How to Steep Tea: Timing is Everything

In this “How to Steep Tea” series, I’ve decided to learn as many best tea steeping practices as I can and later decide which are worth their weight! Today I’m revealing what I’ve learned about steeping times for different types of tea.


Over-steeping causes tea leaves to release tannins, which taste bitter and cause yellowness in teeth. Under-steeping fails to unlock the full flavor or health benefit of tea. And although I have heard some conflicting advice, these seem to be the best ranges for loose leaf teas (you know me, I like flexibility!) :

  • White: 2-3 minutes
  • Green: 2-4 minutes
  • Black: 3-5 minutes
  • Oolong: 5-7 minutes
  • Red/Herbal: 5-7 minutes

It looks like teabags are a different deal, and should generally be steeped for 1-2 minutes less than loose leaf. I have also heard that for herbal teas, you should really steep for as long as you can. 15-20 minutes and large cut herbs are ideal for a delicious tisane experience, thought you may want to take the potential bitterness of certain ingredients, like orange peel.

There are many timing devices, and if you are into the experience I’d highly recommend a sand-filled hourglass. (I have seen the folks at Tealuxe in Harvard Square use little hourglasses, and it’s really fun.) But you can also use your phone, or a kitchen timer. I would not recommend using an egg timer, for anything. Haha! They’re noisy and inaccurate.

Happy steeping!




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