To get the best flavor and health benefits from your tea, you should brew the tea leaves at their ideal water temperature - not too hot and not too cold.
What do I mean?
When you pour water over the tea leaves in your strainer basket and let them steep for a few minutes, the tea leaves release tannins, amino acids, and flavor compounds into your water. Brewing your tea at the ideal water temperature extracts these compounds in a balanced way and results in a tea that not only tastes amazing but also preserves all its health benefits.
Water temperature that is too hot can destroy the most desirable tea compounds and burn the sensitive tea leaves, making the tea taste unbalanced, slightly acidic, and even bitter.
Water temperature that is too cold doesn't dissolve those compounds enough, and the tea lacks flavor and balance, even if you steep it for longer.
So, getting the brewing temperature just right — not too hot and not too cold — is one of the many secrets of great-tasting tea.
Here are some general guidelines for different types of tea:
- White teas: 160° to 200°F;
- Green teas: 140° to 190°F;
- Oolong teas: 180° to 200°F;
- Black teas: 190° to 200°F;
- Tisane/Herbal teas: 205°F.
But don't worry about remembering these temperatures. I have marked the ideal brewing temperature of each tea on the bag.
If you don't have a tea kettle with a built-in thermometer, you can also measure the water temperature with a digital candy thermometer. Both methods work very well.
Here is another tip for tea lovers: boiling your water first and letting it cool to the desired temperature removes oxygen from the water and reduces the flavor of your tea. For that reason, I always bring my water up to the ideal temperature rather than down to it.
What if you don't have a thermometer handy? You can also determine the ideal water temperature by watching the bubbles in the kettle.
Yes, seriously — but it's not as precise as a thermometer.
If you start to see a continuous stream of larger bubbles with steam rising vertically and the water making popping sounds, you can use it for white and green teas. Just before the water is boiling — but isn't boiling yet —, it is perfect for oolongs, black teas, and Pu'er.