How to Brew Organic Loose Leaf Tea
You are just 3 simple steps away from that perfect sip. Whether you are new to loose leaf tea or a connoisseur, this article is packed with helpful hints to make the perfect cup of Fraser Tea® each and every time.
In this all-inclusive guide, you will learn how to brew organic loose-leaf tea, the equipment needed, recommended tea to water ratio, suggested water temperature and steep time for each different type of tea. In addition, we are going to share with you how to avoid some common mistakes of tea preparation that can affect the flavor and health benefits of tea. Let’s get started!
Why Choose Loose Leaf?
There is more to drinking tea than just taste – it’s the whole tea drinking experience.
In our article, Organic Loose Leaf Tea, one of the main benefits is taking more “self-care time”. In today’s busy world, we know how important it is to unplug and recharge. Drinking tea is one of the best ways to relieve stress.
Have you ever noticed that you feel more relaxed after you take that first sip of tea? Making loose leaf tea at home or work, gives you more time to be fully present in the moment and can bring calmness and focus to your day. Meditation with tea starts with the gentle sound of scooping dry tea leaves into the infuser and continues to your last delicious sip.
This mindfulness practice allows your senses to come alive while brewing and enjoying the tea but keeps your body and mind in quiet contemplation.
Why Choose Organic?
Loose leaf Organic tea compared to conventional tea is easier to prepare because it does not need to be rinsed before steeping. You do not need to worry about pesticides or other unwanted things in your tea. All Fraser Tea® blends are USDA certified organic!
Tea cakes like Tuo Cha Organic Pu-erh Tea Cake are the only exception to the rinsing recommendation. The only purpose to rinsing an organic tea cake is to help unfurl the tightly packed tea leaves. You can learn more about that in our How to Brew Pu-erh Tea article.
Now that we have discussed the benefits, let’s review how to brew organic loose-leaf tea, starting with the equipment needed.
Basic Tea Brewing Equipment
- Organic Loose-Leaf Tea – Fraser Tea® has over 100 handcrafted tea blends to choose from with a large selection of black, oolong, pu-erh, white, rooibos, green, herbal, and even a few decaffeinated options.
- Tea kettle or device to heat water – or it can be as simple as a pot of water on the stove.
- Tea strainer to keep the tea leaves out of your teacup.
- Our simple Tea Infuser fits nicely over any teacup or mug. With a simple press, it releases the brewed tea into your cup.
- You can also use a tea pot with a built-in strainer like our Golden Warrior Cast Iron Teapot.
- Other options include handheld tea ball infuser or fine mesh strainer that goes directly in your teacup.
- If you are wondering how to brew loose leaf tea without an infuser, tea can be brewed directly in a cup. Just add the tea leaves in a cup and add hot water and steep. Eventually the leaves will sink to the bottom of the cup so you can sip the tea.
- Teacup or mug – Grab your favorite as tea just tastes better in your favorite cup, right?
- Perfect Teaspoon – measure the correct amount of tea every time.
If you are new to organic loose-leaf tea, you may like our Loose Leaf Starter Gift Set. It contains everything you need to make the perfect cup of tea.
Perfect Cup of Tea
Before we start, it is important to understand that everyone’s idea of the perfect cup of tea is different. Some people may like their tea strong, and others may like it weak or somewhere in between. These measurements and steep times are just basic guidelines or starting points. You may need to adjust them to suit your personal preferences.
If you like your tea stronger, you might want to increase the amount of tea to water ratio. Similarly, if you like your tea weaker, you can either decrease the amount of tea to water ratio or add more water. Sometimes, you just need to start somewhere. These basic recommendations on how to make loose leaf tea can guide the way.
Making loose leaf tea is quite simple with just 3 easy steps.
- Measure the tea.
- Heat up the water.
- Steep tea and enjoy.
You can find brewing instruction on every bag of looseleaf tea you purchase. In addition, every Fraser Tea® Product has the brewing method listed on the website. To make it even easier for you, we have created an infographic below so you can see everything at one quick glance.
Measure the Tea: How much Per Cup?
Our recommendation for measuring the tea is to use approximately 1 teaspoon (~ 3.2 g) of loose-leaf tea to 8 ounces or 1 cup (236 ml) of water for “hot tea”. Obtaining the correct tea to water ratio is simple using our Perfect Measuring Spoon. For example, if you are making a pot of hot tea in a 32-ounce (4 cup) capacity tea pot, you would add approximately 4 teaspoons of loose-leaf tea.
As some of you may like a stronger tea or weaker brew, the teaspoon is not an exact measurement but more of a guideline. You can add more of less tea to suit your taste preferences.
