How To Make Tea – Loose Leaf & Bags

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Making the perfect cup of tea is not difficult if you get three factors right. Water quality, water temperature and steeping time can make or break a cup of tea.

If you’d like to build a tea habit, consider purchasing some good grocery store tea for practicing. There are many different ways to make tea, but let’s take it from the experts and learn how to make a proper cup of tea.​

Water Quality Is Important!

There’s a strong tendency to view tap water as unclean or unpleasant to drink, and depending on your location, that may be true.

If you have access to clean, drinkable tap water but have a high mineral content, your tea may have a metallic or simply “off” flavor. Sodium in water, either as a softening agent or in desert regions, can also impact the final flavor of your tea.

The Tea Test​

Food authority Max Falkowitz performed a taste test with straight tap water, filtered tap water, Evian water and Eternal bottled water. For their teas, they used a good quality grocery store brand black tea, a popular green tea, and a custom Oolong tea blend.​


The flavor of the black tea was heavily impacted by water. Both tap and filtered tap water were found to be unpleasant; the bottled water versions were much tastier.

Unfortunately, the green tea was found nearly unfit to drink no matter which water was used.

The custom Oolong blend scored equally high when made with bottled water as it did when made with tap water.

The lesson?

Use water from your standard drinking water source and vary the steeping times to determine what your water draws from your tea.

If your tea is bitter or astringent, allow the boiled water to cool a bit before brewing and taste again.

Once water has been boiled, discard it and boil fresh. Re-boiled water can pick up unpleasant flavors.

SEE ALSO: Best Tea Kettle

Tea Water Temperature​

When trying a new tea or attempting to alter the flavor of a tea you’ve had before, water temperature is critical. Tea authorities with Art of Tea offer a detailed chart on how hot the water should be for brewing and the best steeping time.

White and green teas are more delicate than black and oolong teas. Allow boiled water to rest and let the temperature drop a bit before steeping white or green teas.

White & Green Tea​

An ideal brewing temperature for white and green tea is 175 degrees Fahrenheit / 79 degrees / Celsius. This will reduce the risk of an overly astringent flavor developing from overheated green and white tea.

Black and Oolong Tea​

Black tea and oolong teas taste best when exposed to hotter water. The ideal temperature for these teas is 206 degrees Fahrenheit / 97 degrees Celsius. Over-brewed black and oolong teas can become bitter if brewed in water that is too hot.

Tea Steeping Times

An easy way to destroy a good cup of tea is to expose it to water that is too hot. Another way is to steep it for too long or too short a time.

how to steep tea bags

What does steep tea mean? Steeping is the sciences of letting tea leaves or bags sit in hot water to release their wonderful flavor and aroma into the water and the air around the cup or tea pot.

One of the things to remember when learning how to steep tea is that not every tea is going to taste good to every person.

​Green & White Teas

Green tea is, by its nature, slightly acidic. If you don’t care for acidic beverages, you may never like green tea.​

To start, brew a weak cup. The recommended steeping time for green tea is three minutes. Boil your water, let it rest for three minutes, then steep your green tea for one minute. If you don’t like the flavor after one minute of steeping, maybe green tea isn’t for you. Oolong and white teas offer a milder flavor and plenty of the health benefits of green tea.

Tea steeping times are critical. If you are prone to starting a cup and walking away only to become distracted and face a tart or overly bitter cup of cold tea, use a timer to remind you to monitor your cup or pot until you find your ideal tea flavor.

How long should tea steep? White and green tea shouldn’t steep for more than three minutes. Over-steeping can cause an unpleasant astringent flavor.

Black And Oolong Teas​

Black and oolong teas can be steeped up to four to five minutes. Again, consider personal tastes. If black tea only tastes good to you with plenty of sugar because you find it to be bitter, maybe it’s not your beverage. Try oolong for a milder flavor all around.​

When learning how to make good tea, it’s important to focus on the essentials and not get tangled up in all of the accessories. Your oven timer can help you track resting time for boiled water temperatures to come down.

Steeping times can also be monitored with an oven timer. If you’re working with grocery store teas, these simple instructions on how to steep tea bags can be learned quickly.

How To Make Loose Leaf Tea​

Loose leaf tea can be made as easily as bagged tea; once the water has reached the right temperature, pour it over the leaves and allow it to steep for the recommended time.

However, if you drink loose leaf tea without tea tools like strainer balls, the question of how to drink loose leaf tea without leaving bits of tea leaves in your teeth is a challenge!

tea strainer

Tea authority Nick Schaferhoff offers a simple and time tested method for drinking tea made without a strainer.

As bits of tea leaves float to the top of your cup, blow on the tea to move them to the other side and consume your fresh, hot tea in little sips. Slurping is acceptable.​

Final Thoughts

A quality cup of tea is a soothing treat. The warmth, aroma and flavor will engage your sense. Tea teaches us to wait and to savor. Focus on water quality, brewing temperature and steeping time to develop the habit of making excellent tea.​

Written By Tara Williams

Tara is a food writer that has been editing and authoring articles for KitchenSanity since its founding. Her writing offers personal experience from experimentation with food and recipe creation. If you’re looking for simple tips, she will make your journey in the kitchen straightforward with a dash of fun.