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Home » Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea Every Time: How to Get the Right Temperature and Brewing Length for Every Type of Tea

Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea Every Time: How to Get the Right Temperature and Brewing Length for Every Type of Tea

    Brewing varieties of tea

    Brewing the perfect cup of tea is an art that requires patience and the flexibility to try different techniques to find your perfect combination of time and temperature. Making great tea requires more than just throwing a tea bag into a mug of hot water, but it is simple.

    We will take a comprehensive look at how to get the right temperature and brewing length for every type of tea. Whether you like light and delicate green or white teas, earthy and robust black teas, or even caffeine-free herbal teas, we will explore the unique temperatures and brewing times that bring out the best in each.

    Temperature and Brewing Length for Black Tea

    Black tea is much more forgiving than the other teas listed below. The ideal temperature for brewing black tea is 205 and 212 degrees F; when in doubt, go with 212 degrees. This temperature range allows the black tea to develop it’s characteristically strong flavor.

    The brewing length for black tea is typically between three and five minutes since black tea is traditionally more robust than other teas. As a coffee drinker, I like my black teas strong; if you do too, I recommend erring on the side of five minutes.

    When brewing tea, it is also important to remember always to use fresh water. Stale water can give your tea a funny aftertaste.

    One of the things that is great about black tea is the amazing variety of flavors. I always love a good Earl Grey, but sometimes it’s nice to try fruitier varieties such as Blackberry Sage and Ginger Peach. These especially make wonderful ice teas.

    It’s worth noting that traditional chai is made completely differently, and while you can buy Chai tea bags, it’s worth it to take the time to make Chai the way that Indians have perfected over the last hundred years.

    A Handy Guide to Water Temperatures: What to do if you don’t have a temperature-controlled kettle.

    Black tea is the easiest to get right, but as we move into the white, green, and oolong teas, we will start talking about temperature. Too hot, and your cup of tea will turn out bitter. Too cold, and obviously, your tea might taste like water. To get the best result, use a temperature-controlled tea kettle.

    If you haven’t taken the plunge into buying a tea kettle that you can set the temperature on, and if you don’t have a food thermometer, then you can use these rules of thumb to eyeball the water.

    For 160-170 degrees F, look for a bit of steam rising, but take the water off the heat before bubbles start forming.

    For water between 170-180 degrees, there will be a decent amount of steam steadily rising, and there will also be tiny bubbles forming on the bottom of the pan.

    180-190 degrees: Many bubbles will appear and begin to dance and scatter across the bottom of the kettle. A few tiny ones will start to rise to the water’s surface.

    190-200 degrees: Steady lines of bubbles extending from the bottom of the pot to the surface of the water.

    200-212 degrees: This will be boiling. The water’s surface will be very active, by 212 degrees, the bubbles will be much larger and uncontrolled.

    You can also bring your water to a rolling boil and then let it sit for one to two minutes, then pour it over the leaves, but I find this method harder to use because it so depends on the tea kettle and the amount of water. If you have a thermometer, you could experiment with how long it takes your water to cool down in your pot.

    Temperature and Brewing Length for Green Tea

    Brewing green tea is an art form since the tea leaves are not simply thrown into boiling water. It is most unforgiving tea, but not unduly so. Too high of a temperature or too long of a brewing time can cause green tea to become bitter, while too low of a temperature (or not a long enough brewing time) can leave the tea tasting weak and flavorless.

    The ideal temperature for brewing green tea is between 160-180 degrees Fahrenheit. Brew green teas for around 1-3 minutes. This is the general guideline, but the exact time and temperature can vary depending on the type of green tea you are using and the desired flavor profile.

    For example, the Chinese green tea known as Longjing brews at a lower temperature of 160 degrees and steeps for two minutes. This creates a light, grassy flavor profile with a slight sweetness.

    On the other hand, the Japanese green tea Sencha brews at a higher temperature of 180 degrees F and steeps for a longer time at four minutes. This creates a more intense flavor profile with a rich umami taste.

