Tea Brewing Temperature Guide
From herbal teas to green teas, each different type of tea comes with its own instructions for brewing, including water volume, temperature for brewing, and timings. But how important are these guidelines really? Can't you just throw in the teabag and go?
At Zest Tea, we like a long and hot brew to get the most out of our high-caffeine plant-powered blends. When it comes to a delicate white tea, however, you should take a different approach.
In this guide to brewing tea for tea drinkers, we'll explain how to find the correct water temperature and brewing instructions for your favorite tea type.
Why Water Temperature Matters
There are two important reasons why the temperature for brewing tea really matters. The first is all about health, as hotter water temperatures draw out more nutrients faster than cold water. The second is all about flavor, as cooler water temperatures draw out flavor without the tannins.
So, there's conflicting advice here.
It's a well-known fact that the hotter the water, the more flavor you extract quickly from the tea leaves - you can test this for yourself at home, by brewing two teabags for 5 minutes, one in just boiled water and one in room temperature water.
However, if you brewed a teabag in room temperature water for much longer you'd eventually get a great tasting tea without the bitterness and tannins that boiling water draws out of the leaves.
The type of tea you are brewing is the most important determining factor for water temperature. Some tea types will become much more bitter than others when brewed at hot temperatures. That's where our tea brewing temperature guidelines step in - find the right water temperature for your tea below, to get the best flavor and nutrition.
Important note: while brewing tea at very hot temperatures may be ideal, you should still wait for the tea to cool before sipping it. Drinking tea at high temperatures may be linked to an increased risk of esophageal cancer.
Bubbles and Boiling Point
When you boil water, it bubbles and you start to lose oxygen concentrations too. You may see smaller and larger bubbles, depending on the temperature. If you don't have a thermometer or simply don't have time to wait for the water to reach a rolling boil, you can stop when only small bubbles are present - this is ideal for green tea, white tea, and other gentle tea types.
For strong black teas, go beyond tiny bubbles until you have large bubbles and very hot water.
It is always preferable to heat water up to the right temperature for brewing, rather than bringing you water to a full boil and cooling it down - the more oxygen you lose from boiling the fresh water, the staler your tea will taste.
Tea Brewing Temperatures
As a rough guide, here are our recommended tea temperature brewing guidelines for a guaranteed delicious cup every time.
Zest Black Tea
Our black tea likes it hot! Use boiling water and let our tea pyramids (or spoonful of loose leaf tea) brew for 3-5 minutes. This is the best way to draw out the 150mg of caffeine and tasty non-GMO flavors.
Zest Green Tea
Our green tea blends are naturally sweet and a little grassy. If you have the time to brew tea at 80°C (176°F) you will get a really smooth flavor and the plant-powered caffeine Zest is known for.
If not, don't panic. We've tested our green tea leaves when brewed at boiling point and our carefully selected natural ingredients - from mint to acai - still ensure a perfect tasting cup every time.
Brew for 2-3 minutes while you explore our range of Energy Teas.
Black and herbal teas are the two most popular tea types that like to be brewed in very hot water. A water temperature of 100°C or just below is perfect, so let your electric kettle come to a full boil before pouring it over the black tea leaves. Let it steep for up to 5 minutes.
Generally speaking, brew for only a couple of minutes if you like your tea plain, or 5+ minutes if you like it with milk and/or sugar.
Most green teas like a cool 80°C water temperature and a moderately short brewing time. Brewing at this lower temperature ensures the full flavor without the bitterness. Brewing time depends on personal preference, but we usually find that shorter is better for green and white teas.
Like white and green teas, use 80°C water to make matcha. Whisk 2g of matcha powder into the water until it's well combined and frothy. Read our guide to matcha tea caffeine to learn more about preparing and consuming this tea type.
White tea typically likes lower temperatures, to draw out the naturally sweet and mellow flavors. If your white tea doesn't come with instructions for brewing, the correct temperature is usually 80°C or lower. Brew for 1-3 minutes.
