Here in the offices of Mountain Rose Herbs, a delightful cup of tea is never too far away. While brewing loose-leaf tea is a little more involved than bagged tea, it is my favorite way to enjoy a cup. I do love the convenience and ease of bagged tea (like tossing a teabag in a tea tumbler while I’m heading out the door), but I find that loose-leaf tea offers an unsurpassed experience of full, rich flavors and nuanced tasting notes.
As an organic tea and herb company, we're passionate about brewing the best and most delicious cup. The way a tea is brewed can showcase its unique characteristics and stunning flavors or, unfortunately, it can lead to a disappointing experience. Thankfully, brewing a spectacular cup of tea is quite easy. I have found that there are three main factors that go into brewing a fantastic cup:
1. Tea Quality
A great cup of tea begins with high-quality organic tea or herbs. Using old or pesticide-laden tea leaves and herbs results in an inferior cup. I love to sip on our certified organic teas throughout the day, knowing that they are supporting my health and happiness!
2. Tea Quantity
The amount to use per cup will vary depending on the type of tea. I use less green, black, or white tea per cup than I would with rooibos or herbal teas because of the caffeine content and relative density. Usually herbal blends are fluffier than tea leaves, so more material may be needed to get a full-flavored cup.
Through my tea-tasting journey I have found that for some teas, more doesn’t necessarily mean tastier—with caffeinated teas, using more leaves per cup often results in a bitter, tannic cup instead of a better one. Knowing the best amount of tea or herbal blend to use will greatly improve your brewing experience.
3. Steep Time
The steep time determines how long the tea leaves or herbal blend is extracting in water. The amount of time used will also control how many naturally-occurring compounds are released into the water. For green, black, and white tea, shorter steep times are often preferred as a method of controlling the amount of tannins and caffeine that are extracted. Steeping these teas too long often results in an overly bitter cup. That being said, I prefer to steep herbal blends and red teas for quite awhile as I like strong flavors. And since they are naturally caffeine-free, I don’t have to worry about caffeine jitters.
Playing with steep times is a rewarding aspect of loose-leaf brewing. Some teas will offer different flavors at varying steep times, so we encourage experimentation to determine your own preferences.
How to Brew Loose Tea
Here is a general guide for brewing a delightful cup of tea. I advise starting with the recommended method, but keep in mind that loose-leaf tea provides the unique freedom and space to experiment and customize your brewing experience.
Green, Black & White Tea
1 tsp. tea leaves
Fill your favorite infuser or reusable tea bag with 1 teaspoon of tea and place in cup. Pour 8 ounces of boiled water over the tea and let steep for the appropriate amount of time, or until desired strength. We recommend 1-2 minutes for Green Sencha, Jasmine Green Tea, Jasmine Pearls. Or 3-5 minutes for most green, black, and white teas. Enjoy!
Pro tip: To experience the flavor nuances of oolong or to gently build up the flavors of green tea and pu’erh, use multiple infusions of the same tea leaves. Generally, I like to add 30-60 seconds for each subsequent infusion.
1 tsp. tea leaves
Place 1 teaspoon of tea in your favorite infuser. Pour 8 ounces of boiled water over the tea and let steep for 3-5 minutes, or until desired strength. Strain and savor!
Chai and Mate
1 Tbsp. herbs
Heap 1 tablespoon of the herb or herb blend in preferred strainer. Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over the tea and steep for 3-5 minutes, or until desired strength. Strain and relish in the unsurpassed taste.
Pro tip: chai tea blends also make tasty decoctions! To decoct, place 1 tablespoon of tea blend into a pan on the stovetop and add 4-8 ounces of water and 4 ounces of your favorite milk (or milk substitute). Gently simmer for 10 minutes. When finished, strain into your favorite mug and stir in 1 tablespoon sweetener of choice.
Herbal Blends: Infusion
This method of brewing is ideal for herbal blends made from the aerial (above ground) parts of plants.
1 Tbsp. herbs
Fill a reusable tea infuser or a disposable tea filter with 1 tablespoon of herb blend. Pour 8 ounces of boiling water over the tea and steep for 3-5 minutes, or until desired strength. Sip and enjoy!
HERBAL BLENDS: decoction
This method of brewing is perfect for rooty, woody, or berry-filled tea blends.
1 Tbsp. herbs
Scoop 1 tablespoon of herb blend and place in a small saucepan. Cover with 8 ounces of water and slowly heat to simmer. Cover and gently simmer for 10-12 minutes, being careful not to boil. Strain into a mug and enjoy!
Need help choosing the Right Brew for You?
Learn the Difference Between Black, White, and Green Teas!
You may also be interested in:
- Guide to Brewing Matcha
- How to Make Herbal Infusions and Decoctions
- Two Ways to Make Traditional Chai Tea