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How to make the perfect cup of tea

One secret to the perfect cup of tea is knowing how long to steep each type of tea. Our chart comes in handy so you will know exactly when to take out the tea bag or tea strainer filled with tea leaves for black, green, herbal — and every tea in between.

Steep time

“Basically, the less processed the tea leaves are the less time you would like it to sit in the hot water,” explains Brian Pfeiffer, Creator and CEO of “It’s those darn tannins that can turn a well-intentioned cup of tea very bitter with those delicate teas. The darker the tea, the longer it takes for those tannins to wake up and start their bitter quest. I can’t stress enough that people need to experiment with a particular type of tea and steep times [as] one oolong will be different from another oolong.”

how long to steep tea

What happens if you steep your tea for three minutes instead of the recommended two minutes? Pfeiffer jokes that it won’t “burst into flames” but some teas will get bitter the longer they sit. “Experiment to see what works for you. Herbals can stand to brew longer, as most folks want the health properties,” he said.

Water temperature

“Green and white teas like [the water to be] steaming or little bubbles. Oolongs like medium size bubbles and black [teas] like it when the water starts to boil,” Pfeiffer says.

For those left-brained folks that want to know the exact temperatures, Daniel Lewis, founder and owner of T By Daniel, shares the right temperature for the perfect cup of tea:

  • Black tea: Boiling water
  • Oolong tea: Approximately 190 degrees F
  • Green tea: Approximately 150 to 160 degrees F
  • White tea: 170 to 180 degrees F
  • Herbal tea: Boil baby, boil!

Tasty tea add-ins

We asked tea expert Shane Talbott, founder and creative director of Talbott Teas, to share his favorite add-ins.

  • Black tea: A splash of milk and a pinch of organic cane sugar
  • Green tea: Lemon and/or honey
  • Herbal tea: Honey or agave syrup. Never milk as it would most likely curdle.
  • Oolong: Usually this one is delicious alone, but maybe a drop or two of honey.
  • White tea: Lemon
  • Red tea: A splash of milk and pinch of organic cane sugar
  • Yellow tea: Lemon
Pfeiffer says he likes soy milk with chai tea and a cinnamon stick or honey with green teas. “Enjoying a cup of tea is like enjoying a glass of wine — you can make it as complicated and as intimidating as you want or you can sit back and simply enjoy it!” he says.

This post was sponsored by Marie Callender’s Desserts.

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