Brewing oolong tea doesn't just come down to personal taste, it's also dependent on how fully oxidized the tea is. Lightly oxidized oolong that's similar to green tea, requires a lower temperature. A higher temperature is more ideal for dark oxidized oolongs - although you should still avoid a full boil.
The tea temperature range for oolong tea is between 75°C and 90°C.
Roasted teas that are heavily oxidized require very hot and fully boiled water. Pu-erh tea is no exception. This fermented tea type is often packed into cakes. Break off a 2g chunk and use 95°C water - stop the heat just before your water boils - unless otherwise directed.
For the best flavors, you can brew for 2-4 minutes or try a traditional brewing approach with a gaiwan.
Many chai teas, including our Spicy Masala Chai, require the same temperature and steeping time as standard black tea. Traditionally, the tea leaves and whole spices may be toasted, then simmered in boiling milk or water on the stove.
Making tea from teabags offers a more convenient method - just use 1 teabag in 250ml of water that's just off a full boil, and let it steep for 3-5 minutes for the perfect cup of chai.
Thai tea is an iced tea type, but you still need to begin with steeping tea leaves in hot water. Use our sweet Thai iced tea recipe, which requires 1 Spicy Masala Chai teabag and 100°C water to steep the tea.
After a generous cooling time, just pour the tea, condensed milk and vanilla extract over ice.
Iced Tea and Cold Brew
Although both methods result in a cold tea beverage, iced tea and cold brew actually use different temperatures.
- Iced Tea - steep your tea using the methods listed above, depending on your tea type. Once the tea has brewed, cool it quickly by pouring it over ice.
- Cold brew - add the tea leaves directly to cool water and let them steep for 8 hours or longer, to draw out the flavors and amino acids without the bitterness and tannins.
Many pre-made and ready-to-go iced teas contain a moderate amount of sugar (Zest Energy Tea excluded) so it's often best to make them at home and control the sweetness yourself.
Herbal teas, from chamomile to peppermint to fennel seed, typically use 100°C water. As these herbal infusions are not made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis tea plant, using a very hot water temperature won't make them overly bitter.
In fact, the recommended water temperature and brewing time for herbal tea is usually 100°C for 5+ minutes.
Our calming herbal tea is super unfussy - just add hot water and let it brew, then add honey to taste.
Is boiling water too hot for tea?
Boiling water is perfect for many black tea blends as well as herbal teas, however it may be too hot for green tea and other delicate tea types.
How does temperature affect the brewing of tea?
The hotter the water, the faster the tea will brew and the stronger the flavor. You will also draw out more tannins and bitterness, which is fine for rich black tea but not desirable for more delicate tea types.
Scalding the leaves with boiling water can also damage some of the amino acids - EGCG is easily oxidized in very hot water and that's another reason why green and white teas should be brewed at lower temperatures.
How do I prepare loose leaf tea?
Add 2g of loose leaf to an infuser, like our Paris teacup infuser, pour over hot water (see above for the correct temperature), and let it steep for 3-5 minutes or as directed. Remove the infuser and discard the tea leaf from your cup of tea.
What is the perfect water temperature for brewing tea?
100°C for black, fermented and herbal tea. 70°C to 95°C depending on the type of oolong, white, green or yellow tea.
What is the best water to brew tea?
Water with a small amount of minerals is best for brewing tea. Water that's too hard will create a metallic taste in your tea, while water that's too soft will flatten and dull the flavors. Filtered tap water is usually perfectly fine for brewing tea, or you can buy bottled spring water.
How to make the best cup of tea?
First, choose a natural and high-quality tea blend made with large leaf pieces. Brew the tea in freshly drawn water at the correct temperature, slowly stirring (don't be aggressive!) for a few minutes. Remove the tea when it's at the right strength for your tastes.
You can also add milk and/or a sweetener.