The traditional method of making a cup of tea is to place loose tea leaves, either directly or in a tea infuser, into a tea pot or teacup and pour hot water over the leaves. After a couple of minutes the leaves are usually removed again, either by removing the infuser, or by straining the tea while serving.
Most green teas should be allowed to steep for about two minutes, although some types of tea require as much as ten minutes, and others as little as thirty seconds. The strength of the tea should be varied by changing the amount of tea leaves used, not by changing the steeping time. The amount of tea to be used per amount of water differs from tea to tea but one basic recipe may be one slightly heaped teaspoon of tea (about 5 ml) for each teacup of water (200–240 ml) (7–8 oz) prepared as above. Stronger teas, such as Assam, to be drunk with milk are often prepared with more leaves, and more delicate high grown teas such as a Darjeeling are prepared with a little less (as the stronger mid-flavors can overwhelm the champagne notes).
The best temperature for brewing tea depends on its type. Teas that have little or no oxidation period, such as a green or white tea, are best brewed at lower temperatures, between 65 and 85 °C (149 and 185 °F), while teas with longer oxidation periods should be brewed at higher temperatures around 100 °C (212 °F). The higher temperatures are required to extract the large, complex, flavorful phenolic molecules found in fermented tea, although boiling the water reduces the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water.
|Type||Water Temp.||Steep Time||Infusions|
|White Tea||65 to 70 °C (149 to 158 °F)||1–2 minutes||3|
|Yellow Tea||70 to 75 °C (158 to 167 °F)||1–2 minutes||3|
|Green Tea||75 to 80 °C (167 to 176 °F)||1–2 minutes||4-6|
|Oolong Tea||80 to 85 °C (176 to 185 °F)||2–3 minutes||4-6|
|Black Tea||99 °C (210 °F)||2–3 minutes||2-3|
|Pu'er Tea||95 to 100 °C (203 to 212 °F)||Limitless||Several|
|Herbal Tea||99 °C (210 °F)||3–6 minutes||Varied|
Some tea sorts are often brewed several times using the same tea leaves. Historically, in China, tea is divided into a number of infusions. The first infusion is immediately poured out to wash the tea, and then the second and further infusions are drunk. The third through fifth are nearly always considered the best infusions of tea, although different teas open up differently and may require more infusions of hot water to produce the best flavor.
One way to taste a tea, throughout its entire process, is to add hot water to a cup containing the leaves and after about 30 seconds to taste the tea. As the tea leaves unfold (known as "The Agony of the Leaves") they give up various parts of themselves to the water and thus the taste evolves. Continuing this from the very first flavours to the time beyond which the tea is quite stewed will allow an appreciation of the tea throughout its entire length.