In addition, teas vary by volume. Some of our teas, like our Gunpowder Organic Green Tea, are more compact and may need a little less tea. However, teas like our light and airy Silver Needle Organic White Tea may need a heaping teaspoon for the best cup of tea.
For cold brew tea or iced tea, we suggest 2 teaspoons of loose leaf tea for every 8 ounces of water.
Heat Up the Water
There are many ways to heat water for tea. You can use anything from an automatic electric tea pot, tea kettle or even just a regular pot on the stove. Of course, you can also heat water in the microwave. However, this is our least favorite method because it is difficult to judge how long to set the microwave to obtain a specific water temperature.
If you are using a tea pot with an infuser, you may like to preheat the tea pot with some of the heated water first to maintain the temperature in the pot while steeping. If you pour warm water into a cold teapot the temperature of the water will change. As a result, you may not be able to extract the full flavor and benefits from the tea.
General water temperature guidelines for each type of tea are as follows…
Black Teas - 195º - 205º F (90º C – 96º C) Fraser Tea® uses the highest grade premium whole leaves from the tip of the tea plant. These TGFOP and TGFOPI are the most prized tea leaves but are also more fragile. We suggest heating our black teas to the lower end of the scale ~ 195º F. Steeping at higher temperatures may “burn” the fragile tea leaves and cause your tea to taste astringent or bitter. You can read more about how temperature affects taste in the section “Factors That Affect Flavor, Caffeine and Health Benefits of Tea” below.
Green Teas - 175º F (79º C)
Pu-erh Teas - 195º - 205º F (90º C – 96º C)
Rooibos Teas - 205º F- 212 º F (96º C - 100º C)
Oolong Teas - 195º F (90º C)
Herbal Teas - 205º F (96º C)
White Teas - 175º F (79º C)
Our organic matcha powders require a very different type of preparation. You can learn about the proper water temperature in our article, What Does Matcha Taste Like + How to Use.
Assess Water Temperature
If you are lucky enough to have one of those fancy kettles that you can set the temperature - super. If not, you can also judge the approximate temperature of the water with these 5 visual ques.
- Tiny pinhead small bubbles form at the side or bottom of the pot approximately 155 - 165 F (68 - 73C)
- The tiny pinhead bubbles at the side or bottom of the pot become slightly larger and Steam starts to rise from the pot – 165–175 F (73 - 79C)
- Larger bubbles about the size of a pearl or barley will form and the steam is stronger and if you are using a tea kettle it may start to make a slight noise. The water 175 -185 F (79-85 C)
- Streams of bubbles start to rise to the surface water is 185 - 205 F small bubbles that had formed on the bottom of the pot are no longer there. Almost boiling.
- Full boil – 212 (100 C) – bubbles are rapidly bubbling to the top. Standard automatic tea kettles with usually click off at this point. If you are using a stove top kettle, it will make a louder noise. The tea pot may even whistle if your tea pot has that functionality. You will not be using boiled water on any of the tea blends.
How Long to Steep Tea?
Did you know that many of our loose-leaf teas can be steeped more than once? If you enjoy a robust cup or two to get you going in the morning, you may like our Irish Breakfast Organic Black Tea.
To steep tea, pour the water over the tea leaves gently around the edges. If you are using an infuser, be sure it stays submerged under the water to allow the whole tea leaves to fully open and release their flavor and antioxidants.
Listed below are the basic hot tea steeping times. Please adjust steep times to your personal taste preferences.
Black Teas – 3 minutes
Green Teas – 2 minutes
Pu-erh Teas – 2 to 3 minutes
Rooibos Tea – 5 minutes
Oolong Teas – 3 minutes
Herbal Teas – 5 minutes
White Teas – 2 to 2.5 minutes
After you are done steeping the tea, pour into your favorite cup and enjoy.
Factors That Affect Flavor, Caffeine and Health Benefits of Tea
There are few things to be aware of to help you make the best cup of tea.
When it comes to brewing tea, the type of water, tea to water ratio, temperature of water and steeping time may make a difference in the flavor, caffeine level and antioxidants in your cup of tea.
Let’s dive in and explore how to fix these issues.
Type of Water
Does your tap water taste odd? Then, your tea will too.
Water can have different mineral levels, pH, and additives. This can affect the flavor of your tea. In the perfect world, the best options are fresh mountain stream water or quality bottled spring water. However, these may not be an option for most of us.
If your tap water tastes good, your tea will probably taste good too. Filtered tap water is the best option for best tasting water.
- A good tasting tap water will have 150 parts per million (PPM) of balanced mineral content and smoother taste.
- Some cities have extremely hard water with 900+ PPM. If your water is too hard it will make your tea more bitter. Sometimes, hard water can smell like sulfur or musty peat which is not optimal.
