How to Steep Tea

It's time to cozy up and learn how to steep tea. We'll tell you how to make a cup (or a pot) of your favorite chai, green tea or breakfast blend.

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While brewing coffee may be some folks’ preferred way to start the day, learning how to steep tea is a great alternative. Different types of tea offer different levels of caffeine or no caffeine at all; plus, tea comes in so many delicious varieties from spice-forward chai to soothing mint teas to enjoy before bed.

Now before you host that tea party (or just settle in with a good book), learn how to steep tea at home.

Tea Bags vs. Loose-Leaf Tea

Hand of a Woman Brewing Chamomile TeaFreshSplash/Getty Images

Before you get into brewing yourself a pot of English breakfast tea, you’ll have to decide if you’d prefer to use pre-made tea bags or loose-leaf tea.

Both of these options contain the same ingredients (tea leaves and, in some cases, extras like dried fruit and herbs for flavor). The only difference is the packaging.

Tea bags are what most of us are familiar with. These are simply paper sachets filled with finely ground tea leaves. Loose-leaf tea is the exact same as the tea in those tea bags but the ingredients haven’t been milled down quite as fine.

How to Steep Tea Bags

Putting tea bag into glass cup full of hot waterKseniya Ovchinnikova/Getty Images

In terms of convenience, you can’t beat packaged tea bags. There are so many tea bag options out there from big names like Lipton to specialty brands (Rishi is a Wisconsin-based brand Taste of Home staffers love).

When you’re craving a cup of chai tea, it’s as simple as adding a tea bag to your favorite mug and adding boiling water. Let the tea bag rest in the mug for several minutes (your preferred brand will have recommended steeping times right on the box or paper wrapper) before enjoying. It’s that simple.

Looking for a nostalgic tea? Make sure you check out this sun tea that is brewed in a warm place, such as in the summer sun or on a kitchen counter.

How to Steep Loose-Leaf Tea

If you want to branch out a bit from the regular tea bag game, embrace the world of loose-leaf teas. Using loose-leaf teas is a lot like grinding your own coffee at home: It may take a smidge more effort, but it pays off in flavor and freshness.

To make loose-leaf tea at home, you’ll need a few tools:

  • Tea kettle: If you make tea regularly, skip heating water in the microwave and invest in a good tea kettle. Our Test Kitchen loves these electric kettle options.
  • Disposable tea bags: These are tea bags you fill with your preferred blend of loose-leaf tea. They’re made out of natural materials (these are made of corn fiber and others are made out of paper similar to coffee filters).
  • Tea infuser: You can also invest in a reusable tea infuser. Fill it with tea leaves, nestle it into your mug or teapot and pour hot water over the top. Infusers come in many shapes and styles like this cute koala and assorted fruits. They make great gifts for tea lovers.

When you’re ready to brew yourself a cup of tea, fill your infuser or tea bag with a tablespoon of tea—more if you’re brewing a whole pot. Fit the bag or infuser inside of your mug and top with water. You can check out the chart below for the ideal temperatures for different kinds of teas.

All that’s left to do is let the tea sit for the required brew time, drain the infuser and then enjoy.

Steeping Times and Temperatures for Each Type of Tea

If your chosen tea doesn’t come with brewing instructions, don’t worry. Here are the recommended times and steeping temperatures for the most popular types of tea.

Black – 212ºF – 5 minutes

Green – 175ºF – 3 minutes

White – 175ºF – 3 minutes

Chai – 212ºF – 5 minutes

Herbal – 212ºF – 5 minutes

Tea FAQs

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How much tea do you need?

If you’re making a single serving of tea, one tea bag or about a tablespoon of loose-leaf tea is perfect. For a full pot, double the amount (or triple for a strong brew).

Can you reuse a tea bag?

Yes, you can reuse your tea bags. If you’ve enjoyed a cup and would like another, you don’t need to rip open another sachet. Just add the bag back to your mug and refill it with hot water. The second steeping will require more time—about twice the time as the first time around—to get the same level of flavor.

What can you add to tea?

Sugar and milk are the most common additions to a cup of hot tea. You can layer on more flavors with honey, a squeeze of lemon, spices (cinnamon and ginger are lovely in black tea) or even flavored syrups. These tea recipes from our Test Kitchen are full of inspirational flavor combos.

How do you make iced tea?

If you make hot tea, learning how to make iced tea is easy. All you do is make hot tea and chill it overnight! You can also steep tea bags in cold water for 12 to 24 hours.

Lisa Kaminski
Lisa is a former Taste of Home editor and passionate baker. During her tenure, she poured her love of all things sweet (and sometimes savory) into Bakeable, Taste of Home's baking club. Lisa also dedicated her career here to finding and testing the best ingredients, kitchen gear and home products for our Test Kitchen-Preferred program. At home, you'll find her working on embroidery and other crafts.