How to Easily Make a Proper Cup of Tea

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Making a perfect pot of tea is all in the details. Learn the proper way to make tea with my step-by-step instructions.

Pouring tea into a cup with a strainer.

A Proper Cup of Tea

As a certified Tea Sommelier, I’ve learned that when it comes to making a proper cup of tea, it’s all in the details.

All you need to do to make a cup of tea is hot water and tea. But if you want to make a proper cup of tea, there are a couple of extra steps you should take. It’ll elevate your tea experience and make your tea taste better!

What You’ll Need

Steps to Make Tea

6 photos showing steps to make tea.

Here’s a quick overview of the steps to make tea properly. For full instructions to make black tea, scroll down to see the recipe.

  1. Boil water.
    Different types of tea require different water temperature to brew. Check the tea packaging to see the recommended water temperature.
  2. Warm up teapot.
    This step is a detail that takes your tea to the next level and almost no one does it. But they should. Take some of the boiled water and fill half the teapot and give it a few swirls then throw out the water. We’re warming the teapot so that when the hot water for tea goes in, the water temperature won’t drop too much.
  3. Put tea into teapot and add hot water.
  4. Cover teapot and steep tea.
    Set the timer on your phone to steep it to the correct amount of time. The steep time is different for each kind of tea so check the tea package to see what is recommended. Usually it’s no more than 5 minutes.
  5. Strain tea solids and pour hot tea into tea cups.

If you want to have another cup, pour more hot water into the teapot (using the same tea leaves) and set the timer again. For the second steep, add 1-2 more minutes.

Tea Sommelier’s Tip: Don’t leave tea leaves sitting in water after the steep time since it makes the tea really bitter. To avoid this, use a tea infuser inside a teapot so that the tea leaves are separated from the water after the first pour or make just enough tea and pour out every last drop so there isn’t any water sitting in the teapot.

Notes & Tips

  • Use Filtered water
    Clean, filtered water won’t add any other taste to your tea.
  • Set the correct water temperature
    Water temperature is a little tricky. Some tea require just boiled water while other teas are a little more sensitive to hot water (especially green tea) so you’ll need to make sure the water temperature is correct. An electric kettle with temperature setting is key to making a proper cup.
  • Steep for the correct amount of time
    Oversteeping tea leads to a bitter cup. This is the time to use the timer on your smartphone. Follow the steep time recommendations on the tea package, but roughly it is: black tea for 4-5 minutes, green and oolong for 3 minutes, and white tea for 4 minutes. The only tea that should steep for longer than 5 minutes is herbal tea.
  • Use loose tea
    Tea in tea bags are the leftover broken bits, or “tea dust,” collected after tea has been processed. That doesn’t sound too appealing does it? Good quality tea is a rolled whole tea leaf. As the tea steeps, it will unfurl in the water and you should be able to see the entire leaf.
  • Warm the teapot
    An important step to making sure the tea brews properly in hot water.

Questions You May Have

Why is my tea bitter?

Tannins are compounds in tea. When tea leaves steep for too long or in water that’s too hot, it releases a lot of tannins, making your tea bitter. That’s why you shouldn’t steep your tea for too long or in water that’s too hot.

Why is green tea so bitter?

Green tea is notorious for being super fickle. You shouldn’t steep for too long and most definitely don’t need boiling hot water. If you’ve had green tea that’s too bitter to drink, it wasn’t made properly. See my green tea guide.

Why is my tea flavorless?

Again, tannins. If you didn’t steep your tea long enough or used water that’s too cool, you’ll get a less than ideal cup of tea.

Why can’t I use tap water to make tea?

You’ll get a cleaner and more consistent tasting cup of tea when you use better quality water.

Can I use the microwave to make tea?

I would advise against using the microwave to make tea. When you use an electric kettle or heat water on the stovetop, you get water that’s uniformly hot. In the microwave, you would get hot and cold spots which isn’t ideal for steeping tea. Also, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out the water temperature when you use the microwave.

Which tea should I start with if I want to get into tea?

I recommend starting with oolong tea since it’s pretty forgiving. See my oolong tea guide.

A cup and saucer with tea.

How to Make Tea Properly

Author: Jee Choe
Making a perfect pot of tea is all in the details. Learn the proper way to brew tea.
4.9 from 14 votes
Prep Time 2 mins
Steep Time 5 mins
Total Time 7 mins
Course Drinks
Yield2 servings

INGREDIENTS
 

  • 2 cups water + more to warm teapot
  • 1 tablespoon loose black tea

INSTRUCTIONS
 

  • Boil water.
    If using an electric kettle with temperature setting, set it to 208°F for black tea. Heat a little more water than needed so that it can be used to warm up the teapot. Use filtered water for brewing. Water is the only other ingredient in tea, so better water equals better tea.
  • Warm up teapot.
    Pour some hot water into your teapot and swirl it around to get it warm. Discard the water.
  • Put tea into teapot and add hot water.
  • Cover teapot and steep tea for 5 minutes.
    Cover the teapot so that the hot water stays hot.
  • Strain tea solids and pour hot tea into tea cups.

NUTRITION

Calories: 1 | Carbohydrates: 1g | Sodium: 12mg | Calcium: 7mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @ohhowcivilized and use hashtag #ohhowcivilized!

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20 thoughts on “How to Easily Make a Proper Cup of Tea”

  1. Hi, this is my first time on your site. Really enjoyable! I was wondering, if my tea instructions call for 1.5 tbsp tea per 12 oz water, I should I use 4.5 tbsp if I am making a pot with 36 oz water? Or should I lessen the amount of tea? Thanks for your advice in advance.

    Reply
  2. Hi there! I’m so happy I’ve come across your blog – there is so much helpful information here! Please keep it up. Also, can I get the reference for the wire tea strainer you’re using? It’s so beautiful!

    Reply
  3. In a post somewhere you mentioned steeping the tea first for less than a minute. I got my brother a rishi barrel aged Chiangmai black tea that suggested steeping it first for 45 seconds. Do you have any thoughts on that? Should I do that for other black loose teas?

    Reply
    • The first steep isn’t really a steep but a rinse and that can be for about 15 seconds, just to wake up the leaves. After the rinse is the first steep which should be the 45 seconds for that tea. You do short steeps when you plan on doing multiple steeps. So after the first 45 second steep and you drink that tea, do another steep but add 30 seconds more to the previous steep. Drink that, and then you can do another steep adding another 30 seconds.

      You can totally do that for all other loose teas, not just black tea.

      Reply
    • Hi Ashok, the temperature depends on the tea. Most tea will come with brewing directions including water temperature on the packaging.

      Reply
  4. When I put 16 oz of water into the teapot I don’t get enough tea for 2 cups of tea back. How much water should go into the pot to brew two 8 oz cups?

    Reply
  5. So enjoyed the videos. I do warm my pots and cups, but I also have to use my tea cozies, as I don't care for cold tea (unless of course, it is iced…). I have to look for the book she mentioned. I do have her molds for sugar/butter. I love them, but don't use them often as people stare at them as they are "pretty" and don't want to use them. Too funny if you ask me.

    Reply

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