- Extra soft water will not extract enough of the polyphenols from the tea. Polyphenols are responsible for astringency, health benefits and flavor of tea. Your tea may taste weak or muddled.
- Does your tap water smell like a swimming pool from all the added chlorine? If so, you may like to place a simple home carbon filter on your water source or use bottled water.
- Do you have well water? Most well water has a higher pH level and lots of minerals. This can make your tea taste bitter. You can try filtering, or you may need to use bottled water.
- Water should only be heated once if tea taste matters to you. The reason being is that some of the water evaporates which concentrates the mineral contents.
- High calcium and magnesium levels in tap water may cause tea cream and scum formation. This may not cause a change in taste but it not visually appealing.
An interesting study performed by Franks et al., 2019, assessed how water composition affects flavor and nutrient extraction in both green and black tea. The results indicated that the level of Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG), one of the most effective cancer polyphenol in tea, can be doubled in green tea if brewed with bottled or deionized water.
However, in this same study it also showed the best tasting green and black teas were brewed in tap water.
The type of water whether it be purified water, spring water or tap water may also have influence on the caffeine level in tea. Caffeine was the highest in teas brewed with spring water, in a study that assessed the effect of water quality on the main components of white tea by Zhang, et al, 2107.
In summary, only you can decide what type of water is best for tea brewing. The water choice depends on your needs and availability.
Tea to Water Ratio
Adding too much loose leaf to the water can make your brewed tea taste strong and bitter. If you do not add enough tea to the water, it can taste weak. However, everyone’s taste buds are different. Feel free to adjust the tea to water ratio to achieve your perfect cup of tea.
Using a higher ratio of tea leaves to water may increase the caffeine level in your cup of tea. However, one of the benefits of drinking tea, instead of coffee, is that tea has both caffeine and theanine. Theanine has a calming effect on the central nervous system. The combination of eye-opening caffeine with relaxing theanine helps create a calm alertness.(Boros, et al, 2016)
On the other hand, having a lower tea to water ratio may lower the caffeine level and antioxidants in the brewed tea. These results are dependent on the tea dwell time, water temperature as well as tea to water ratio.
Temperature of Water
Each type of tea blend, whether it be black, green, white, a blend from our Tea Wellness Collection and so on, has a different recommendation for water temperature to bring out the best flavor and health benefits. Tea may be a healthy choice for many because it has polyphenols and flavonoids, that act as antioxidants, to help control the damaging effects of free radicals in the body in prevention of cancer and other health conditions. (N. Khan, H.Mukhtar, 2019)
Water that is too hot can burn the tea leaves which causes excessive amounts of tannins to be released. This can make the tea taste harsh, bitter, and unbalanced.
On the other hand, cool water may require a longer steep time to get to the desired flavor, caffeine level and health benefits. Cold brewing, unlike hot brewing, helps extract the antioxidants out of tea leaves in a slower more controlled way. The result is a smoother and well-balanced tea.
As an example, a study performed by Hajiaghaalipour et al published in the Journal of Food Science noted that cold brewing green tea for 2 hours resulted in more antioxidant activity than brewing green tea in hot water for 5 minutes. However, each type of tea is different. In the same study, black tea had the best antioxidant activity in the short hot water method but then the antioxidants degraded with long steeps in hot water.
Fraser Tea® blends water temperature recommendations are based on our ongoing quality assurance testing. We have chosen optimal brewing temperatures to balance both flavor and health benefits.
Guidelines for steeping or brewing time is different for each type of tea. However, at the end of the day, these are just guidelines and individual taste preferences differ. So please steep to your preference.
Stronger flavors develop the longer the tea is steeped but this is also dependent on the temperature of the water and tea to water ratio. Brewing “hot tea” too long can make your tea taste astringent and may increase the caffeine level of your brew. (Chin et al.,2008)
If you reduce the steeping time, your tea may taste weak. In addition, it may have less caffeine and antioxidants in your cup. It’s all about balance.
Health Benefits and Steep Times
Just a quick review of terms, polyphenols and catechins are compounds naturally found in tea plants. They indirectly work as an antioxidant to prevent the formation of harmful free radicals that cause cancer, diabetes, and a host of other health issues.
A research study evaluating temperature and steeping time for white, green and black tea was evaluated by Hajiaghaalipour et al, to assess the antioxidant properties. In the study, white tea had increased antioxidant activity with increased steeping time. However, black tea that was steeped for a longer period in hot water had reduced antioxidant levels.
