Proper preparation will bring out the best in your tea. Conversely, improper brewing may make even the highest grade tea bitter and undrinkable. Here is a rough reference guide to start. Refine based on personal preference.
|White||1 teaspoon/6oz water||175-185 F||1-3 min|
|Green||1 teaspoon/6oz water||175-185 F||2-3 min|
|Oolong||1 teaspoon/6oz water||185-195 F||3-4 min|
|Black||1 teaspoon/6oz water||200-212 F||4-5 min|
Ideally, you should start with cold, freshly drawn water. If you have purified water on hand, that's even better as it's free from pollutants that may adversely impact the taste of the tea. Avoid hot water directly from the tap since it may pick up residue from pipes.
Water temperature makes a BIG impact on the final flavor of your tea. A common misconception is that all teas should steep in boiling water. The optimal water temperature, however, varies from tea to tea. Steep at too low a temperature and you do not extract adequate flavor from the leaves. Steep at too high a temperature and you end up with an overly astringent cup.
A general rule of thumb is that lighter, more delicate teas should steep at lower temperatures while darker, more robust teas should steep at higher temperatures. For example, green teas should steep at lower water temperatures. Black teas, on the other hand, should steep at near boiling temperatures.
An easy shortcut to bringing water to the proper temperature is to transfer boiling water (212 degrees) from the kettle to vessels at room temperature. Each successive transfer will bring the water temperature down by about 10 degrees. For example, to get water from just boiling to about 190, pour from kettle to a cup, then from the first cup to a second.
Just like temperature, different types of teas taste best with different steep times. Steeping for too long will trigger the release of bitter tannins. If you like more flavor in your tea, increase tea leaves, not steep time (unless you like bitter, leathery flavors). When you reach the appropriate steep time, remove and set aside the tea for later infusions.
Here is an another general rule of thumb based on the tea type. More delicate teas, like greens and whites should steep for about 1-3 min. Black teas should steep for 4-5 min.
Unlike tea bags, most loose leaf teas can be steeped multiple times, with character and flavor evolving through each subsequent infusion. Later infusions will typically yield more mellow notes with less astringency. We recommend increasing the steep time by a minute or so with each additional infusion, but it's ultimately based on personal preference. Some teas are known to last through a dozen infusions!