Tea Brewing Basics for Beginners

For many, preparing tea means pouring boiling water over a tea bag or loose-leaf tea, allowing it to sit for a few minutes, then enjoy (with or without your choice of sweetener or other additions such as lemons, flavoring, milk, or cream). Sounds simple, right? At a minimum, that is correct. However, the world of tea can be as simple or complex as your curiosity or taste buds allow.

Tea brewing can be considered an artistic creation or a highly revered skill.  Across the world, there are tea masters that study for years to perfect the craft of tea brewing. From the crop to the cup, tea is more than a beverage, it’s a way of life. Learning about different cultures and their practices for tea brewing can be enlightening and fun. Thankfully, however, you do not have to study for years to make the perfect cup of tea for you. So, relax, and let’s review some basics. As the title suggest, the intent is to discuss some basics of brewing. We can dive into details another time. There are levels to this!

Let’s start with a few questions to gauge your current knowledge:

Tea Brewing Quiz (T/F):

  1. The temperature of the water may impact the flavor of the tea.
  2. How long you have the tea in water (steep) may impact how the tea taste.
  3. All tea types (i.e., black, green, oolong) require the same temperature for brewing if the water reaches boiling.
  4. The brew time may determine how nutrients, antioxidants, and other health-beneficial substances are extracted from tea.
  5. Boiling water in the microwave will work just as good as using a teapot.

 Let’s see how you did (1. True 2. True 3. False 4. True 5. False). Great job!


The basics of brewing can be broken down into five parts:

  1. Tea
  2. Temperature
  3. Time
  4. Water
  5. Method

Tea: Start with fresh, good quality tea. Loose leaf tea is often preferred for best flavor and aroma. General recommendation is 1-2 teaspoons per 6-8 oz of water (experiment with taste). Full leaf teas compared to finely chopped teas contained in some tea bags has been compared to instant coffee vs coffee beans. The flavor and experience will be different. Certified organic teas are becoming more popular due to potentially negative harmful substances such as pesticides, herbicides, and chemicals in non-organic tea. Organic products also cannot contain any engineered nano-particles or GMO (Shop Certified Organic Loose Leaf Tea).

What if you want that second or third cup? You can reuse/re-steep tea leaves a couple more times (or multiple times for types such as Pu-erh). However, for your best tea experience, you may want to start fresh. You can decide. As a bonus, used tea can also be used for compost.

Please note, as with most food products, once the tea leaf is brewed, you must be mindful of storing it properly. Leaving steeped leaves and brewed tea in room temperature even for a few hours can make it susceptible to mold and bacterial growth.  

Temperature: This where specifics can make a difference. Tea typically can be brewed with water between 160 – 200 degrees Fahrenheit (F). In its simplest preparation, you will boil water and allow it to cool for a couple minutes before steeping tea. Yes, I have also been guilty of pouring fresh boiling water over tea and that works too. However, please note that brewing tea with water that is too hot will damage the tea (and on the other hand, too cold, and the leaves won't reveal their full flavor potential). Think of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: not too hot, not too cold, but just right!

(Cold brewing can also be an option, however, will not be discussed here).

Time: Steep time will depend on the type of tea. Both steeping for too little time and too long can impact the flavor. Some will prefer to steep longer to extract more healthful substances however, longer times will also extract more caffeine and tannins, which can lead to a more bitter flavor (in my experience, especially with green tea). It’s recommended to remove tea leaves/bag from water once brew time is reached.


Here are general guidelines for temperature and time based on type:






White tea

2-3 tsp

176-185 degrees F

2-3 minutes

Oolong tea

2-3 tsp

185-203 degrees F

2-3 minutes

Green tea

1-2 tsp

158-176 degrees F

1-3 minutes

Black tea

1-2 tsp

195-203 degrees F

2-5 minutes

Pu-erh tea

1-2 tsp

200-212 degrees F

3 minutes


1-2 tsp

 200-212 degrees F

3-5 minutes



Water: Start with fresh, filtered, water. Bottled spring water also works. Minerals, hardness, and pH levels from tap water all affect the taste of tea. There is a Chinese Proverb that states: “Water is the mother of tea.”  Choose well.

Method: This includes things such as heat source, tea amount, tea tools, and other. Again, sticking to the basics, using a heat source from the bottom (like a stove or electric tea kettle) is preferred. This will heat the water evenly. Due to their curved shape, tea kettles are preferred over pots to distribute the heat evenly. Using a microwave will not heat evenly thereby leaving cool spots and making boiling points difficult to predict. Also, if you microwave with tea leaves in your cup the leaves can be damaged impacting the flavor of your tea.

If using loose leaf tea, make sure you have a few other tools on hand. There are several options that could be used for steeping your tea, which includes: tea filter bags (disposable or cotton), tea basket infusers, tea ball infusers, teapots with infuser baskets, French Press, spoon infusers, single cup infusers… and the list goes on. Just place the desired amount of tea in the infuser or bag to steep. Some people also pour water directly over full leaves and remove with a spoon or filter, however, this can become a tedious task (Shop Accessories

Well, there you have it! Be curious and have fun. Don’t think of this as right or wrong. Figure out what works best for you and enjoy your tea your way. Remember, there’s wellness in every sip, even if it’s just taking that moment to pause.


Sip well,

Dr. T