As the girl with the teacup and teapot tattoo, I guess you could say I love tea. One day I came across loose-leaf tea. Terrified at first, I had no clue what to do with it. "Loose-leaf? Like the paper??" After doing some research and a little trial and error, I found out how to create a perfect cup. So naturally, I’m going to spill the tea for you.

Step 1: Find a Quality Loose Leaf

Mackenzie Huggins

The difference between bagged tea and loose-leaf is the quality of flavor and freshness. Bagged tea is often ground up where as loose leaf is the full tea leaf, which gives your cup more flavor and health benefits like antioxidants. Some teas also include dried fruit pieces, citrus peels or even flowers like rosebuds and lavender for extra flavor. 

Once you get the tea, it is very important to know how to store it. Unlike tea bags that you can have sitting in the pantry in the box you bought it from, loose-leaf must be stored in an air tight container for optimal freshness. If the leaves are exposed to air, they can quickly become stale and lose flavor. I like to use tins and label which type of tea is in it to keep my collection organized. 

Step 2: Get the Right Tools

Mackenzie Huggins

Drinking loose leaf tea requires a little more work than just tossing a bag in a mug of hot water. My tool of choice is the Perfect Tea Maker from Teavana. This neat gadget allows me to put my tea, rock beet sugar and water together to steep in perfect harmony, until it’s time to put it on my mug and drain right into my cup. How cool is that?!

You can also buy tea balls, or this travel mug that has a steeping basket for great tea on the go. You could even buy these handy filter pouches; it’s like a DIY teabag! 

Step 3: Tea to Time to Water Temperature Is Crucial

Mackenzie Huggins

With loose-leaf tea, you want to be mindful and respectful to those beautiful leaves. They are delicate—so if your water is too hot, they can burn, causing a bitter taste. Steeping the perfect cup comes down to a science.

The steep time depends on the tea. If the tea hasn’t had the proper amount of time to steep or there aren't enough tea leaves, it will be weak. And if it steeps too long, it can become bitter. The longer the tea steeps in the water does not equal more flavor. It's a rookie mistake—trust me on this one. Nothing is worse than taking that first sip and wanting to spit it out because it's bitter. 

Check where you buy your tea to see what their recommended steep time and water temperature is for the best outcome. Every package of tea from Teavana comes with a chart on the back in case you forget how long your oolong or herbal blend needs to bask in that water.

Step 4: Sippin' That Tea

Mackenzie Huggins

Wait patiently for your tea and enjoy! Don't be discouraged if the first few times you over or under-steep, working with loose-leaf is a learning process. But once you've mastered it, you will never want to go back to store-bought tea bags again.

This may seem like a lot of work to some people, but for optimal flavor and health benefits of tea, the whole process makes it all worth it.