Customers frequently ask our staff how to brew tea and the answers are numerous. For each type of tea there is likely a specific way to brew it, but not necessarily one proper way. Our firm belief is that what tastes right to your individual palate is the best option, though it may take awhile to find that perfect taste, this article will help you better understand the classic way to brew your tea.

I will begin with the most delicate teas that require cooler water and no rinsing, followed by oolongs, black, pu’er and herbals.

Some White and Green teas are produced from the most delicate part of camellia sinensis (tea plant), the first buds and leaves of the plucking season. The tea is then either withered, steamed or pan-dried to stop the oxidation of the leaves, thus creating green tea. Because of the delicate nature of the tea leaves we Do Not use boiling water on white and green tea. This may be a make or break point in your decision of which tea to consume, since some people crave boiling hot water to sip their tea. If that is the case, you can either drink black tea or astringent green tea, since that taste is the outcome of singed leaves.
The ideal water temperature for white and green tea is between 160- 180 F, a way to practice this is 80% boiling water and 20% cool temperature.thermometer White and green teas are not rinsed, the first steeping is usually the best, with the most complex flavor and satisfying taste. These teas will have 2-3 good steepings with subsequent brews stirring up just a light essence of tea flavor in the water. I recommend brewing the first cup with cooler water for just 50-60 seconds, the second cup can steep a bit longer (1 to 2 minutes) with the same temperature water and the third steeping can use the hottest water and steep until there is some color and flavor to the brew. Any steepings after this will not be fruitful, but perhaps enjoyable.
White teas are unique because these can steep for a long time, though I don’t often try this, some say these teas can steep for 15 minutes! Go ahead and try that on the second steeping and see what develops, likely there will be complex flavors that you didn’t notice before.

Oolongs, a world unto themselves, these complex, fragrant and overall beautiful teas range from 15-75% oxidation. Most familiar to many people are the tightly rolled oolong leaves that unfurl with each steeping and other oolong leaves are twisted. How to best enjoy an oolong may vary with the type, oxidation, country of origin and age of the tea. Use this guide as simply a rule of thumb and find what works best with your palate and tea. brewing-tea-image You can use boiling water for oolongs, or perhaps a little bit under boiling. For rolled oolongs add one heaping teaspoon of the leaves in order to have several steepings. If you don’t have time and will not be enjoying all 5-7 steepings the tea has to offer then use less leaves.
Rinse the leaves! This first rinse is wonderful. Simply pour some boiling water over the leaves and immediately rinse it off. The rinse removes any tea dust and prepares the leaves for opening. It is said that the 2nd and 3rd steepings of oolongs are the most enjoyable, so don’t feel bad about discarding the first one.
The first steeping, similar to green tea, is short, about 1 minute or even less. The second steeping is a bit longer, and the 3rd, 4th and 5th are each longer than the one before. It is a pretty elementary process considering the complex flavor that arises in your cup. Often a fine oolong will have hints of sweetness, floral aromas and undertones of strong, smokey flavor.

Black teas. I am not so adept at steeping black teas, but somehow feel qualified to write about them since it is fairly simple. Use boiling water, steep for a minute or 2, depending on how strong you like your brew. If you plan to add cream, milk or a sweetener then steep the tea for a longer time so you can really taste the tea. Black teas provide 3-4 decent steepings, the first one is very strong and the rest are progressively milder.brewing-black-tea Pu’er, a rich, earthy tea from China’s southern Yunnan Province, is sometimes considered the red wine of tea. This complex tea is either pressed into a cake while the leaves are green and then aged for several years, during which time the leaves oxidize and it transforms into a rich and almost hearty black tea. If not pressed into a cake the leaves are stored loose and may be oxidized before storage, though this is not always the case. Either way, this tea is a must try for any tea drinker, since it’s origins can be traced back thousands of years and is perhaps the first traded, highly prized tea. (I would love to know what it tasted like hundreds of years ago)
Pu’er’s should be enjoyed with boiling water. In cake form, one must break off a piece of the cake, roughly 2 inches by 2 inches, or enough to fit in a teaspoon. At Teahouse Kuan Yin, we use YiXing pottery to brew our Pu’ers, since the clay pot will absorb the wonderful flavor and aroma of the tea. brewed-black-in-decantur1 Rinsing is a must for Pu’ers, some people even rinse the tea twice (not recommended for loose-leaf). After the first rinse, the first steeping is short, about 30 seconds. If it is a “cooked” or black Pu’er then the brew will be amber in color, reminiscent of maple syrup. The tea will steep several more times, perhaps so many more that you find you are still enjoying a full flavored brew after 9 steepings and several hours of great accomplishments. Like red wine, this tea has given rise to great poetry, novels, paintings and any work that one attempts while sipping Pu’er. It’s robust aroma and flavor, which is described as earthy, and powerful effects is not necessarily due to a higher caffeine content, in fact, many teas loose the caffeine within the first 1-3 steepings. What causes the power of Pu’er is unknown, drinkers do not get jittery like they would from coffee, and the smoothness of the tea is translated into whatever one puts their mind to. Enjoy Pu’er and remove any excess water from the leaves between steepings. It is also said that this tea helps to lower cholesterol.

Herbals. Herbal teas do not have camellia sinensis, and therefore are caffeine free. Some are a combination of herbs, flowers and bushes, such as a rooibos-peppermint blend and can be steeped however you like. If you desire a hot brew, go ahead and use boiling water, if you want a strong taste, brew for several minutes, the flavor will only be enhanced. Unlike camelia sinensis, which becomes astringent and bitter from over-steeping, herbals only become stronger in flavor. Many herbals taste great with a touch of honey too!

If you still have questions or comments please feel free to ask them on our blog or send us an email. We are happy and excited to about all topics related to tea and look forward to hearing from you!