In a contrasting scientific study performed by Michael D. McAlpine and Wendy E. Ward, steep time affected the total number of polyphenols (TPC) found in Black, Green, Rooibos, and Herbal Teas. Increases in TPC with steep time was not linear. The study showed that many polyphenols measured at 10 min of steeping were extracted in the first 5 minutes of the steeping time. In addition, it was noted a longer recommended hot water steep time did not always influence the existing antioxidants’ activity or capacity.
Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
How to brew loose leaf tea without an infuser?
- A simple way to make tea without a bag is to use a fine mesh strainer, slotted spoon, or fork over a cup to prevent the brewed tea leaves from going into your cup.
- Place a clean unbleached coffee filter in a cup. Then put the loose leaf tea inside the coffee filter and carefully pour over the hot water and brew as directed. Once done brewing, remove the coffee filter with the tea leaves from the cup and enjoy your tea.
- Use a clean French press to brew tea. Simply add the loose tea leaves to the press, pour hot water over them, let it steep, and then press the leaves to the bottom of the press before pouring the tea into a cup.
- Gaiwan method – is the Traditional Chinese method for tea brewing. Essentially, it’s just a tiny bowl with a lid. You can strain the tea leaves just like pasta after it is done cooking.
- Cheesecloth method – Cut a 3 x 3-inch piece out of the cheesecloth and add the tea inside. Tie it up with butcher’s twin or unflavored tooth floss. Place the “self-made tea bag” in a cup. Pour water over and steep tea for desired time. Remove the cheesecloth tea bundle and enjoy the tea.
- Lastly, brew tea in a cup and allow the tea leaves to sink to the bottom of the cup. Then, carefully sip the tea from the top of the cup without disrupting the leaves.
How to brew butterfly pea tea?
Yuzu Blue Passion Fruit Organic Herbal Tea is best cold brewed with filtered water. The color will change with temperature fluctuations and changes to the pH of water.
Whether you are new to organic loose-leaf tea or a seasoned veteran, we hope our all-inclusive guide on how to brew organic loose leaf tea can help you make a proper cup of tea every time.
Are you ready to try loose leaf tea? We have over 100 different organic tea blends offered in both loose leaf and in our non-GMO pyramidal tea bags. Try one today.
McAlpine MD, Ward WE. Influence of Steep Time on Polyphenol Content and Antioxidant Capacity of Black, Green, Rooibos, and Herbal Teas. Beverages. 2016; 2(3):17.
Michael Spiro, Deogratius Jaganyi, Kinetics and equilibria of tea infusion. Part 11—The kinetics of the formation of tea scum, Food Chemistry, Volume 49, Issue 4,1994, Pages 359-365.
Jöbstl E, Fairclough JP, Davies AP, Williamson MP. Creaming in black tea. J Agric Food Chem. 2005 Oct 5;53(20):7997-8002.
Khan N, Mukhtar H. Tea Polyphenols in Promotion of Human Health. Nutrients. 2019; 11(1):39.
Spiro M., Price W.E. Kinetics, and equilibria of tea infusion—Part 6: The effects of salts and of pH on the concentrations and partition constants of theaflavins and caffeine in Kapchorua Pekoe fannings. Food Chem. 1987; 24:51–61.
Du GJ, Zhang Z, Wen XD, Yu C, Calway T, Yuan CS, Wang CZ. Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG) is the most effective cancer chemopreventive polyphenol in green tea. Nutrients. 2012 Nov 8;4(11):1679-91. doi: 10.3390/nu4111679. PMID: 23201840; PMCID: PMC3509513.
Franks M, Lawrence P, Abbaspourrad A, Dando R. The Influence of Water Composition on Flavor and Nutrient Extraction in Green and Black Tea. Nutrients. 2019 Jan 3;11(1):80. doi: 10.3390/nu11010080. PMID: 30609818; PMCID: PMC6356489.
Zhang H, Jiang Y, Lv Y, Pan J, Duan Y, Huang Y, Zhu Y, Zhang S, Geng K. Effect of water quality on the main components in Fuding white tea infusions. J Food Sci Technol. 2017 Apr;54(5):1206-1211. doi: 10.1007/s13197-017-2571-2. Epub 2017 Mar 6. PMID: 28416871; PMCID: PMC5380641.
Boros K, Jedlinszki N, Csupor D. Theanine and Caffeine Content of Infusions Prepared from Commercial Tea Samples. Pharmacogn Mag. 2016 Jan-Mar;12(45):75-9. doi: 10.4103/0973-1296.176061. PMID: 27019564; PMCID: PMC4787341.
Caffeine: Jenna M. Chin, Michele L. Merves, Bruce A. Goldberger, Angela Sampson-Cone, Edward J. Cone, Caffeine Content of Brewed Teas, Journal of Analytical Toxicology, Volume 32, Issue 8, October 2008, Pages 702–704.