Ultimate Guide to Brewing Tea and Tisanes

Posted by Elizabeth Taeed on

A man we once met in Spain mentioned that he couldn’t stand green tea, but choked it down because it was healthy. It turned out he was steeping three green tea bags in boiling water in a Thermos for 4 hours! No wonder he hated it...

Here's how to avoid committing a tea-brewing crime, and how to make delicious tea that you will actually enjoy drinking.


Matcha Alternatives How to Brew Tea

Jump straight to brewing Instructions and guides for:
A Brief Guide to Teaware:

 Pouring Tea into Tea Cup

The difference between a great cup of tea and something that is best for watering plants is down to three key factors:

  1. Time: Always make sure your tea doesn't over- or under-brew
  2. Temperature: Ensure that your water is the right temperature (some teas taste best in boiling water, whereas others will burn)
  3. Quantity: Check that you have used enough tea (to your taste of course!)

(If you're still unsure, check our our blog post on troubleshooting your tea making)

Also, all of our teas are loose leaf. Loose leaf tastes much better (as it is higher quality than the dust packed into teabags) and is safer than teabags. Teabags are often coated in nasty chemicals and the leaves themselves may have dust and residue on them. Loose leaf, unlike teabags, can be washed (quickly under the faucet will do it) just as you would with fruit and vegetables. Tastes better and safer? Yes please!

Our tea types have slightly different requirements to creating the perfect brew. Note that antioxidants tend to disappear after 3-4 hours of brewing, so be careful if you are making iced tea - if you brew it overnight (a delicious way to make tea), the antioxidant levels will be lower than you would otherwise expect.

First a quick summary for those in a rush to make some tea, and then details for once you've made your cup and need something to read.

Pouring Afternoon Tea

Herbal Teas / Tisanes Brewing Chart*

Moringa Tea Powder

212F (100C)

1-2tsp (heaped)

8oz / 1 normal mug

Shake, stir or whisk and it's ready to drink!

Chamomile

212 F (100 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug 5+ minutes
Tulsi 212 F (100 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep for 5+ minutes
Honeybush and Rooibos 212 F (100 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep for 5+ minutes
Yerba Mate 100-170 F (40-75 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep for 2-3 minutes

 

* If you are using a teapot, a general rule of thumb is a heaped spoonful per person and one for the pot. In other words, add another teaspoon to all the above measurements. ;-) // Click here to learn more about herbal teas

Range of Green Teas

'True' Tea Brewing Chart (including for flavored tea)*

White Tea ~160-200F (70-95C) (cooler for a milder tea, hotter for a stronger brew) 2-3tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug

Steep 1-9 minutes. The cooler the water, the longer the brew and the less caffeine, in general. Plus, the leaves have a rainbow of flavors; re-steeping and brewing at different temperatures can reveal them!

Green Tea ~120-180 F (50-82 C) (cooler for Japanese green teas, hotter for Chinese greens) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep 1-3 minutes.
Purple Tea ~160 F (71 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep 3 minutes.
Oolong Tea ~180-205 F (82-96 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep 1.5-2 minutes, unless you are re-steeping. Then, steep 1-1.5 minutes. Rinse the leaves in hot water prior to brewing for best results.
Black Tea ~190-210 F (88-99 C) 1-2tsp (heaped) 8oz / 1 normal mug Steep 2-5 minutes. Be careful, re-steeping brings out bitterness in black tea!

* If you are using a teapot, a general rule of thumb is a heaped spoonful per person and one for the pot. In other words, add another teaspoon to all the above measurements. // Click here to learn more about 'true' teas

Many Different Teas in Mugs

Detailed Brewing Instructions

How to Brew Rooibos and Honeybush

Spoon tea leaves into your infuser (a tea ball, a strainer, a DIY teabag, or straight into your teapot). Use 1-2 tsp (heaped) for a mug, and 2-3tsp for a pot. Briefly rinse under the faucet and then pour over freshly boiled water (212F / 100C) and steep for 5-7 minutes. Don't worry, a quick wash won't remove the taste if you're making a blended tea!

If you want a stronger flavor, add another teaspoon of leaves and steep for 5 minutes. (Steeping longer won't make it bitter, but with rooibos can result in a slightly metallic flavor.)

