How to Steep the Perfect Cup of Tea Every Time

There's an art to brewing tea that you'll wish you'd known all along.

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A man pouring black tea from the ceramic teapot in cafe. Close up on hands
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The key to a perfect cup of tea

When cold winter temps have you feeling chilly on the inside, it’s a cup of hot tea to the rescue. But is learning how to steep tea really as simple as dropping a bag in hot water? With these tips you’ll learn how to steep the most perfect cup to tea that may actually have you looking forward to the colder weather. Don’t knock it until you try it!

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Tea break time
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Start fresh

Do you love a cup of black tea for a morning energy boost to start the day? Or maybe you prefer to wind down with an herbal, chamomile tea before bedtime. Whether you like herbal, black, green, red or white teas, look for the freshest teas available, so you can experience the best flavour profile your tea has to offer. This goes for both loose and prepackaged tea as well.

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Arm of man pouring boiling water into bowl in kitchen
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Choose your water

“[Tea] begins with the water—the element that brings tea to its full potential,” according to the tea gurus at The Republic of Tea. Fresh water, like spring, bottled, and filtered, creates a tastier cup of tea. Tap water, with its minerals, chemicals, and the pipes used to carry it, can negatively alter the flavour of this hot beverage. Many people actually just stop here and drink the hot water.

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teapot tea kettle
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Prepare your tea kettle or teapot

The Republic of Tea advises filling your tea kettle with fresh, cold water and heat to a rolling boil—unless you’re making green tea or 100 percent white tea. In that case, stop short of boiling to avoid “cooking” the delicate tea. While there’s a bit of a learning curve involved in how to steep tea, keep in mind that tea should be a sensory experience filled with aroma and flavour. If tea is placed into water that is too hot, it can become flat. If you’d rather serve your tea in a teapot, many experts recommend first swishing some hot water around in the pot until the pot is warm to the touch. Then, dump the water out and add your tea. Preheating the teapot prevents it from cracking when it’s abruptly introduced to a change in temperature.

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Table flat top lay view of red strawberries on plate, genmaicha green tea leaves and fried rice on wooden spoon with amazake rice drink in cups glasses
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Measure right

To strike the right balance, use one level teaspoon of tea leaves or one tea bag for every eight-ounce cup of heated water. If you want your tea stronger, don’t steep it longer. Instead, add more tea leaves or an extra bag. Don’t bother buying bottled tea—it’s more expensive and commercial brews can have more grams of sugar than a soda or slice of pie.

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How to make the perfect cup of tea - Tea steeping

Mind the steeping time

Ultimately, the amount of time you steep your tea depends on the type of tea you’re using and your individual taste. Black tea should be steeped for three to five minutes; green tea should be steeped for two to three minutes; white tea should be steeped for two to three minutes; oolong tea should be steeped for two to three minutes; red/herbal tea should be steeped for four to six minutes.

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Healthy drink honey lemon ginger tea . Ok
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Be careful not to overdo it

Ever wonder how to make tea as flavourful as possible? The secret is in the steep. With the exception of some herbal teas, infusing your tea for too long will result in some bitterness or acidity. So it’s best to master your steep.

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tea steep
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Take a moment

Once your tea is infused, really inhale the essence. What do you smell? A particular spice? How about a sweetness or the scent of a flower? Next, sip the tea as opposed to guzzling it down. Sipping it allows you to taste the layers of flavour that are unique to your drink. If you haven’t already, consider trying matcha tea, an antioxidant powerhouse made from pulverized green tea leaves.

If you need a break from tea, try this healthy apple cider vinegar drink recipe.

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How to make the perfect cup of tea - Loose leaf

Adjust the brew as needed

In the event that your tea doesn’t taste quite right, there are several factors you can tweak: Try adjusting your steeping time, the amount of tea leaves you’re using, and/or the temperature of the water. With a little practice, you’ll find the flavour you’re looking for.

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How to make the perfect cup of tea - Woman holding tea bag

Don’t toss your tea bag

Many teas remain good for a second or third steeping, and you may even notice different flavours emerging when you reuse the leaves or bag. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.” So, enjoy!

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest