4 minutes
     
  • Pu-erh tea prefers steep times of 3-4 minutes

When steeping teas such as oolong or Pu-erh Asian-style, the 'time-in-the-water' for each of the many successive steepings is short in comparison. Please refer to those categories of tea below for our specific recommendations.

 

C. SPECIFIC FOR STEEPING DIFFERENT TYPES OF TEA:

 

More Tea 101 Tutorials:

What is Tea?    Selecting Tea    Storing Tea    Healthful Benefits