Step-by-step instructions with photos on how to make oolong tea using a clay teapot. You’ll be surprised at how good oolong tea can taste using this traditional method.
Oolong tea is a real tea, which means it comes from the camellia sinensis plant. What else is real tea? Black tea, green tea, white tea, and puerh tea. Not a real tea? All herbal teas like hibiscus and chamomile.
Freshly picked tea leaves from the camellia sinensis plant are processed to create the different types of tea. The most processed is black tea and the least processed is white tea.
Processing includes withering, oxidation, shaping, and drying tea leaves. Oolong falls in between black and green tea in how processed it is.
Brewing Oolong Tea in a clay teapot
A traditional way to make oolong tea is in a small clay teapot. Another way to brew oolong tea properly is to use a gaiwan, a traditional Chinese tea brewing bowl with a lid.
There are a few reasons I use the clay teapot:
- Clay teapots retain heat well so they keep the water hot.
- The teapot is porous, so, over time, it’ll soak in the flavor of the tea, which is quite lovely.
- It’s easy to brew multiple steeps of the same oolong tea leaves.
To drink oolong tea, you don’t add any milk or sugar. Just oolong tea and hot water. That’s it.
What You’ll Need
- Loose oolong tea
- Filtered water
- Clay teapot
- Small tasting cups
- Sharing pitcher
- Tea strainer
- Tea scale
- Electric kettle with temperature setting
- Large bowl for throwing out water
- Tray or a towel to catch spilled water
STEP 1: Measure your tea using a scale.
For proper oolong tea tasting and brewing, you should use only loose tea. Tea in tea bags just aren’t good enough quality and you won’t get the full experience and flavors.
When brewing oolong tea in a clay teapot, weighing tea is essential so that you get the exact amount of tea you need.
Some teas are long and twisty while others are rolled into tight little balls. You would get a completely different amount of tea using a teaspoon whereas using a scale gives you an accurate amount regardless of the shape of the tea.
I’m going with 6 grams of oolong tea for one small clay teapot, which holds one cup of water.
STEP 2: Boil water.
Boil water in an electric kettle or on the stovetop.
Oolong teas are brewed at 185°F – 212°F so check the tea packaging to see what they recommend for the oolong tea you have.
Use filtered water for the best tasting oolong tea.
STEP 3: Warm up the teapot, pitcher, and cups.
Pour some hot water into the teapot, pitcher, and cups. You just want enough hot water to fill halfway, then gently swirl the hot water around a bit.
After a few seconds, you can dump the water out from the teapot, tea cups, and pitcher into a large bowl. The large bowl is there so you don’t have to make multiple trips to the sink to throw out the water.
Tea Sommelier’s Tip: When pouring from the teapot, ALWAYS put one finger on the lid. Not doing so can cause tea to spill out and make a mess.
Be careful not to put your finger over the hole at the top of the teapot since that’ll stop the airflow and the tea will stop pouring.
STEP 4: Put oolong tea leaves in teapot.
Put the weighed oolong tea into the warmed teapot.
STEP 5: Fill teapot with hot water.
The clay teapot I’m using holds 8 oz. (a cup) of water. Fill the water all the way up to the top of the teapot.
A tray is used so that you don’t have to worry about any water spilling over.
STEP 6: Rinse tea.
We’re not ready to drink the tea just yet. We’re going to do a rinse with hot water for a few seconds.
I keep the hot water in the teapot for about 5 seconds and then pour it out into the large bowl. This jump-starts the steeping process as the leaves will start to unfurl.
STEP 7: First steep.
Refill the teapot all the way with hot water. This time, we’re steeping the tea for 45 seconds. I use the timer on my phone to keep count.
This is the tea we’ll finally get to drink.
STEP 8: Pour tea into a pitcher with a strainer.
I use a tea strainer and put that into what’s called a “sharing pitcher.” Pour the tea from the teapot into the pitcher.
Make sure you get every last drop out from the teapot so that there’s no water left in the teapot. Hot water left lingering in the teapot keeps the tea steeping and will make your tea taste bitter.
Take out the strainer from the pitcher.
Step 9: Pour tea from the sharing pitcher into cups.
With this brewing process, you’ll notice the cups are fairly small. You can usually get 2 – 3 sips from each cup.
Once you’ve finished the cup, pour again from the pitcher until the pitcher is empty.
Step 10: Second steep.
Fill up the teapot once more and steep the tea, but this time, for 1 minute and 15 seconds. I’m extending the brew time for at least 30 seconds for each additional steep.
Step 11: Third steep.
With this brewing method, I steep tea at least 3 times. Each steep releases different subtle flavors so the first steep is never the same as the third.
For the third steep, I brew the oolong tea for 2 minutes.
If you do a fourth and a fifth, which is not out of the ordinary, I extend the time by adding another 30 seconds – 1 minute.
With each steep, take out a tea leaf from the teapot and see how much of the leaf has unfurled.
OOLONG TEA BREWING TIPS
- Always use good-quality, loose oolong tea and filtered water.
- Clay teapots are used mostly for oolong and puerh teas.
- Oolong teas are a great way to get into tea. See my top 5 recommended oolongs to try first.