Tea 101: How to Steep Tea
March 3, 2011
You will extract the most pleasure from fine tea, steeped with care. The Minister of Fire & Water suggests the following a step-by-step ritual for steeping tea:
Heat Your Water
• Tea begins with the water — the element that brings tea to its full potential. Fresh water yields a better cup. We recommend using filtered, spring or bottled water.
• Fill your tea kettle with fresh, cold water and heat to a rolling boil — unless you’re making green or 100% White Tea. In that case, stop short of boiling to avoid “cooking” the delicate tea leaves.
• Plan on about one teaspoon of tea or herbs or one tea bag per six-ounce cup. One six-ounce cup is the size of a traditional tea cup, not a mug. If using full leaf loose tea or herbs, place tea in infuser or teapot.
Time Your Steeping
• Pour the heated water over the tea, cover, and infuse to taste. Different teas take well to different infusing times. Experiment to find your ideal time, but take care – don’t steep for too long or you’ll find your tea has gone bitter.
Enjoy Your Tea
• Remove the tea bag or infuser, or use a tea strainer for the leaves. Pour the steaming tea into a cup and let it cool for a moment.
• Sip. Enjoy the nuances, the complexity and character. This is drinking tea.
Steeping tea is an ancient art that has been studied and perfected over the course of thousands of years. Various cultures around the globe have developed centuries-old traditions and ceremonies dedicated to this very act, most notably Japan.
Of course, steeping tea for sipping in your own home does not require such a great degree of fanfare or precision. That said, knowing how to steep tea correctly is still an important skill to learn. In addition to the above guide, we have also compiled some of our top tips for steeping tea.
Tips for Tea Steeping Success
- When heating water, the microwave will do in a pinch, but it is not recommended for optimal tea steeping results. We recommend a proper tea kettle.
- Be sure to pour the boiling water over the tea leaves, rather than adding the leaves to a cup or pot that already has hot water in it.
- Ensure the tea infuser is fully submerged beneath the water while steeping. This will allow the leaves to properly expand and open, releasing their full flavor.
- Remove the infuser or tea bag as soon as steeping is finished, in order to prevent over-steeping.
- If using tea bags, do not squeeze them during the steeping process, as this can also lead to bitterness.
- Before steeping, you may wish to preheat your teapot. This step helps to prevent your teapot from cracking due to the sudden change in temperature. Simply pour some of the heated water into the empty teapot and swirl it around, allowing it to warm the pot. Then, discard the water.
Remember – as you gain experience with steeping tea, you may learn that you have unique preferences regarding the quantity of tea leaves, water temperature, steeping times, and even steeping tools.
The above instructions serve only as a guide as you begin your journey with tea; as you discover your flavor and strength preferences, it is perfectly fine to deviate from these guidelines and develop your own steps to steeping tea.