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Feb 2, 2012 05:36 PM

What's the best way to brew tea?

I want to get into brewing tea for some digestive issues I've been having; specifically Rooibos which I've read can be beneficial. Should I go high-tech with an electric kettle and teamaker such as this:

Or the traditional route? I just want to experience the purest taste and reap all the health benefits of Rooibos. Maybe I'll branch out to others later.

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    1. How you boil the water is irrelevant. The important factors are to use fresh water each time (filtered if your local water is less than ideal), a non-reactive pot (glass or ceramic), add the correct amount of tea, make sure the water is at the right temperature, and let it steep the right amount of time.

      If you buy your tea from a quality establishment like Upton Tea Imports, the package will indicate the correct temperature, amount, and steeping time.

      3 Replies
      1. re: BobB

        This. I also recommend drinking smaller teacups full of tea, so that what you have leftover stays warm in the teapot.

        1. re: BobB


          Electric kettle aside, how do I know when my water is at 180 or 212 degrees?

          1. re: madridista

            You could use a thermometer, but I think it's more fun to learn to judge the water temperature based on the look and sound. The Chinese refer to the earlier stages of boiling as 'shrimp eyes' and 'fish eyes'. When you've got small bubbles on the surface of the water, the water should be around 180 F, when you've got slightly bigger bubbles, the water should be closer to 195 F, and a full rolling boil, with large, continuous bubbles will be 212 F.

            You can bring to a full boil (just briefly), and then let the water cool for a few minutes. Depending on the material of your kettle, and whether the lid is on, it may take a bit of practice to figure out how long you have to wait for the water to cool to a certain point.

            Ultimately, it doesn't have to be exact. Worst case scenario, the tea doesn't taste its best, and you adjust the temperature up or down slightly next time. I tend to err a bit on the higher temperature side, and then back off if necessary. However, with delicate greens, you do want to be careful to avoid using too much heat on the first brew.

        2. I keep it as simple as possible for all tea that I drink.

          Clean kettle, water, boil, stop, let it go down a few degrees below boiling point.
          Put tea leaves in a small tea strainer.
          Pour water in clean cup.
          Put strainer in cup.
          Let it brew for how long YOU like it.
          Remove strainer (for certain tea, you can keep the leaves for 2nd brewing).
          Drink. (depending on YOUR taste, you can add a bit of sweatener (sugar, ... ) and/or milk),

          This is what I do for 99% of the tea I buy. for the other 1%, I will (might) rinse the leaves as instructed by the person who sold me the tea.

          8 Replies
          1. re: Maximilien

            Some teas brew best with water a little below boiling temperature, but many (most black teas, especially) do better at full 212°F.

            1. re: BobB

              Not true.

              Very few teas do well at temps exceeding 200F.

              The sweet spot is generally 180 to 190F. Black tea does well with hotter water, but even 212F is too hot for black tea.

              The only exception is probably for things like "herbal teas" but then those aren't really teas if you want to be technically accurate.

              1. re: ipsedixit

                I use the temperature recommendations from Upton, and virtually every black tea I've gotten from them (dozens over the years, my wife and I are big tea drinkers) has clearly stated that the water should be at 212°F. Those guys are serious experts, I'll stick with their advice.

                1. re: BobB

                  The temp of the water drops very quickly and dramatically when removed from the heat source. It may boil at 212 but be at 200 or less by the time it gets to your teapot.

                  1. re: comestible

                    In theory sure, but I use an electric kettle, and when it boils I pour the water into the teapot that's sitting six inches away. I don't imagine it cools down all that much, in fact it's usually still bubbling as I start to pour.

                    1. re: BobB

                      I have an electric kettle and do the same. I just tested with my immersible thermometer, and the water is 200 as it hits the cup next to the kettle, maybe 195. But I admit the possibiiity my thermometer isn't that accurate.

                      1. re: comestible

                        Try putting the thermometer into the kettle while it's boiling - that's what I do when I want to check the calibration on my digital probe meat thermometer.

                2. re: ipsedixit

                  The type and quality of the tea, as well as your personal preference, plays a role here. I brew many teas at temperatures at, or just below, a full boil.

                  Lower temperature will flatter certain teas, but using too low temperature water will also fail to bring out everything that a tea has to offer.

                  I would use full boil water for ripe or aged raw pu'er, liuan, many red (black) teas. I would use water just off the boil, and very close to boiling temperature for many oolongs, even some lighter ones. Of course, sometimes you can pour in a thinner stream or from higher up to slightly cool things down. It's true that you don't necessarily want to have the water hitting the tea at a full boil, but if you shoot for, say, 190F, you may end up with too low a temperature.

            2. Rooibos isn't really "tea", nor has it been produced for very long, so I don't think traditional brewing methods exist for it. A lot of rooibos has flavor added, so I'm not sure that 'purest taste' is relevant.

              I don't think the specific equipment really matters as much as technique and practice, but I would avoid gimmicks like "tea makers". Making tea and tisanes is basically just about combining water and tea leaves, and then separating them somehow. A porcelain or stoneware teapot and a good porcelain drinking cup is a good way to start.

              1. Also, while I'm not a big fan of gadgets for tea brewing, if you are going to go the "scientific" route, a small scale (for weighing the dry tea leaves) is probably the best thing you can buy in terms of brewing tea consistently. You can learn to eyeball it too, but every tea has different shape / size leaves, and the leaves can get broken even within one batch. So, more than a thermometer or tea maker, a small scale (the kind drug dealers use), or a kitchen scale with good precision, can be a good tea making accessory.