4 Tips for steeping the perfect cup of tea
06/03/2021 / By Rose Lidell / Comments
4 Tips for steeping the perfect cup of tea

A cup of warm tea is comforting, especially on a chilly night or after a long day at work. But making tea involves more than just dumping leaves in hot water. Proper steeping is necessary to best extract the flavor and beneficial compounds from your tea leaves.

Read on to learn more about some of the best ways to steep tea when you’re in the mood for a soothing drink.

Tip 1: Learn the difference between true teas and herbal teas

Different types of tea require different steeping techniques.

True teas like black, green, oolong and white tea come from the tea plant, also known as Camellia sinensis. The colors, flavors and antioxidant contents of these teas vary depending on how the leaves are oxidized before they’re dried.

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You can buy true teas dried, both as loose leaves or in tea bags.

Tisanes or herbal teas are not true teas. These kinds of tea are infusions or decoctions made from the flowers, leaves, stems, or roots of herbs and plants like chamomile, ginger, hibiscus, peppermint, rooibos, or turmeric.

Herbal teas are usually made with dried ingredients, but they can also be made from fresh ingredients.

Both true teas and herbal teas can be made using the same basic steeping technique. But the amounts needed to brew a cup may differ between dried and fresh ingredients.

You’ll also need to follow different steeping times and water temperatures to extract the best flavors for each kind of tea.

Tip 2: The importance of using fresh ingredients

When making an herbal tea using fresh ingredients like herbs, ginger, or turmeric root, you should use them immediately after you buy or cut them.

Dried tea leaves have a long shelf life if they’re stored properly in an airtight container and kept out of direct light. But storing dried tea leaves for too long can affect their aroma, flavor and quality.

True teas contain catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins, three kinds of polyphenol antioxidant compounds. These compounds are responsible for many of tea’s health benefits but they degrade over time.

According to studies monitoring the antioxidants in green tea stored at 68 F (20 C), catechin levels were reduced by 32 percent after six months.

Even the quality of water can change the flavor of your tea. Tap water full of minerals or treated with chlorine will produce tea with an off-flavor.

For best results, use fresh, cold and filtered water when brewing.

You can also add these natural ingredients to boost the health benefits of your tea:

  • Almond or coconut milk for a creamy tea.
  • Berries like blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries will make a sweeter cup of tea with more texture.
  • Citrus fruits like grapefruit, lemon, lime, or oranges can be used as a natural sweetener.
  • Honey or honeysuckle will give the tea a soft and silky taste that counteracts the leafy taste of your drink.
  • Maple syrup can also add a hint of sweetness to your tea.
  • Use mint or peppermint to make a refreshing cup of tea.

Tip 3: Monitor the time and temperature

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind when steeping tea.

Steeping tea longer or at a hotter temperature isn’t always better. According to research, green tea brewed this way received lower scores on color, flavor, aroma and overall acceptability.

And if don’t steep tea long enough, you won’t have enough time to extract flavors and antioxidants from the ingredients. In one study, scientists analyzed the total amount of polyphenol antioxidants extracted over time from black tea. Results revealed that you need at least six to eight minutes to extract the maximum amount.

Finally, caffeine content increases the longer it’s steeped. True teas have varying amounts of caffeine and a six-ounce (178-ml) cup of black tea contains 35 mg of caffeine. Meanwhile, the same serving of green tea only has 21 mg.

Steeping tea for an extra minute increases the caffeine content by at least 29 percent while using boiling-temperature water increases it by as much as 66 percent.

Hot steeping guidelines

Steeping tea with hot water is the quickest way to make a great cup of tea.

Follow these guidelines for the best steep time and temperature for different kinds of tea:

  • Black tea should be steeped for three to four minutes at 195 F (91 C).
  • Green tea should be steeped for three to four minutes at 175 F (79 C).
  • Oolong tea should be steeped for three to five minutes at 195 F (91 C).
  • White tea should be steeped for four to five minutes at 175 F (79 C).
  • Dried herbal tea (e.g., dried chamomile, hibiscus, lemon balm, or peppermint) should be steeped for at least 15 minutes or according to the manufacturer’s instructions at 212 F (100 C).
  • Fresh herbal tea (e.g., fresh herbs, ginger, or turmeric) should be steeped for five to 15 minutes for tender herbs and 15 to 30 minutes for chopped or grated roots at 212 F (100 C).

Cold steeping guidelines

Iced tea should be cold steeped in cold to room temperature water if you want a less bitter and more aromatic tea with a higher amount of antioxidants.

According to a study, steeping tea at 40 F (4 C) for 12 hours extracts and retains more polyphenols than steeping tea for three to four minutes in hot water. Results also revealed that steeping for three to five minutes at 175 F (80 C) then adding ice produced tea with a similar taste and antioxidant contents as the 12-hour cold steeping method.

Tip 4: Use the right tea brewing tools

You don’t need expensive tools to steep tea. If you have a teacup, tea bags and a kettle, you’re good to go.

When using tea bags

  1. Place the teabag in the teacup. Fill the kettle with fresh, cold and filtered water then bring it to a boil, or a near boil if you’re making green or white tea.
  2. Pour the water over the teabag in the teacup. Covering the teacup with a saucer is optional, but it can help retain more of the aromatic compounds.
  3. Steep the tea for five minutes, or to your taste.

When using loose leaf tea

To make loose leaf tea you need a teacup, tea bag, kettle and a metal tea ball or infuser to hold the leaves.

  1. Measure out one teaspoon of dried tea leaves or one tablespoon of fresh ingredients ?per six- to eight-ounces (177–237-ml) cup.
  2. Place the leaves in the tea ball or infuser. Submerge it in a cup of hot water and steep as indicated in the instructions.

There are recommendations for ideal steeping times and temperatures for different types of tea but experimenting with your own steeping methods will help you determine how to make tea that suits your liking.

Sources:

Ecowatch.com

SpoonUniversity.com

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