How to Steep the Perfect Cup of Tea

I have been experimenting a lot with tea lately. I found a great tea shop on our last trip to Changsha, so I forced myself to finally learn how to steep tea. I’m still not an expert, but I have been having a lot of fun learning about tea. I don’t think I’m the only expat who moved to the land of tea but didn’t know the first thing about how to steep it myself. So I wrote an article for the Shenzhen Daily about how to steep the perfect cup of tea. I hope you find it useful.

1. It all starts with the water. Never use tap water for your tea. You want to use some kind of filtered, purified or bottled water. The purer the water is, the purer the taste will be from your tea.

2. Decide what kind of tea you will brew. The kind of tea you brew will determine the temperature of the water you use and the steeping time. While there are hundreds of varieties of teas, they generally fall into five categories: black tea, white tea, green tea, oolong tea and herbal/flower tea.

For black tea and oolong tea, you will want the water you use to be boiling. For all others, your water will be “short of boiling.” That means to remove it from heat just before it begins to boil or remove it from the heat after it boils and let it cool for 30 seconds before pouring it over your tea. You will also want to figure out the benefits and side effects of the teas you are thinking of trying. Some have caffeine, but some will make you drowsy. Make sure you know what you are getting!

3. Figure out how you will filter your tea out of the water. You don’t want your tealeaves floating freely in your cup for a few reasons. No one wants to eat tealeaves. They might get stuck in your teeth. You can use them to steep several cups of tea. Most people use some kind of basket system for their teas. I use a slotted glass insert in a glass mug. Tea ball diffusers are more common in the West. There are also pots that will filter the tea out as it is poured, but these can be hard to clean and you can’t remove the leaves when they have steeped long enough.

4. Measure your tea. You only need 1-2 teaspoons, or 5-10 grams, of tea for 180 ml of water. This is for a teacup-sized serving. If you are using a mug or making a whole pot, you will need to measure accordingly. Start with one teaspoon the first time. If it isn’t strong enough, you can try using more next time. Place the tea in the basket, diffuser, or teapot.

5. Steeping times. For black, red, and oolong teas, you will have a longer steeping time, as much as 3-5 minutes; but for white, green and herbal teas, you will have a very short steeping time, as little as 30 seconds. Depending on the herbs or fruits in your tea, you might need to steep it longer, as much as two minutes, but better to be understeeped than over. Start with a short amount of time, have a taste, and then steep a little longer. Be sure to save your tealeaves. This is where a basket system or a ball diffuser come in handy. You can usually get 4-5 cups of tea from one ounce of loose tealeaves.

6. Be flexible and willing to fail. Everyone has different tastes. If you don’t like the tea you prepared the first time, try a few variations before you give up. Even then, don’t give up on tea altogether! Keep trying, and you find the right one for you. You can also add honey or milk for different flavor combinations. Relaxing or energizing, Chinese teas in decorative tins make amazing gifts.

One of the reward tiers for my Crazy Dumplings Kickstarter campaign is to receive a tin of Crazy Dumpling tea. Crazy Dumpling tea is a blend I created myself. I thought about doing something simple and refined, but then I thought “this is Crazy Dumpling tea! Let’s go CRAZY.” So my tea blend has pretty much everything possible in it. It starts with a light, green tea base, then some delicate jasmine flowers are added infused with peaches, then a strawberry infused oolong tea is added, followed by a fruit blend of apples, roselles, orange peels, and pineapples. It is finally super sweetened with a hit of blueberries. It is sooo good and the perfect partner for all of the crazy dumplings, sweet or savory!

Check out my article, and be sure to check out Crazy Dumplings on Kickstarter and pledge at the $45 or $50 level to get your very own tin of Crazy Dumpling tea!