Brewing loose leaf tea is quite easy, especially for something that many people seem to think is a difficult or complicated process. The goal is to let the tea leaves sit in hot water for a short period of time, then strain, or separate, the leaves from the water, and you are left with delicious tea! Here is a more in-depth guide:
For brewing our loose leaf teas, you will need a vessel such as a teacup, mug, teapot, or gaiwan, which is a traditional Chinese cup with lid-strainer. If you are using just a teacup or mug, you will, in addition, need to use either an infuser which reaches down into the cup or a loose leaf tea bag (such as tsac teabags). The infuser typically will have wings that sit on the rim of the cup or mug which is attached to the actual infuser which is usually a fine mesh in which you put the tea leaves.
You will of course need a way to heat up your water. Pure, filtered water is preferable to use, as water quality does affect the taste of the brewed tea. A stove-top kettle works, or there are many types of electric water boilers and kettles on the market which work fine. Avoid re-boiling your water multiple times as this will remove much of the oxygen which helps the tea leaves infuse. A microwave should be your last resort in making hot water, as this can actually make the water too hot, or can also impart strange flavors into the water.
A teaspoon seems obvious to mention, but this helps with measurement, especially if you are new to loose leaf tea. One heaping teaspoon will measure out approximately 2 grams of tea, which is the ideal measurement for an 8 oz cup of tea. For bulkier teas, like herbals or white teas, you will want to use about two teaspoons per 8 oz. To make a stronger cup of tea, use slightly more leaves.
The Steeping Steps:
Using 1 heaping teaspoon of leaves per 8 oz of hot water (double for bulkier teas like white teas or herbals), measure out your tea into your strainer or loose leaf tea bag.
Next, dispense the hot water into your teacup or teapot, feel free to pour it right over the leaves. Remember to use boiling (212°), or just under boiling, water for black teas and herbals; slightly lower temperature for oolongs and white teas (around 190°); and use lower temperature water for green teas (around 160°-175°). This is most important for the green teas, as these leaves are the most sensitive and if they get scorched by boiling water the tea will be bitter.
Once you have your tea leaves brewing in hot water, you will want to keep an eye on the timer. We strongly suggest setting a timer, as you may get interrupted by something and forget about your tea steeping away. For most teas, we suggest brewing for about 3 minutes. If you want to bring out a little more astringency or bitterness in the tea, go ahead and let it steep for another minute or two, typically not longer than 5 minutes. Some teas may be steeped again, if you use shorter steep times, such as 2 minutes for the first steeping, then 2 ½ minutes for the second steeping and so on. Herbals can and should be steeped longer (at least 5-6 minutes) and they will usually not get bitter if you let them keep on steeping.
After brewing your tea, you can discard the used leaves, or keep them to make a second steeping. We suggest adding spent tea leaves to your yard waste compost if you have one, as they really enhance compost. Infusers can just be rinsed with water between uses; soap or cleaner is generally not needed unless it hasn’t been used in a while or there is something on it from a previous steeping.
To make iced tea, we suggest following the same steps above, but use about half of the amount of hot water (or double the amount of leaves), then pour the hot brew over a cup full of ice cubes, this will make a great cup of iced tea without it getting too watered down. You can also do a cold steep method which we will go over separately.
One of the easiest ways to make iced tea is to use the cold steep method. With cold steep just add the tea to a large vessel, then add cold, or filtered tap water to the vessel and let the tea leaves steep for 4 hours or more. We usually just let it steep in the fridge overnight, then the next day you have delicious, smooth, refreshing iced tea all day! You will still want to use the proper amount of leaves, do the math and use about 2 grams (1 teaspoon) of tea per 8 oz of water.