More Tips on Steeping That Perfect Pot of Tea

The tips just keep coming. It seems that everyone who has ever steeped tea has the perfect method (even author George Orwell). And I’m here to present even more tips on steeping that perfect pot of tea.

Perfection is up to you! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)
Perfection is up to you! (Photo by A.C. Cargill, all rights reserved)

I’m going to begin by defining the goal here a bit better. Let’s think about a few things. What is “perfect”? What is “tea”? What is “steeping” (or infusing or brewing)? [A bit of a side note here: technically, you infuse tea, but culturally folks are used to saying steeping or brewing, so whatever works for you is fine here.]

A Perfect Pot of Tea Defined

For each type of tea this will be different. For flavored teas where fruits, flower petals, spices, and other items have been added to the tea leaves, again this will be different for each. Generally, perfect will be the exact right combination of tea, water, temperature, steeping time, and steeping vessel. Each will work in tandem to bring the full flavors out of the tea leaves and any additives.

Okay, Now How to Achieve This

The options are infinitesimal. A quick online search for “how to steep perfect tea” can pop up thousands of hits. Some are definitely better than others. The general advice is to use certain water temperatures and steeping times depending on the type of tea (white, green, yellow, oolong, black, or pu-erh). But there is also the school of thought that divides general tea steeping methods into Western (non-Asian) and Asian. There are lots of variations within each, but generally, Western uses larger pot sizes (2-, 4-, and 6-cup being the most common) and larger cups (4 to 16 ounces) while Asian teapots and cups are much, much smaller and measured in milliliters (ml) or cubic centimeters (cc).

Focusing on the Western approach, it is good to use a glass, ceramic, or bone china teapot for steeping, determine the proper temperature for the water and the steeping time, warm the teapot with a little hot water, add the tea (loose is best, but I understand that it can be a bit too much fuss, so an infuser or even teabags are good here).

Temperatures & Time Recommendations (for hot tea):

Tea Type Tsp per Cup Temp Time
White 1 to 1.5 80-85°C (175-185°F) 4 to 9 mins
Yellow 1 90°C (195°F) 3 mins
Green 1 65-80°C (150-175°F) 45 secs to 4 mins
Oolong 0.5 to 1 90°C (195°F) 3-6 mins
Black 0.5 to 1 90-96°C (195-205°F) 2-5 mins
Pu-erh 0.5 96°C (205°F) 15 secs to 7 mins
Blooming* 1 ball 83°C (180°F) 3-4 mins or until open

*Blooming teas are in tight balls (or other shapes) and take longer to open and the water works its way in.

Bottom Line

The best way to steep the perfect pot of tea is to do a bit of research first and then apply that knowledge. Enjoy!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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