    Experimenting with different brewing temperatures and times is the best way to find the perfect cup of green tea. Remember that the temperature and brewing length is adjusted based on the type of green tea you are brewing and your desired strength. If the tea you a brewing doesn’t specify temperature, start at 170 degrees for 2 minutes. You can then adjust upwards or down from there.

    If you’re getting a specialty variety from a tea shop, remember to ask them what they recommend. Often, tea shops will forget to give you brewing instructions but are happy to offer suggestions.

    Temperature and Brewing Length for Oolong Tea

    When brewing Oolong tea, the water temperature should be between 185 and 205 degrees F, depending on the variety. It’s not as finicky as green tea but not as forgiving as black tea.

    Each variety of Oolong tea has a unique taste and strength, and adjusting the temperature accordingly will help bring out the best in the tea. When in doubt, start with 185 degrees.

    The length of brewing time is also important when making Oolong tea. For light Oolong varieties, steep for two to four minutes, while darker varieties are usually steeped for five minutes (but can go for up to eight minutes). The length of time also depends on personal preference, and the flavor and strength of the tea can be adjusted accordingly.

    Oolong is often an overlooked variety in the West, but it actually has more antioxidants than green tea or black tea and is worth a try if it’s not part of your daily tea habit.

    Temperature and Brewing Length for White Tea

    Brewing white tea is almost as finicky as green tea. The ideal water temperature for white tea is between 170 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Just make sure your water is not too hot; if it is, the tea will be scalded and taste bitter and astringent. White tea tastes the best if it’s well below the boiling point and steeps for 1-2 minutes. Most white tea comes with brewing instructions, so you can start there and adjust as needed. If your white tea doesn’t include instructions, start with 175 degrees and two minutes, this is the most standard.

    Temperature and Brewing Length for Herbal Tea

    The many different types of herbal teas complicates giving generalized instructions here. When in doubt, definitely follow the directions. The nice thing about herbal tea, though, is that it’s usually more forgiving than green or white teas.

    As I’ve mentioned above, I prefer my teas to be strong. The standard advice is to let the water boil and to steep for 3-5 minutes. I generally set my tea kettle to 212 and steep it for five minutes. If you prefer a lighter brew, I suggest setting the temperature to 200 degrees and steeping for three minutes.

    Using a Coffee Maker to Make Tea

    If you’re primarily a coffee or espresso drinker, you might not want a separate tea kettle taking up counter space in your kitchen. If that’s the case, look for a machine that has a variety of hot water settings. Many machines claim to be able to make hot water for tea but only do so at one temperature setting, which is almost certainly too hot for green, white, and oolong teas. Below, you will find two that are at significantly different price points. The Jura is top-of-the-line, but the Ninja is worth a look.

    Ninja Hot and Cold Brewed System, Auto-iQ Tea and Coffee Maker with 6 Brew Sizes, 50 fluid ounces, 5 Brew Styles, Frother, Coffee & Tea Baskets with Glass Carafe (CP301)
    Size: 11.81 x 10.01 x 15 inches
    Weight: 11.09lbs
    Color: Black and stainless steel
    Warranty: 1 year
    Coffee Types: Classic, rich brew, over ice, cold brew, specialty coffees. Herbal, black, white, and green tea.
    Technology: Thermal Flavor Extraction, Auto IQ
    Coffee Sizes: X6
    Carafe Type: Glass
    Filter Type: Tea and coffee
    Water Reservoir: 50-oz
    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
    03/13/2024 09:18 pm GMT
    We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
    03/13/2024 08:44 pm GMT

    Wrapping Up

    Brewing tea isn’t too complicated, but if you brew a cup that you don’t like, don’t throw out the box of tea. Instead, give it another shot by trying a different temperature and steeping time. It’s easy to forget that temperature and time can significantly change the tea taste. Ten degrees difference or an extra minute might not seem like a lot, but it can make a difference.

    If you like strong teas, err on the side of hotter and longer—but if you’re not a fan of bitterness, then definitely start on the lower end. Once you get it down and no longer have to think about it, tea-making can become a calming and centering way to take a break to reconnect with yourself.