For iced rooibos, follow the same steps per tea, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Why? Because we can't taste cold as well as hot or warm, so we need to make the flavor stronger. Also, most people add ice cubes to their ice tea, which of course waters it down further.

Let it steep for around twenty minutes, and possibly overnight. Then put in the fridge, or pour directly over ice.

You can also cold-brew your rooibos and honeybush: follow the same steps as above, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight. 

To learn more, check out our blog post about Rooibos and Honeybush, what they are and their health benefits. The natural step after that is to become totally obsessed with these teas, and you can try a huge variety of them here.

1 tsp Loose Leaf Rooibos Tea

How to Brew Tulsi Holy Basil

The only rule when steeping Tulsi is Don't burn it. Apart from that, time and quantity are quite flexible! 

Start with 1-2tsp (heaped) for one mug of tea and 2-3tsp (heaped) for a pot. Boil water, then let it sit for a minute OR pour it into another vessel before pouring it over your rinsed leaves.

Avoid using water that's hotter than 200F (93C), and because boiled water initially cools down very fast just leaving it for a little while will do the trick.

Steep for 5-8 minutes. If you want a stronger flavor, add another teaspoon of leaves and steep for 5-6 minutes (better to increase the amount of tea rather than the brewing time if you're after the maximum amount of antioxidants). To get the full antioxidant hit, ensure it steeps for minimum 5 minutes.  

For iced tea, follow the same steps per tea, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water.

Then put in the fridge, or pour directly over ice.

You can also cold-brew your Holy Basil: follow the same steps as above, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight.  

If you want to Tulsi Holy Basil in your life, try our Tulsi Holy Basil teas and prepare to be wowed.

Tulsi Holy Basil Matcha Alternatives

How to Brew Moringa

If you're familiar with how to make matcha, then you already know how to make moringa. Because it is powdered moringa leaf, it doesn't have a steeping time, and it's simply a question of how to add the powder to your water.

There are two ways:

1) Use your matcha chawan and chasen (bowl and whisk, in English). Add 1tsp powder for a thinner tea, and 3tsp for a thicker drink (in both cases, make sure they are heaped). Pour over freshly boiled water (212F/100C) and whisk in a figure-eight motion until frothy. 

If you don't have a bowl and whisk, you can also add your moringa powder and water to a glass jar and shake to mix, HOWEVER BE CAREFUL and do at your own risk, as the jar will get very hot and you need to make sure the lid is securely on. A much faster method, but risky. I recently broke a jar when making some moringa when I put it down on a stone counter-top and it shattered, so this method is definitely living life on the wild side. 

2) Spoon 1-2tsp (heaped) into a mug and add boiling water. Stir with a spoon and it's ready to drink. 

If you want a stronger flavor, add another half teaspoon of powder. It can also be added straight to your smoothies or water bottle.

For iced moringa, simply stir the powder into cold water and enjoy! This is how it is commonly consumed in India, where it is often given to help manage diabetes.

To learn more, check out our blog post about Moringa and our two-part series on adaptogens, the hero of the plant world. If you want to try Moringa for yourself, our Superior Moringa Tea Powder is the best place to start!

Superior Moringa Tea Powder Matcha Alternatives

How to Brew Chamomile

Brewing chamomile is nice and easy as it doesn't burn.

Use 1-2tsp for one normal-sized mug and pour over freshly boiled water (212F/100C). Steep for 5 minutes. Because this tea is quite 'fluffy', use heaped spoonfuls and err on the generous side!

However, if you want a stronger flavor, add another heaped teaspoon of leaves and steep for 2-3 minutes. (Steeping longer, surprisingly, doesn't enhance the flavor and instead results in a slightly bitter brew.)

For iced tea, follow the same steps, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes, possibly overnight. Then put in the fridge, or pour directly over ice. 

You can also cold-brew your Chamomile, but make sure you use a lot of leaves (around 1Tbs). Leave it in the fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning! 

To learn more, check out our blog post about Chamomile and its sleep benefits. Then explore our Chamomile Collection and choose your favorite!

 

How to Brew Chamomile Matcha Alternatives

 

How to Brew Yerba Mate

Yerba mate has a long and complex brewing history, partially due to its extreme sensitivity to heat (it burns really easily!). 

