One of the questions I get asked most is about the steeping times and temperatures of tea. Of course there are the super fussy people who time it exact and have thermometers to measure exact temperatures and I’m sure their cups are EXTRAORDINARY. However, if you are someone who usually drinks bagged tea or are just getting into loose leaf teas, I think you will see that even with fudged temps and times your tea will still be delicious without all of the hassle.
To begin, you must know a little about tea. All true tea comes from the Camellia Sinensis plant. The difference comes from not only where it is grown but when it is picked and how it is processed. Processed is a subjective word we will cover later but know that it is not the same as processed foods. So keeping in mind all tea comes from the same plant, but the order of its process determines how dark the tea becomes.
Tea Types & Colors Deconstructed
- White tea is picked first and is least processed. This gets the lowest temperature.
- Next is Green tea, which is picked second is pan fried or steamed and then dried. It gets the next lowest temperature.
- After Green is Oolong. Oolong has a range of percentages that it is oxidized so a lower percentage makes it more Green in taste and attributes where as a higher percentage has a darker color and flavor. The greener Oolong should be more in line with Green tea and the darker Oolong should be in line with Black tea.
- Black Tea follows Oolong and is completely crushed and oxidized. This means it gets a higher temperature than Green or Greener Oolongs.
- Following Blacks are Pu-erh teas. Pu-erh have a variety of oxidation levels, however what makes them different is that after being processed and dried, they are then wetted, sometimes pressed into blocks and covered. This process causes beneficial microbes to grow on the tea. This tea can also seem to handle bolder steep temperatures.
- After all of the true teas come Herbals, which include Rooibos and Yerba Mate. These teas often handle boiling water or being boiled in water for some time for medicinal uses.
Perfect Steep Times & Temperatures
How I remember the times and temps is by the oxidation levels or darkness of the tea.
- White: Lightest tea – lowest temp – 175 degrees or when your kettle starts making noise
- Green/Green Oolongs/Sheng Pu-erh: Lightly steamed or heated- 185 degrees or when your kettle lets off a tuft of steam occasionally
- Dark Oolong or Black Tea/Shu Pu-erh: Completely Oxidized – 195 degrees or when your kettle is steaming and lightly singing but not screaming
- Rooibos/Yerba Mate/Guayusa/Herbal leaf or for pleasure tea – Herbal – Boiling, 212 degrees, or when your kettle is screaming
- Berry/Medicinal/Root Tea – Boil in water for 20 minutes
- Chai – Mixture of black tea and spices – Traditional chai is boiled in milk and honey for 20 minutes. Check out an amazing chai tea recipe.
Learn how to make perfect tea >
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The Tea Lady