“The perfect temperature for tea is two degrees hotter than just right.” ~The Quote Garden
Though most teas will produce a decent cup if you steep them all in boiling water, many of the finer teas will do much better at lower temperatures. Green and white teas, for example, are more delicate and you get more flavour if you brew in slightly cooler water.
These steeping times are only approximate, and you should adjust them depending on your own personal tea taste.
Black tea – Black is the most robust of the tea varieties and can be brewed in truly boiling water, usually steeped for 3-5 minutes. The finer or more broken the leave, the less time you will need to steep it. A strong BP Assam tea will only need about 2 minutes.
Oolong tea – As to be expected, Oolong tea falls between green and black. The best temperature is around 190F. Depending on the Oolong you have, because some oolongs are more fermented than others, generally steep for around 3-5 minutes. If you are going to re-use your tea leaves for a second or third steeping, you will need to steep longer each time. But, taste it to see how strong you like it.
Green tea – You will need to be gentler with your green teas. The water temperature should be around 150-160F or 70-80C and only steeped for 2-3 minutes.
White tea – Another delicate tea that should be treated gently. Water can be a bit warmer than for green tea, at 180F. You should let it steep longer though. At least 4-6 minutes.
Rooibos – This red herbal tea from South Africa is very hardy stuff and should be prepared with fully boiling water, just like black tea. Steep for 5-7 minutes. Can be re-steeped a few times too.
Herbal – With so many different herbs that can be used for herbal tea blends, there is no way to give any temperature or steeping guidelines with any accuracy. Most herbs can be brewed in boiling water and steeped for about 5 minutes. You might need a bit of trial and error to get the perfect cup.
No Thermometer? – If you don’t have a thermometer handy, you can tell the water temperature by watching the bubbles. Small bubbles will float to the surface of the water 160-170F. You’ll see strings of bubbles from the bottom of the kettle at 180-190F. After that, you’ll have a full rolling boil.