Here are the two main ways to make mate, depending on whether or not you have a gourd:

1) In a mug or teapot with an infuser. Pour a small splash of cold water over 1-2tsp (heaped) of mate, just enough to completely wet the leaves. You don't need to drain it. This cools the leaves and protects them from getting burned in the next step.

Next, pour over one mug's worth of water that has just started simmering (100-170F / 38-81C). Steep for 2-3 minutes.

If you are making a pot, use 2-3tsp of mate (again, heaped), and the rest is the same.

Never use boiling water! Using boiling water will burn the fragile leaves, destroying their nutrients and giving them a bitter taste.

Note that this is *not* the traditional way of preparing mate, but is far more practical. ;-)

2) In a mate gourd with a bombilla (see photo below). This is the traditional Argentinian and Brazilian way to drink mate.

Start by adding a LOT of mate (3-5 Tbs, not teaspoons!) to your gourd (this can be made from an actual dried and seasoned gourd, or from ceramic or metal). Once the gourd is 2/3 full of leaves, tilt it so the leaves are piled against one side. Pour a small amount of cold water onto the side with fewer leaves and wait one minute for the water to be absorbed.

Insert your straw (the bombilla, a straw with a filter at the bottom) into the moistened part until it hits the bottom of the gourd. Carefully pour over hot water (100-170F / 38-81C) down along the straw until the gourd is full. A lot of froth should appear.

Drink and repeat until the leaves no longer froth or the flavor goes. Because of the sheer quantity of tea, you can usually repeat this process 7-8 times! However, due to mate's significant caffeine content (roughly the same as coffee), this is NOT advisable if you need to fall asleep any time soon...

3) Iced mate. This can be made by following the same steps as in point 1, but tripling the quantity of tea used and doubling the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes. Then put in the fridge, or pour directly over ice. 

For cold-brew mate, follow the same steps again, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight. 

To learn more about yerba mate, have a look at our blog introducing this seriously caffeinated wonder-tea. Or you can shop our Yerba Mate collection here.

How to Brew Yerba Mate

How to Brew Purple Tea

Purple tea is a type of green tea, but with a lot of natural anthocyanins (the same antioxidant in blueberries) in the leaves that turn it purple. It should therefore be brewed in the same way as a green tea: delicately!

To start, rinse 1-2tsp (heaped) of leaves with water that has just started simmering, discard the rinse water. This 'wakes up' the leaves and removes small particles that can make it bitter. You can also use tap water if you prefer.

Then pour over 8oz (one mug) of 160F / 70C water. Don't use boiling water! Boiling water will burn the delicate leaves and destroy their health benefits.

Steep for 2-3 minutes. Because this is a true tea (Camellia sinensis), brewing for too long will result in a bitter drink. If you want a stronger flavor, use more leaves and steep for the same or slightly less time.

For iced tea, follow the same steps, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes, then put in the fridge or pour directly over ice. 

For cold-brew purple tea, follow the same steps again, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight.

To learn more about purple tea, take a look at our blog on purple tea and why it is taking the tea world by storm. If you want to try some purple tea yourself, try our 'The Purist' Rare Purple Tea.

Purple Tea Leaves Matcha Alternatives

How to Brew White Tea

We love white tea, not only because it tastes great but also because it is so versatile. White tea is made with minimal processing (it isn't roasted or fried or steamed unlike black and green teas), which preserves most of its antioxidants.

It can be made from any leaves on the tea bush, with Silver Needle White Tea being made from only the leaf buds (see photo below) and Bai Mu Tan / White Peony White Tea being made from more mature leaves.

A good rule of thumb for guiding your brewing: The younger the leaf, the more caffeine, and the hotter the water, the more caffeine is extracted. Some people prefer to brew at a lower temperature for longer, and others the reverse. The results are often quite different tasting drinks, all made from the same tea leaves!

In general, though: Use 2-3tsp of tea (you'll discover that white teas are 'fluffier' with a lot of air between the leaves, so you may even need 4 to 5 spoonfuls to get the perfect amount). Using water that has just started simmering, quickly rinse the tea and discard the water. This 'wakes up' the leaves and makes the taste that much richer.

