No matter what anyone tries to tell you, there is no one right way to steep tea. No one right way to brew black tea, green tea, or any tea. But there is one rule that applies universally, and that is to give your tea leaves plenty of room to breathe and move in the water.
Our Instagram post on this topic sparked lots of discussion in the store, so I thought it would be good to carry that conversation to everyone.
The Only Rule to Steep Tea
You can steep tea in any vessel or brewing device that you like, as long as it’s roomy enough for the tea leaves to move comfortably in the water. You can use a brew basket, paper filters, a french press, or steep loose in the pot. You can even use a tea ball if it’s big enough. What you should NOT use is a teeny tiny tea ball or anything that is too small to give the tea leaves room to expand.
Some teas open up more in the water than others, but even so, this rule applies across the board. Oolongs and pearl-style teas open up the most, followed by green, black, puer, and herbal teas. White teas need lots of room from the start since their leaves are quite large when dry. In fact, oolongs and pearl-style teas are designed to open up more each time you steep them. You’ll notice different nuances to the brew’s flavor each time you steep the tea leaves.
When you don’t give the leaves enough room to breathe you end up with tea that tastes constricted. You don’t get the full flavor of the tea this way. So not only do you miss out on great tasting tea, but you’re not honoring the work and intention that went into creating that particular tea. Someone put a lot of thought and effort into those leaves, and it’s best for both of you if you brew it to its potential.
The Tao of Brewing Tea
If you follow this one hard and fast rule when brewing tea, you’ll be golden. The rest of the so-called rules you can play around with. Vary the temperature of the water, change the time the leaves steep in the water, use a different vessel. But don’t constrict, compact, or crowd the leaves. They won’t be happy and neither will you.
It may sound crazy, but you’ll actually taste the difference when you give the leaves lots of room to move and unfold.