Whether tea is your favorite beverage or you just occasional drink it, brewing your tea at the correct temperature is very important to get the best flavor and bring out all the lovely nuances of the tea leaves. In order to achieve tea perfection, you need to use properly heated water and steep for the ideal amount of time.
To make the whole process easier, we’re sharing a chart of the best water temperature and steeping times for your favorite teas below.
How Does Water Temperature Affect Brewed Tea?
There are a couple of ways the water temperature affects tea. Getting the water too hot can actually burn some of the more delicate tea leaves such as green and white teas. Hot water can also dissolve more of the tannins (what gives the tea it’s flavor) which will leave you with an undesirable taste. Tea that is brewed in too hot of water generally tastes bitter and sometimes burnt.
If you use too cold of water, basically the exact opposite happens. All of the delicious delicate flavors that the tea leaves hold aren’t released. This makes the end result bland and essentially just hot water with no flavor.
Ideal Temperatures for Brewing Tea
Black is the most robust of the tea varieties and can be brewed in boiling water, usually steeped for 4 to 6 minutes. Make sure to not over-steep black tea, as it can easily become bitter and burnt tasting.
As to be expected, oolong tea falls between green and black. The best temperature is around 190 F. But oolong should be steeped longer than black tea, for around 5 to 8 minutes. If you’re steeping loose leaf tea, you can try the traditional small pot method that has been used in ancient China and Taiwan for centuries.
You will need to be more gentle with your green teas. The water temperature should be around 150 to 160 F and only steeped for 2 to 4 minutes. Water temperature for green teas also varies depending on whether it’s a straight green tea, or if it has other flavors in it. Make sure to check the recommendations on your tea before brewing.
Another delicate tea that should be treated gently. When brewing white tea, err on the side of colder water because it is so sensitive to temperature. If you want to be a bit extra careful, aim for the range 10 F below the recommendations for the tea. With white tea, the water can be a bit warmer than for green tea, at 180 F. You should let it steep longer, though, for at least 4 to 6 minutes.
This red herbal tea from South Africa is very hardy stuff and should be prepared with fully boiling water, just like black tea. Steep this tea for around 5 minutes to get the best result, it should smell nutty and fragrant when it’s ready.
With so many different herbs that can be used for herbal tea blends, there is no way to give any temperature or steeping guidelines with any accuracy. Most herbs can be brewed in boiling water and steeped for about 5 minutes. You might need a bit of trial and error to get the perfect cup.
How to Tell the Water Temperature
The two best ways to tell how hot the water is that you prepare are:
- With a temperature controlled kettle
- With a thermometer
A temperature controlled kettle is a great way to go if you brew a lot of different types of tea, other than black. You can set the kettle to heat the water to the desired temperature, and that ensures you always get the right water for the type of tea you’re making.
The kettle pictured above (available on Amazon) has buttons for all the different temperatures that say which tea they’re right for (boil, delicate, white, green, oolong, and french press).
If you don’t have a thermometer handy, you can tell the water temperature by watching the bubbles. Small bubbles will float to the surface of the water 160 to 170 F, and you’ll see strings of bubbles from the bottom of the kettle at 180 to 190 F. After that, you’ll have a full rolling boil.
What is the Best Water to Use for Brewing Tea?
The truth is, tea is almost entirely water. So many people swear by using a specific type of water to brew their tea for maximum enjoyment.
Yes, the water is important. If you use salty tap water that you wouldn’t generally drink by itself your tea will probably taste weird. That being said, most tap water will do fine. If you like the taste of your tap water, then it will usually make good tea.
The general consensus is that if you want the best tea using a higher end bottled water will be best. Unlike tap water that has chemicals and minerals in it, bottled water will have less mineral content and will be purer than tap water. This will lead to your tea taking on less of the flavor of whatever water you used.
More Tea Brewing Tips
- Never use water that has been sitting out for over a few minutes, or water that has already been boiled. It might be tempting to use that left over kettle water again, but boiling the water depletes it of oxygen and using that in tea will make a ‘flat cup’. Flat cups have a slightly different flavor, it’s like drinking stale water.
- Try to use loose leaf tea if you can. Yes, grocery store tea bags are serviceable – my favorite tea is Lady Grey from Twinning’s and I’m no stranger to grocery store teas. But the inarguable fact is that they generally aren’t as good of quality as loose leaf teas are.
- The finely ground tea found in tea bags is also easier to overstep due to the increased surface area of the leaves touching the water. Therefore, tea bags often lead to more bitter tea than loose leaf.
»You might be interested in How Long Tea Lasts. Find out more about when to toss out that tea and how to properly store it to extend its life.
Tea is as good as the time you put into preparing it. If you prepare it with care and precision, it can be a beautiful and flavorful drink. Make it to your liking and enjoy the process, you’re on your way to the perfect cup!
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Jillian attends college in a small town in Oregon, where she’s is pursuing her passion for people. She enjoys music, writing, and baking in her spare time.