Pour over a mug's worth of hot water, ranging anywhere from ~160-200F (70-95C). Let it steep for anywhere between 1-9 minutes. Here's why:

The cooler the water, the longer you will need to brew it (some Silver Needles need to brewed for up to 9 minutes!). The hotter the water, the shorter the brew AND the more caffeine. Tea leaf buds have the highest caffeine, and the caffeine will come out when brewed at a high temperature (i.e. 200F).

For Bai Mu Tan, though, you can brew it hot and there still won't be much caffeine, as the leaves are older. (I like to let my Bai Mu Tan steep for 5 minutes at 200F and am still okay drinking it in the evening.)

For iced tea, use Bai Mu Tan (as it has a stronger flavor) and follow the same steps, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes, then put in the fridge or pour directly over ice. Ideal with a slice of peach or a few raspberries!

For cold-brew white tea, follow the same steps again, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight. You'll end up with a thicker, nuttier drink that is beautiful.

Silver Needle White Tea Brewing Guide

How to Brew Green Tea

In general, green tea is delicate and burns easily. When it burns, it becomes bitter and astringent, and probably tastes like the green teas you've had in restaurants and diners. 

When it ISN'T burned, you will discover a whole range of personalities. Some are extremely sensitive to heat (Japanese green teas like gyokuro and sencha are good examples) and others are able to handle near-boiling water without issue (e.g. hojicha). 

In general, though, use 1-2tsp (heaped) of green tea depending on how densely packed the leaves are. For example, only use 1tsp for our Tenderly Sweet Classic Sencha Green Tea, but use 2tsp+ for the looser Flowery Osmanthus Tea

Rinse your tea leaves with water that has just started simmering, discard the rinse water. This 'wakes up' the leaves and removes small particles that can make it astringent. You can also use cold tap water for ease.

Pour over 8oz (one mug) of ~120-180F (50-82C) water. Use cooler water for Japanese green teas and hotter for Chinese greens. Again, don't use boiling water! Boiling water will burn the delicate leaves and reduce their antioxidant and nutrient properties.

Steep for 1-3 minutes. Because this is a true tea (Camellia sinensis), brewing for too long will result in a bitter drink. If you want a stronger flavor, use more leaves and steep for the same or slightly less time.

There are some powerful senchas and gyokuros that will brew perfectly in only 5 seconds, and some Dragonwells that require 3-4 minutes, so play around with your timings. When in doubt, try a sip and then decide if it tastes good or if it needs a bit more time.

For iced tea, follow the same steps, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes, then put in the fridge or pour directly over ice. Green teas make for some of the most beautiful iced teas!

For cold-brew green tea, follow the same steps again, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight.

If you're keen to try some green teas, check out our Green Tea collection!

Green Tea Gong Fu Style

How to Brew Black Tea

Black tea is fully oxidized tea and is tough! It doesn't burn and you can pour boiling water straight onto it without worry. In fact, black tea tends to taste bad when it's NOT brewed with boiling water, the rookie mistake most restaurants and cafes make. 

The only note of caution with black tea is that re-steeping the leaves can bring out the bitterness from the leaves, so your second brewing is unlikely to taste anywhere near as good as the first.

Use 1-2tsp (heaped) of black tea for a standard mug. Rinse your tea leaves with warm or cold water. This removes small particles that can make it astringent and leave sediment at the bottom of your mug. 

Pour over 8oz (one mug's worth) of boiling, 212F (100C) water. 

Steep for 1-3 minutes. Because this is a true tea (Camellia sinensis), brewing for too long will result in a bitter drink. If you want a stronger flavor, use more leaves and steep for the same or slightly less time.

For iced tea, follow the same steps, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes, then put in the fridge or pour directly over ice. Black tea makes a classic iced tea that is delicious with a slice of orange or lemon. 

For cold-brew black tea, follow the same steps again, but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Black Tea Brewing

How to Brew Oolong Tea

Oolong is a halfway-house tea that is in between green tea (barely oxidized) and black tea (100% oxidized). Because of this, oolongs are technically anywhere between 7% and 95% oxidized, which results in a vast range of flavors. To make it even more complicated, some oolongs are roasted, giving them a smoky, charcoal taste. Lastly, some oolongs are rolled into tight little balls, and some are straight leaves, much less densely packed.

