A How-to Guide for Brewing Loose-Leaf Tea

Are you a little unsure about how to brew loose-leaf tea?  No worries! Brewing loose leaf tea is easy. Start with quality tea, filtered water, and then steep to your personal taste.

In case you need a little help, here are some general guidelines to start with. Remember though, these are only guidelines, so feel free to make the tea your own and steep to YOUR liking. This may require a little experimentation to find your sweet spot in terms of preference. That’s okay. Half of what makes tea a big deal is how specific it is to us. Don’t be afraid to experiment with how you brew your tea. The point is that you enjoy it.

Below are a few guidelines to get you started.

Tea Type

Tea for 12oz water
Tea for 16oz water

Temperature

Steep time for each infusion (min)
Green, Yellow, Scented 5 grams 8 grams 85°C (185°F) 3, 3, 5, 8
White (high end) 5 grams 8 grams 88°C (190°F) 5, 5, 6, 10
White (everyday) 5 grams 8 grams 88°C (190°F) 4, 4, 6, 10
Wulong (dark) 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 3, 3, 5, 8
Wulong (light) 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 3, 3, 5, 5
Black (mild) 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 4, 4, 5, 8
Black (strong) 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 3, 3, 5, 8
Sheng puer, white puer 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 3, 3, 5, 8, 10
Shu puer (small leaf) 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 3, 3, 5, 8, 10
Shu puer (large leaf) 5 grams 8 grams 100°C (212°F) 4, 4, 5, 8, 10

STEP 1: Choose your teaware

Collect your teaware. This can be anything from a porcelain or glass tea pot to a classical Chinese yixing pot or gaiwan or even a Mason jar. For easy and casual brewing, try making your favorite teas in a simple large cup, like a heat resistant pint glass, and let the leaves float freely.

Anji Baicha green tea leaves floating in a tall sunlit glass, casting shadows.

STEP 2: Add your tea leaves.

Pick your tea and add the dry leaves to your brewing vessel. For one person each the suggested serving of tea leaves is about 5 grams. For 2 people use around 6-8 grams. However this is flexible to your personal preferences. Use more leaves if you prefer a stronger brew or less if you wish it to be on the lighter side.

Dry Junshan Yinzhen yellow tea leaves in a carved bamboo tea scoop.

Note: Because some teas are very compact and others very fluffy, you may only need a teaspoon of one to get 5g, while you may need 2 tablespoons for 5g of another. It varies from tea to tea, and we always include suggestions for each of our teas in case you don’t have a scale.

STEP 3: Add hot water.

Use filtered, spring, or otherwise purified drinking water heated by stove or electric kettle. Your water can affect the taste of your tea quite a bit – avoid using a microwave to heat your water if you can. In general, for lighter teas (green, white, scented, yellow) use 85°C (185°F) water. For darker teas (black, wulong, puer) use boiling water at 100°C (212°F).

Water pouring from the spout of a kettle into a small red clay tea pot full of green tea leaves. A person's hand holds the lid of the pot open.

STEP 4: Brew and enjoy.

Infusion time is flexible depending on your taste. In general, we recommend 3 minutes each for the first and second infusions. With each subsequent steeping, increase the infusion time. Pour each infusion out into another cup or pitcher, or drink directly from your brewing vessel. We suggest finishing your tea in the same day you began brewing, especially for lighter teas.

A speckled clay tea pot on a draining dish, with a pitcher full of tea and three tea cups next to it on a wooden table.

How many times can I use my tea leaves?

Most of our loose-leaf teas can be infused at least 4 times. Puer teas can be infused at least 5 times. After that, you can still keep infusing your leaves for longer if you’re still getting good flavor. Subsequent cups will yield not only different flavors, but also extract more nutrition from the leaves.

You can use a strainer to remove the leaves between infusions, but in many traditional Chinese tea brewing methods, no filters are used at all. Between brews, don’t empty your cup or pot completely. Leave a little bit of water over your leaves to strengthen your next brew. It allows the leaves to “keep” a little longer.

If you prefer to have more precise control over your steep time, we recommend using a gaiwan or a yixing pot. Learn how to use them with our tutorials.

Temperature

Although quality loose-leaf teas that are lighter and less oxidized (green, yellow, and scented teas) can be brewed at boiling temperatures without going bitter, infusing them in slightly cooler water around 85°C (185°F) brings out sweeter flavors and reduces astringency. On the other hand, darker, more oxidized whole leaf teas like wulong, black, and puer teas brew well with 100°C (212°F) hot boiling water.

If you don’t have a thermometer on hand, there are some quick methods for adjusting the temperature of your tea. To cool down your boiling water for a lighter tea, add about 3-4 tablespoons of cold water to the leaves before adding your boiling water. You can also bring down the temperature by pouring a thin stream of water from a little higher up so that it loses heat as steam.


High end white teas like Silver Needle benefit from longer infusion times, while mid-grade and everyday white teas like Bai Mudan and Shou Mei do not need as long.

Dark wulong teas like rock wulong (yancha or “rock tea”), Dan Cong Wulong, and other dark styles like Traditional Tieguanyin are often stronger and more persistent than the lighter green-style wulongs like Jin Guanyin or Monkey Picked.

Strong black teas, like Strong Smoke Lapsang Souchong and most Yunnan black teas (Jinya, Golden Peacock, Dianhong Gongfu) tend to infuse quickly. Mild black teas from Anhui (Qimen/Keemun teas), Fujian (Tongmu Lapsang Souchong, Zui Chun Fang), and specialties like Anji Hong or Old Tree Yunnan benefit from longer infusion times.

You can typically re-use the leaves of sheng and shu puer teas more times than other types of tea. However, small-leaf shu puers (Palace Puer, Ma Guo Tou) infuse more quickly than large-leaf shu puers (Home Store Puer, Jujube).

You can use tea from puer tea cakes like any other loose-leaf tea. Learn how to break open compressed puer cakes.