How Long To Steep Tea For – Times, Temperatures & More
If you are an avid tea drinker or just a beginner on this path you may start to realize that there is more to tea than just sipping this tasty beverage. Tea is fascinating and can come in all different flavors and kinds! With such diversity in a beverage there is bound to be differences in how to prepare your favorite cup.
In this post I hope to clear up some questions on how long to steep tea for, what temperatures to steep at, what different types of tea requires for temperatures and times and more! Taking the time to learn and understand these details CAN and WILL make your tea journey that much better. These little details when applied will change compositions of taste, caffeine content, oxidation of the tea and more.
What Types of Tea Exist?
First, it is important to understand the types of tea that exists out there. As mentioned, tea comes in all flavors and kinds and with those differences come different details. So let’s list out all the types of tea there are!
- Green (ex. Matcha, Sencha)
- Black (ex. Earl Grey, English Breakfast)
- White (ex. Silver Needle, White Peony)
- Oolong (ex. Phoenix, Wuyi)
- Pu’erh (ex. Raw, Ripe)
- Herbal (ex. Lemon Ginger, Peppermint)
So what is the difference? While I am not going to go into all the details that make these different from each other, there are a few details that should be known. The first 5 tea on this list all come from the SAME plant, Camellia sinensis! Pretty fascinating if you ask me. What makes them different is the processing which alters the chemistry thus giving us the wonderful different flavors and benefits!
Herbal tea, on the other hand, is actually the process of steeping spices, herbs, flowers and roots that do not come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Delicious and beneficial, just not the same.
How Does Time Affect Tea?
How long to steep tea for is not a simple answer across the board for all tea. A couple factors need to be considered. Those include:
- The type of tea (Listed above)
- What you are looking to get out of the tea
- Health benefits?
- Caffeine boost?
- Most flavorful drink?
Given the above options…we can answer the question of how long to steep tea for? Green and white teas can be categorized together here while the other 4 can be in another group.
To achieve the greatest flavor and health benefits for green and white tea it is recommended to steep for 2 – 3 minutes. This will allow all the polyphenols and antioxidants to get extracted and not loose composition (Check out the previous post Green Tea Health Benefits For Men – Total Heart, Mind and Body Health for more details on this!) (1). For black, oolong, pu’reh and herbal tea it is recommended to steep for 4 – 5 minutes to achieve their benefits.
For caffeine, one thing to note, herbal tea has none. Therefore, we can disregard herbal tea for this section :(. The good thing for the other tea is that we can generalize it here! The consensus is that 3 – 5 minutes will achieve the highest caffeine yield, leaning more towards that 5 minute mark. We do not want to go greater than 5 minutes however. This is due to the release of thearubigins (2). The compounds will also be released from the tea if steeped too long and will bind perfectly to caffeine. This means less caffeine for you!
How Does Temperature Affect Tea?
We discussed time, but just as important is temperature. Again, for temperature, we can separate the tea into two categories, green & white tea and the other 4! Due to the processing of green and white tea, they do not get oxidized. Therefore, higher temperatures will ruin the flavor and benefits of these two. So, the ideal temperature to steep our green and white tea is between 170 – 185 degrees F (76 – 85 degrees C) (3).
On the contrary, the processing of the other 4, black, oolong, pu’reh and herbal teas allows for these to all withstand higher temperatures. Not only withstand them, but actually prefer the hot temperatures! The ideal steeping temperature of the water should be 208 – 212 degrees F (97 – 100 degrees C) (3).
You can also steep your tea at low temperatures overnight for a nice refreshing beverage the next day! Just plop some tea in a water bath and keep in the fridge overnight and you will have a nice cold tea the next day. This creates a smoother tasting tea, but will lower the caffeine and antioxidant levels of most tea.
What else could there possibly be?! Well here are just a few more tips and details that you may find useful and fun!
- Filtered water is best to use when possible! Not all water is equal and there will be a taste difference when using different water sources.
- Many teas can be steeped more than once! Reuse your tea bag or loose-leaf tea to get another tasty drink. (Note: It will be more dilute, but still delicious!)
- While I prefer tea straight with nothing added, many people like to add sweeteners like honey, agave, sugar or milk, and even butter! Try adding your own stuff to find your perfect drink.
Steep Your Best Cup of Tea
So what did we learn…well there are a bunch of teas out there! Listed are 6 categories of tea with many subcategories. There is a tea out there for everyone!
As a beginner to the path of tea or an expert you may have questioned how long to steep tea for or at what temperatures should I steep at? Well overall tea should be steeped for NO LONGER than 5 minutes to achieve maximum benefits, caffeine intake and best flavor.
Temperature also plays a big role. Remember for green and white tea to not bring your water to a full boil, otherwise go crazy!
Finally, experiment with your tea! Everyone has a different flavor pallet, therefore test how the tea tastes after 2 minutes vs 5 minutes. See how it is at the higher temperatures. Add honey, milk or butter! It makes drinking tea even more fun when you get to experiment, so have a blast with steeping your next cup of tea!