How to Adjust Your Brewing Methods for Different Types of Tea

Although tea comes in many varieties, from herbal to green, black, and white, all the pure teas come from the bud and leaves of one plant, Camellia Sinensis. Different picking times and aging conditions produce unique flavors and aromas but only when properly brewed. Knowing how to best brew each type will ensure that you have a satisfying cup – no matter what variety of tea you choose.

Tea Types

  • As the lightest of the pure teas, white tea originates with the youngest leaves, which are quickly dried to ensure a sweet flavor.
  • Green tea, in turn, comes from slightly older leaves that are heated before being rolled to allow for some oxidation, lower caffeine, and a lightly toasted flavor.
  • Matcha tea comes from ground-up green tea leaves whisked with a small amount of water; this grassy tea is especially popular in Japanese tea ceremonies.
  • Oolong tea is made from bruised and torn leaves that experience partial oxidation for a fuller flavor.
  • Black tea leaves are rolled and given a much longer time to oxidize, resulting in its bold, rich, and complex flavor profile.
  • Herbal teas are not made from tea leaves and instead involve dried herbs, fruits, and flowers, including the yerba plant of South American Mate and the South African Red Bush of Rooibos teas.

Boiling and Brewing     

how-to-brew                                                                  

Capturing the spirit of a tea can be a complicated process, so you must use leaves, vessels, water, temperature, and time carefully. To start, bring water to a gentle boil; purified or spring water is best for maintaining minerals that enhance flavor. From there, each variety of tea will differ in brewing methods.

  • Delicate white tea should be brewed for 3 minutes at 176 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Green teas should be steeped 1 to 2 minutes at 158 to 176 degrees for steamed Japanese varieties and 2 to 3 minutes at 176 to 185 degrees for Chinese pan-fried leaves.
  • Light and heavy oolong teas require 3 minutes at 185 to 203 degrees and 203 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively.
  • Black teas should be brewed at 203 degrees, though broken leafs require only 2 to 3 minutes versus full leaf’s 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Pu-erh fermented teas should be brewed at 212 degrees for 3 minutes.
  • Herbal blends generally require only 3 minutes at 212 degrees in a glass or porcelain pot.

Green tea should thus be brewed briefly at lower temperatures, though black tea requires longer heat to release its sweet flavor. Similarly, while iron and heavier tea pots work best for black and other high temperature teas, green and white leaves should be used with cooler materials like porcelain or glass.

Brewing each type of tea according to these guidelines will ensure that you experience the full flavor possible for white, black, green, and other tea types. Remember that some brewing methods differ by culture, such as chai, which is usually made by boiling milk and spices with black tea, and matcha, which is often made using a specially designed whisk. Since stronger teas can actually flavor pots over time, consider using a separate one for each type so that you’re always able to savor their individual flavors.

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