I’m always getting the times & temperatures for tea brewing mixed up. I’m glad to have this chart.
I steep my teas (all of them) until they are a shade of tea that I enjoy drinking. I don’t understand why tea has to have specific time frames for steeping. For optimum flavor? For optimum benefits? No, really, I’m curious about why steeping tea is so complicated.
There are a lot of reasons, actually!
For green teas, you want to avoid steeping them for more than 3-5 minutes or else it gets really bitter. The same goes for if you’re steeping mate.
White teas are really delicate, so if the temperature is too high, it’ll ruin the flavour.
Herbal teas need to be steeped at a higher temperature for a longer time because… well, they’re not tea leaves! It takes more to get whatever it is you’re using to release its flavour, basically.
There’s more to it, but that’s all I can remember off the top of my head.
ALLY OR ANY OF MY OTHER TEA-SAVVY BUDDIES, any input or anything to add on to what I said?
There’s also the risk of burning the tea leaves if you use boiling water for white, green, yellow, and even some oolong teas! White teas are especially at risk for this, as Angus said, because they’re so delicate; oolongs, especially those closer to black tea on the oxidation scale, are hardier, but whites and yellows should be brewed at the lowest temperature.
Steeping time is a bit more up to personal preference (I typically steep my green teas at 3-4 minutes, or even up to 5 if it’s bagged tea and not full leaf tea). I actually see black teas, for example, being recommended for longer steeping times; Adagio recommends 3-5 minutes, Majesteas 3-4, and David’s Tea actually recommends 4-6 or even up to 7 minutes. It also heavily depends on the type of black tea, whether it’s an Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Chinese, or if it’s a blend like Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast, or if it’s flavoured tea like masala chai, since those typically have more than just camellia sinensis leaves. The Tea Emporium’s black tea page actually has them categorized quite well, and makes for a pretty good start off base for black tea!
As for herbal teas, and this is where I really rip into the infographic, I am really side-eyeing the graphic here, because, well, 3-6 minutes IS a pretty safe ballpark to assign herbal teas, it’s also a gross overgeneralization because the umbrella category of herbal teas includes yerba mate, guayusa, rooibos and honeybush, lapacho, fruit blends, tisanes, and every combination under the sun of them. And while you can pretty much steep rooibos/honeybush, tisanes, and fruit blends as long as you want since they’re completely based on personal taste, you really don’t want to do that with yerba mate, because, as Angus also said, it gets incredibly bitter incredibly easily.
If I was any good at graphic designing I would make an infographic for this, but these, here, are my personal preferences for brewing herbal teas:
- Yerba mate: 4-5 minutes, water just under boiling
- Guayusa: 4-7 minutes, boiling or just under
- Rooibos and honeybush: As long as I want, boiling water
- Lapacho: 3-5 minutes, boiling or just under
- Fruit blends: As long as I want, boiling water
- Herbal blends/Tisanes: As long as I want, boiling water
By herbal blends I mean things like chamomile, peppermint/spearmint, raspberry leaves, flowers of any kind, roots, and the infinite combinations of all of them and more. For example, when I’m brewing any of Pukka’s herbal teas I just stick a bag in a mug, pour in the water, and leave it until I’m finished or don’t want to deal with the teabag floating around anymore.
All the brewing times and temperatures I list are for loose leaf teas! For bagged teas of any kind, especially camellia sinensis tea, I use slightly hotter water and about a minute to 2 minutes longer for steeping time. You might find you prefer something different!
These are, again, my personal preferences all based on how I like my tea and someone else might totally say “ugh no why would you steep mate for longer than 3 minutes IT’S SO HORRIBLE AFTER THAT” and they would be totally right, because yerba mate is finnicky and there are other factors that go into it, and I tend to be more okay with mate being a bit bitter than other people.
If you like adding milk or any kind of creamer to tea (typical British style), you can either steep it a bit longer or use more tea to avoid the milk diluting the flavour.
On the topic of using more or less, this post doesn’t even get into how much tea to use per 1 cup/6 ounces when it comes to loose leaf tea, BUT I THINK I HAVE RAMBLED ENOUGH AND THAT CAN BE A POST FOR ANOTHER TIME.
In any case, I hope this helps anyone who cares!