How often and how long should tea be steeped? December 30 2014

posted by Nick Schäferhoff

It will come as no surprise that I am no fan of tea bags. Tea leaves shredded to bits, stored in canvas bags for god knows how long? No thank you, I'll stay with the good stuff.  One thing that bags have going for themselves, however, is their convenient preparation. Just adhere to the instructions, steep for the time provided on the box and you are good.

Loose-leaf tea is a different case. Because it is a less standardized product, there is a certain imprecision involved in its preparation. Steeping times and number of infusions are not set in stone.  This, however, is part of the beauty. Because it allows you to experiment for yourself as well experience different layers of flavor depending on the time the leaves spent submerged in water.

Yet not all teas are created equal. Different kinds call for different infusion times. That's why today we will go over how long to steep each tea variety and also whether to infuse them more than once.

By the way, if you don't have a watch handy, here is an online tea timer.

Types of tea and their infusion times

Black tea

  • Water temperature: 96°C (205°F)
  • Steeping time: 3-5 minutes

White tea

  • Water temperature: 80-85°C (175-185°F)
  • Steeping time: 4-5 minutes

Green tea

  • Water temperature: 65-80°C (150-175°F)
  • Steeping time: 3-4 minutes

Oolong tea

  • Water temperature: 90°C (195°F)
  • Steeping time: 3-6 minutes

What about multiple infusions?

Unlike tea bags, which in my opinion should only be used once, you can get many servings of tea from just one serving of leaves. Not only does that give your more bang for your buck, but you also get to taste the flavor development from one steep to the next.

How often should you reuse the leaves? There is no real rule to it and it is again a matter of personal taste. As long as you continue to get enjoyable flavor out of the tea leaves I say go for it. The only thing to keep in mind is that you might have to increase the steeping time a little bit with each subsequent infusion.