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Steeping Times for Different Teas

While some may think that steeping tea times are one-size-fits-all, that is certainly not the case. You don’t need to steep most teas for longer than five minutes as the average tea steeping time is only a few minutes. It is very easy to set your tea down and forget about it for ten or more minutes which could lead to a bitter cup of tea.

To create the perfect cup of tea, it should be steeped at the correct temperature and time. If either is exceeded, you may be left with an unpleasant tasting cup of tea as more tannins are released. Each type of tea has its own time and temperature guidelines that need to be followed.

Following the suggested steeping times is quite easy and should not intimidate you. Don’t worry about being precise about the temperature either because a few degrees higher/lower will not make a huge difference. However, it is important to remember that not all teas are made to be boiled like the black teas found in many southern homes. Some teas are very delicate and only need to be steeped for a couple of minutes at a lower temperature, while others may need a rapid boil. Read on to find out how to perfect your cup of tea.

Steeping Times For Different Types of Teas

Tea steeping times are all fairly different from each other; then, you throw in the different temperatures, and it can seem impossible to remember. Always keep in mind hardy teas can withstand longer steeping times and higher temperatures, while delicate teas need lower temperatures and shorter steeping times.

Black Tea

Black Tea – One of the most common teas around. This is one of the teas that can be steeped in boiling water. Once the water boils, you can steep the tea for four to six minutes. 

Green Tea

Green Tea – This is a very delicate tea that can only be steeped for two to four minutes at 175°F. Make sure to not over-steep this tea.

Herbal Tea

Herbal Tea/Fruit Tea – These can all vary. For the most part, you should steep them at 200° F for under five minutes. There may be some trial and error involved to find the perfect time for your preferred cup.

Oolong Tea

Oolong Tea – This can be steeped for around five to eight minutes at a temperature of approximately 190°F. This tea is more delicate than Black tea but hardier than Green tea.

Pu-erh Tea

Pu-erh Tea – This tea should be steeped for around three to five minutes at 195° F.

Rooibos Tea

Rooibos Tea – This South African red tea can be steeped for four to six minutes in boiling water.

White Tea

White Tea – This is another tea that should be handled carefully. Steep it for only four to six minutes at a temperature of 180° F.

steeping times for tea

Tea Steeping Times and Temperatures At A Glance

Every tea might have a different time and temperature associated with it, but don’t let that overwhelm you. All it will take is a few times of steeping a particular tea, and you will remember how to steep the perfect cup. Below you will see a chart for easier reading and so you can check back when needed.

Type of TeaSteeping Time Temperature
Black4 to 6 minutesBoiling
Green2 to 4 minutes175° F
Herbal/Fruit5 minutes200° F
Oolong5 to 8 minutes190° F
Pu-erh3 to 5 minutes195° F
Rooibos4 to 6 minutesBoiling
White4 to 6 minutes180° F

This table is also useful when trying out new teas, as the average person will most likely not remember all of these times and temperatures right away. More advanced electric tea kettles have a button for each of the common types of tea. This saves any guesswork and will get your water to the perfect temperature every time. 

How To Steep Tea Without a Thermometer

If you do not have an electric kettle or a thermometer, you can try to eyeball the temperature. A good rule of thumb for water temperature is:

  • When small bubbles slowly float to the surface the water is usually around 160° F to 170° F –perfect for green tea
  • When strings of bubbles form on the bottom of the pot or kettle the water is usually around 180 F to 190° F –perfect for oolong or white teas
  • After 190° F and higher will be a full boil –perfect for black, herbal, pu-erh or rooibos tea

Questions Tea Lovers Ask About Steeping Teas

Even when you know the correct length of time to steep your favorite tea, there are still a few things you might find yourself pondering. 

Let’s look at some very common questions that tea lovers have asked. With these questions answered, you will be able to create the perfect cup of tea.

Should You Stir a Tea Bag?

When steeping tea, you should not stir . If you do this, the cup/pot will no longer be covered, which will lower the temperature of the water. If the temperature gets too low, the tea will not steep as quickly or correctly. 

This is a very common question. Many people believe that if you stir the tea as it is seeping that it will make it steep faster. This is not the case and will actually slow the process. 

Does Dunking a Tea Bag Do Anything?

Dunking a tea bag just cools the water down faster.  Just let your tea sit covered during the recommended steeping time for best results. 

Should You Squeeze the Tea bag after Steeping?

After steeping tea, you should not squeeze the tea bag.  Squeezing the tea bag can make your tea bitter because you release tannic acids into your cup. 

Should You Cover Tea When Steeping?

Steeping tea should always be covered. Uncovering the teapot or cup while the tea steeps will lower the temperature quickly. Another reason to keep your steeping tea covered is to allow the essential oils that will be released to infuse the tea leaves. If you uncover it, you can lose the extra flavor.

You can cover your tea with the lid to the kettle/pot. You can also steep the tea right in your cup. The saucer a teacup may sit on is the perfect lid to the cup. 

Should You Leave the Tea Bag in When You Drink Your Tea?

Leaving a tea bag in your cup after the recommended time can lead to over steeping and sometimes bitter tea.  It’s a personal preference however, since as the water cools, it slows down the steeping process. 

Can a Tea Be Left to Steep While You Drink It?

There are two parts to this answer. While tea needs to stop steeping at the correct time, it will only steep to its true potential when the temperature is correct. If your tea is still piping hot, you probably should not allow the tea to continue to steep past its recommended time. 

However, if you add items like milk, ice, or honey, it can lower the water temperature. If the temperature is lowered, then technically, your tea will still steep but very slowly.

What Should You Do With a Tea bag after Steeping?

Just set it aside to cool after steeping.  If you like, you can add  the tea bag to your compost bin,  since tea leaves are good for many plants.

Can You Use a Tea Bag Twice?

If you’ve followed the recommended steeping times and not oversteeped, you usually can get another cup from the same tea bag.  The second cup will be less strong and have less caffeine, so that may be a benefit.   See How to Re Steep Tea here. 

Creating The Perfect Cup of Tea

With a little practice, you will be able to steep the perfect cup of tea in no time at all. Whether to choose to eye the water for the correct temperature or use an electric tea kettle, you will have the perfect start. Then you will be able to steep the tea for the correct time and never end up with bitter tea again. 

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