Looking to learn how to brew loose leaf tea properly and with a delicious outcome?
There is a best practice when it comes to brewing loose leaf tea. A tea connoisseur will tell you that the excellence of the final cup depends on the quality of the tea leaves, water temperature, and steeping duration. Each kind of tea has a different temperature and steeping duration for drinkers to follow. Still, the most important thing to remember is focusing on how to brew tea that is to your liking. This might involve experimenting with different brands of loose leaf tea, different temperatures, and steep times.
First and foremost, familiarize yourself with the best way to steep loose leaf tea.
- tea kettle
- loose leaf tea
- infuser (optional)
If you don’t have an infuser in your kitchen, don’t worry. Keep reading for how to brew loose leaf tea without an infuser. The process for brewing the perfect cup of loose leaf tea with and without an infuser is easy and fast. Below is everything you need to know to brew a delicious cup of loose leaf tea.
How to Find a Quality Loose Leaf Tea
With so many different brands and types of loose leaf tea available today, knowing that you’re brewing a quality loose leaf can be challenging. There are a handful of factors to consider when selecting a loose leaf tea.
There are two main ways of processing loose leaf tea: CTC (cut, tear, curl) and Orthodox. The CTC process involves breaking up the tea leaves to brew a strong and flavorful cup of tea. Orthodox processing includes delicately handling the tea leaves to create a lighter and smoother tea. You should be able to taste and see what process the tea has undergone.
As a general rule, avoid loose leaf tea that includes a lot of sticks and looks crumbly. A lower-quality tea with unsavory bits is likely to be less flavorful. The tea leaves should also unfurl as they steep to release the maximum amount of flavor possible.
Here are a few quick reference points to help identify tea quality:
- A quality loose leaf tea will have a strong scent, no matter what kind of tea it is. If there is a weak scent, it might mean that your tea is of poor quality or getting old.
- When you drink high-quality tea, you should be able to taste hints of the different ingredients.
- It should be smooth and flavorful without being overbearing.
- If the tea tastes watery or light, it might be poor-quality tea.
Water Temperatures and Steeping Duration
Knowing the water temperature and steeping duration of your loose leaf can be the difference between a good and great cup of tea. If you make sure to stick to these tips, you’ll have the perfect cup of tea every brew.
These are general guiding principles when brewing your loose leaf tea. Also, the packaging should provide instructions for that specific tea.
White and green: 170-185 degrees Fahrenheit
Oolong: 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit
Black and herbal: 208-212 degrees Fahrenheit
White and green: 2-4 minutes
Black: 3-5 minutes
Oolong: 5-7 minutes
Red and herbal: 5-7 minutes
Keep in mind that these are typical recommendations for brewing loose leaf tea. However, they are adjustable to your liking. Steep for a shorter duration if you prefer a lighter tea. Brew longer if you desire a stronger-tasting tea.
How to Measure Loose Leaf Tea for Brewing
Steep time and water temperature aren’t the only things that impact how your tea tastes. It’s also important to know just how much loose leaf tea to brew when you are preparing your favorite drink.
Steeping too much loose leaf tea could lead to tea that tastes pungent or bitter. Too few leaves will have the opposite effect. When it comes down to your ideal cup, it truly depends on your taste preferences. Luckily, there is a general rule of thumb when it comes to measuring loose leaf tea to help you get started.
Typically, one serving of loose leaf tea is measured at two grams of loose leaf per eight ounces of water. Two grams is about equal to one tablespoon of loose leaf. This measuring guideline is consistent across all kinds of tea, but you might find that some brands or types of tea require more or less loose leaf.
2g of tea per 8oz of water
2g = 1 tbsp
The best way to steep loose leaf tea is to follow these instructions and use a proper tea infuser.
How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea With an Infuser
The best way to brew loose leaf tea is with an infuser. Infusers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but most have a mesh ball or basket that holds the tea leaves while hot water steeps them. The best loose leaf tea infusers allow leaves to expand as they soak in the water, giving your cup of tea an optimized flavor.
- While your water is boiling in the kettle, measure your loose leaf tea into the infuser. Remember the amount of tea = personal preferences + the recommended amount for the brand/type of tea you’re drinking.
- Place the infuser inside your teacup. Some infusers sit at the bottom of the cup. Others perch along the rim.
- When the water has reached the desired temperature, pour it over the infuser and into the teacup.
- Set a timer (see above for recommended steep times) and wait.
- When the time is complete, remove the infuser and enjoy your fresh cup of tea.
How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea Without an Infuser
Not owning an infuser doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a great cup of loose leaf tea. There are a handful of strategies you can use depending on what’s already available in your kitchen.
Option 1: Loose in the Mug
The first option is to simply scoop your loose leaf straight into your tea mug and pour the hot water over the top. Allow for the recommended steep time then enjoy. Brewing loose in the cup is an alright option, as long as you don’t mind ingesting a few tea leaves while drinking.
Option 2: Strain out the Leaves
Your second choice to brew loose leaf tea without an infuser is similar to the first.
Pour hot water directly over the loose leaf tea in a mug and let it steep. When it’s done steeping, use a mesh strainer or slotted spoon to pour the steeped tea into a new mug. The mesh strainer or slotted spoon will catch most of the tea leaves so you can enjoy a cup of loose leaf tea without the leaves bumping against your mouth.
Option 3: Homemade Tea Bags
Finally, when using an infuser for your loose leaf tea isn’t an option, you can opt to make your own tea bag. For this, you can use a coffee filter, cheesecloth, or anything else you find in your kitchen that will have a similar effect. Bag the loose leaf tea in the homemade tea bag and steep away. Bear in mind you might need to make adjustments to the recommended steeping duration to accommodate for a handmade teabag. Depending on what material you use, the tea might come out slightly weaker.
How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea Sustainably
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that brewing loose leaf tea is better for the environment than using tea bags. There is less waste when using loose leaf tea, and the leaves themselves are biodegradable. However, there are simple additional steps you can take to make your loose leaf tea brewing as sustainable as possible.
Shrink Your Carbon-Tea-Print
- Only heat as much water in your kettle as you’re using for your teacup. It will take less time to heat, allowing you to enjoy that lovely cup of tea sooner, and less energy is used to heat the water.
- Use an electric tea kettle instead of a stovetop kettle. Most stovetops use gas to power them. It’s better for your carbon footprint when you heat your water with a pot that uses electricity.
- Re-steep your loose leaf tea. For some of the higher-quality brands, you can easily get two or three cups of tea from the same leaves. You’ll be helping the planet and saving a little money in the long run.
- Compost your used loose leaf. Aforementioned, loose leaf tea leaves are biodegradable, which makes them excellent contenders for compost.
- Research the sustainability practices of the companies you’re purchasing tea from. Are they taking steps to lessen their carbon footprint? Supporting brands that are working hard to make delicious tea sustainably is a simple and impactful way to drink loose leaf responsibly.
Enjoy Your Perfect Brew
Brewing the perfect cup of loose leaf tea is simple when keeping in mind these few tips and tricks. Knowing your preferences and being familiar with the recommended water temperature, steep duration, and loose leaf measuring suggestions will help you make an excellent cup with or without an infuser. Don’t hesitate to get creative and experiment with different tea brands and brewing techniques. You’ll soon be brewing the best loose leaf tea for your tastes.