The Beginner's Quick and Simple Guide to Brewing Looseleaf Tea

So you’re ready to try brewing looseleaf tea over grocery store teabags? Or maybe you were given some looseleaf tea as a gift and it’s only sitting in your cupboard untouched. If you’re new to brewing looseleaf tea, this “How to” guide is for you.

I’ve written about looseleaf tea brewing extensively in my article, “The Tea Party’s Most Important Ingredient” and shared what not to do when brewing tea in my article, “The Top Seven Mistakes Tea Drinkers Make”.This article is meant to provide a quick, simple guide.

First, Important Tea Facts You Should Know

  • One cup of tea is considered six ounces of water.
  • Four ounces of dry looseleaf tea makes approximately 50 cups of tea.

Basic Tea Brewing Equipment Needed

  1. A way to boil water. The microwave doesn’t count. A stove-top tea kettle is your best choice.
  2. A teaspoon to measure your leaves.
  3. A tea strainer. Tea Party Girl recommends a reusable tea filter or a disposable tea sack. Sometimes tea strainers are included in your teapot. The mesh balls most of us store in the back of our kitchen drawer are most likely NOT BIG ENOUGH, unless you are only brewing one cup. Tea leaves need plenty of room to expand.
  4. A teapot.  Even if you are only brewing a cup at a time, your tea brewing vessel needs a lid for the tea to brew and the leaves won’t be able to release their full flavor.

Tea-Brewing Steps

  1. Measure one teaspoon of dry tea leaves for each six ounces of water and place them in your tea strainer.
  2. Know how much water you need to boil to fill your teapot and boil it.
  3. Know the water temperature your particular tea leaf needs. Herb tisanes, rooibos infusions, oolong and black tea can take boiling water. Green tea can only handle a “quick steam” or about 180 degrees (water temp before it boils). White tea needs even less, closer to 160 degrees.
  4. When the water temp is right, pour the water over the leaves. It’s often said, bring your pot to the kettle, not your kettle to the pot. In other words, keep the water at the correct temp by doing this as quickly as you can after taking your kettle off the stove.
  5. Steep the tea leaves (in a covered vessel) for the appropriate length of time. Hopefully, your tea packaging tells you the correct time for your particular tea. Black and oolong tea is traditionally steeped for 3-5 minutes, green and white tea for two minutes, and herbal tisanes, fruit blends, and rooibos for at least five minutes.
  6. Remove your tea leaves and enjoy!

Other Helpful Tips to Successful Tea Brewing

  1. The water you choose to boil makes a difference in tea’s taste. Tap water, for example, often has high levels of chlorine in it.
  2. There are a number of ways to keep a pot of tea warm. Tea Party Girl’s favorite way is to use an insulated carafe for everyday use. For tea parties, I use tea warmers or tea cozies because they look better. In a pinch, my girlfriend used a dishtowel and clothespin to help the tea stay warmer longer.
  3. Tea will also stay warmer longer if you give your tea pot a boiling water or very hot tap water rinse to warm it up.
  4. Always try a sip of your tea first without any additions. A touch of milk gives a smoother brew and a lump of sugar a sweeter brew. However, the best tea needs nothing added and will provide the most health benefits.

The Reality of Tea’s Caffeine

One cup of black tea holds less than half the caffeine of the same cup of coffee, green and white tea less than half the caffeine of black. Many who cannot tolerate the caffeine of coffee find tea’s caffeine less troublesome. Tea caffeine releases into the bloodstream more slowly, providing a quiet lift instead of a jolt. All teas can be naturally decaffeinated by brewing the leaves for 30 seconds in a cup of water, throwing the water away and brewing the same leaves the appropriate time.

Sometimes people tell me they don’t have time to brew looseleaf tea, or it’s too much work. Often these are people who would die to have to drink instant coffee and tour wineries fascinated by the process of making good wine.

Tea, as a libation, needs a little tender, loving care as well. Don’t be afraid to practice the art and science of brewing looseleaf tea. It’s worth it!