With all this in mind, here are some key brewing guidelines:

Use 1-2tsp (heaped) of tea (less for dense, rolled oolongs and more for loosely packed leaves). The tight balls expand a LOT!

Using water that has just started simmering, rinse the tea and discard the water. If you are rinsing balled oolong, you can let the balls sit in the water for around 10 seconds. This 'wakes up' the tea and makes the taste that much richer, as well as removing dust and other particles that won't taste great.

Pour over a mug's worth of hot water (around 8oz), ranging anywhere from 185-212F (85-100C). Let it steep for anywhere between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. Use cooler water for loose leaves, and hotter water for balled oolong.

Oolongs generally can be re-steeped multiple times, with high quality oolongs sometimes going up to ten times (when brewed using a gong fu teapot)! The second and third brewings are considered to be the richest, and the taste varies considerably between these steepings.

For iced tea, use you can of course use roasted or unroasted, however the most common is roasted as it has a stronger flavor. Follow the same steps of waking up the leaves, however triple the quantity of tea used and double the water. Let it steep for at least twenty minutes, then put in the fridge or pour directly over ice. Really nice with mango or passion fruit. 

For cold-brew oolong tea, follow the same steps again (including waking up the leaves), but use cold water and leave it in the fridge overnight.

Oolong Tea Loose Leaf

How to Use Infusers

Infusers are the tools that help you get the flavor out of your tea leaves and into your cup. Here are the main infusion methods for loose leaf tea:

Tea Balls

This is the most common infuser type. It is a mesh ball that hangs in your mug or teapot and is very easy to use. Simply spoon the dry tea in, clip shut and pop into your container. It is also simple to clean afterwards, and can be run through the dishwasher too. The main consideration is to not overpack your tea ball, as the leaves need to be able to expand and move in the water. We have a set of them if you want to experiment with different sizes.

Classic Tea Ball Infuser

DIY Teabags

These are great if tea balls are bit too fussy for you. There are two options:

1) Disposable teabags that are fully compostable.

2) Cotton teabags that are reusable and washable.

For both types, simply spoon tea into the bag, tuck in the top flap / tighten the drawstring, and drop into your mug or teapot. They are very useful for iced tea, too.

However, I don't recommend the cotton teabags, as although they are great for the planet they are generally VERY tightly woven, and so the full tea taste doesn't come through and brewing times need to be much longer (sometimes up to 15 minutes for a cup of green tea). In fact we almost sold them here, but found that we couldn't make tea that we liked with them! 

Make Your Own DIY Teabag Matcha Alternatives

 vs Reusable Cotton Teabag Matcha Alternatives

Strainers

Although tea balls and make-your-own teabags are popular for their ease, they prevent the leaves moving and unfurling completely, and so the taste isn't as full and rich as it could be (especially with the cotton teabags). Loose leaf tea, when poured directly into your teapot, can move and expand without restriction. Result? A superb pot of full-flavored tea. However, how do you strain it?!

With a strainer of course! Strainers fit onto most sizes of mug and tea cup and can either rest on the cup or be held while the pot is being poured. The drawback of strainers is that the leaves are still in the pot, steeping away, and so unless you pour the entire teapot immediately, your second cup will be overbrewed. For this reason, loose leaf brewing with a strainer is best if you making tea for a group or have a single-cup teapot (our 19oz Quintessential teapot is perfect for tea for two, and is glass so you can see just how much tea is left). 

Note: These are only used with teapots, not for mugs!

Stand-Alone Mesh Strainer Matcha Alternatives

If you are in need of an infuser, teabag or teapot, check out our teaware collection!

Matcha Alternatives Teaware Collection

Tea Time: Take Two!

Now you are fully prepared to brew the perfect cup of tea - let me know in the comments what you learn and your favorite brews! You can also try experimenting with milk, or lemon and honey for a unique flavor experience. The possibilities...!

Yours in eternal devotion to all things tea,

Elizabeth Ta'eed

Co-Founder, MatchaAlternatives.com

Elizabeth Taeed with Tea Matcha Alternatives

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All of the information regarding the herbs, botanicals, minerals, vitamins, etc., is information drawn from traditional use data or academic research and should be regarded as such. If you, the reader, has a health or medical concern, please consult your healthcare professional. The information found here is not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure and has not been evaluated by the FDA. The information here is for educational use only.

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