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Brewing 101: How To Make The Perfect Cup of Tea

Graduating from good old Lipton tea bags can be confusing. Just wandering through the tea aisle at the grocery store can be daunting.

If you’ve overwhelmed about where to start here’s a guide on how to make tea from scratch that you can follow to baby step your way into the wide world of tea.

How to Make a Cup of Tea Step by Step

Making the perfect cup of tea is simple. So let’s start at the very beginning.

There are only three things you need to worry about: tea, temperature and time:

  1. Choose and measure your loose tea
  2. Heat fresh filtered water to the correct temperature
  3. Steep for the right amount of time

Then you can simply sit back and enjoy your well-brewed cup of tea

This post may contain affiliate links. My full disclosure policy is sort of boring, but you can find it here.

What is Tea?

While most people think that tea is any kind of leaf in a tea bag that’s steeped in hot water, there are some differences.

Black Tea, White Tea, Green Tea

The only “true teas” are teas made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant, which is an evergreen shrub native to China and India.

Black tea, green tea, and white tea are all made from the Camellia Sinensis plant, so they are all true teas.

The processing the tea leaves receive is what makes them different in the end.

Herbal Teas and Red Teas

Herbal teas and red teas are not really teas at all.  They are classified as tisanes.

Tisanes — beverages made from the infusion or decoction of herbs, spices, or other plant material in hot water. 


So tea is a tisane, but a tisane is not necessarily a tea.

Unless of course that tisane is made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. 😉

Basic Types of Tea

If you’re just starting out making your own tea, there are a few basic kinds of tea to start with:

Black Tea

Black tea is one of the most popular teas.

It also goes through the most processing. The processing turns the tea leaves into a robust, strong tasting tea.

It’s usually dark brown or black when brewed. And it also has the most caffeine with 60-90 mg of caffeine in every 8 ounces.

Popular varieties of black tea that are easy to find are:

  • Darjeeling – full-bodied and strong
  • Assam – floral and fruity
  • Ceylon – strong and bold
  • English Breakfast – robust enough to go well with milk and sugar
  • Earl Grey – flavored with bergamot for a citrusy taste

Green Tea

Green tea is processed less than black tea. It’s full of antioxidants and is usually a pale green color.

The flavor of green tea can vary like a fine wine, based on where it was grown and the soil and climate.

Green tea is a great tea for beginners but does become bitter if brewed for too long.

White Tea

White tea is the least processed of the four main tea types. It’s considered healthier because of its minimal processing.

It’s described as having a delicate, sweet flavor without the astringent taste of other teas.

Popular types of white tea are:

Oolong Tea

This tea is a traditional Chinese tea. It’s neither black tea nor green tea.

The way it’s processed can make it lean more toward black tea, or more toward green tea characteristics.

Because of the complexity in the production and brewing methods, it’s hard to describe the “average” oolong tea.

It’s one of the most expensive and highest quality teas in the world.

Herbal Teas (Tisanes)

Since herbal teas are made from virtually anything other than the leaves of the Camellia Senensis plant, the possibilities are nearly endless.

Here are a few popular herbal tea choices:

  • Chamomile tea – calming effects
  • Peppermint tea – good for digestive issues
  • Ginger tea – soothes nausea
  • Rooibos tea – may improve bone health
  • Echinacea tea – great for colds and flu
  • Passionflower tea – helps anxiety and improves sleep
Glass teapot pouring tea into a glass teacup and saucer with a sprig of mint on saucer.  How to make tea guide.

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Why Do I Care What Kind of Tea I Have?

Choosing your tea is the foundation of how to make tea properly. Because once you choose your tea, everything else falls in place.

To get the perfect cup of tea, the type of tea dictates the optimum steep time and best water temperature to use.

So, go ahead and pick one and we’ll move onto the next step in the process of making tea.

How to Make Tea With Tea Leaves

If you want to learn how to make tea without tea bags, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is.

Tea sold on its own without a tea bag is known as loose leaf tea.

Loose leaf tea is of higher quality than tea in tea bags, and it’s always going to taste better too.

So go for the loose leaf! You’ll be glad you did.

Step 1: Measure Your Loose Tea

Measuring Loose Tea:

Use one heaping teaspoon for every 6 ounces of water.

So for an average mug, use about 1.5 heaping teaspoons of loose tea.

Step 2: Figure out Your Brewing Vessel

Doesn’t that sound fancy? Nah, it’s not really.

You just need to decide if you’ll brew your tea in your mug and strain it out, or you’ll try a tea infuser, or use a teapot.

I have so many gadgets now, I have a special part of my pantry dedicated to tea storage!

My Favorite Tea Infusers

Step 3: Heat Your Water to the Right Temperature

Back in college when I was drinking my Lipton, I always poured super hot rolling boiling water on my tea bag.

That usually worked out fine, because I was usually drinking black tea.

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But it turns out there are some variations you need to know when it comes to water temperature if you want the best cup of tea for your tea type.

Going to become a tea connoisseur? You may want to invest in a kettle with a thermometer so you’ll always have perfectly heated water. And if you really want to be an expert tea drinker, use the best water for tea, which is usually purified water without a lot of mineral content.

Generally speaking, black and herbal teas need hotter water to bring out the depth of flavor, while more delicate green and white teas need slightly less hot water.

While there is still some debate on this issue, here are some guidelines:

  • Black Tea Temperature: 195° to 205° F (right around boiling)
  • Green Tea Temperature: 170° to 180° F (well below boiling)
  • White Tea Temperature: 170° to 180° F (well below boiling)
  • Oolong Tea Temperature: 185° to 195° F (just below boiling)
  • Herbal Tea Temperature: 208° to 212° F (right around boiling)

Heat fresh, filtered water to the correct temperature and get ready for the next step: steeping.

Step 4: Steep for the Correct Amount of Time for Your Tea

So now you’ve got your loose tea measured and your water hot, here comes the fun part: brewing your tea.

Brewing loose tea takes a bit longer than brewing with a tea bag. Here are some guidelines based on the type of tea:

  • Black tea steeping time: 4-5 minutes
  • Green tea steeping time: 3-4 minutes
  • White tea steeping time: 3-4 minutes
  • Oolong tea steeping time: 3 minutes
  • Herbal tea steeping time: 4-5 minutes

It may seem silly but set a timer. I always set a timer on my phone… You’ve gone to all this trouble, so don’t drop out now.

When your tea is done steeping, strain if needed and enjoy!

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Purple infographic showing how to brew the perfect cup of tea including how much tea to use, how long to steep and how hot the water needs to be for each tea type.

How To Make Tea Summary

So there you have it! Not so hard, huh?

It’s as simple as type, temperature and time:

  • Choose your loose tea
  • Heat your water to the right temperature
  • Steep for the correct amount of time

So drink up! It’s tea time somewhere!

If you love tea as much as I do, pin this to your favorite tea-loving Pinterest board and pass it on for others to enjoy! Pinkies up!

How to make tea text over a glass teacup and glass teapot pouring.