Unlike most college students, I don’t really “do” coffee. The crazy caffeine gives me the jitters, and honestly, does anyone really like the flavor? (Yuck!) That being said, I need something that gets me to my 8 a.m. classes and through hours-long study sessions. That’s where my drink of choice comes in — tea! Read on to discover how to brew the perfect cup of tea.

I’m a total tea snob, and with good reason. There’s a lot that goes into a good cup of tea, and cultures all over the world take the art of tea preparation and consumption very seriously. However, I think most college kids think it’s as simple as plopping a Lipton tea bag into a cup of boiling water. I’m going to put that idea to rest, and introduce you readers to the art of making a beautiful, enjoyable cup of tea.

matcha, green tea, tea

What is Tea?

First off, did you know there’s only really four types of tea out there? Yes, really! White, green, black, and oolong are the only teas that come from the camellia sinensis bush, which make them true teas. The difference between the teas has to do with their oxidation and drying processes. Black tea is fully dried and oxidized, giving it a full-bodied flavor. Green teas are dried, but skip the oxidizing process. Oolong is a sort of cross between black and green tea and is partially oxidized (somewhere between 30-70%) and dried. White tea, the most delicate form of tea, is not oxidized nor rolled — it’s simply dried by steaming.

Now, I know what you all are thinking, “Excuse me, I love me a good cup of chamomile before bedtime, or a hibiscus iced tea in the summertime! How are those not teas?” Well, those fruity or floral drinks are definitely enjoyed and prepared like teas, but since they don’t come from the tea plant, they’re actually just herbal infusions. Rooibos, a tea that comes from the Aspalathus linearis plant, and mate, which comes from the Ilex paraguariensis bush, are also popular tea-like beverages that fall under the “herbal” category. Celestial Seasonings, a popular tea brand based out of Boulder, Colorado is known for using this term to describe their unique herbal tea blends.

coffee, tea
Jocelyn Hsu

How to Brew Tea

Now for the fun part. Did you know that different teas should be prepared differently? An incorrectly brewed tea can be burned and end up tasting quite bitter. No tea should be brewed with boiling water. White teas should be brewed with water that’s 175-185 degrees fahrenheit and steeped for only 1–3 minutes. Green teas can be brewed with 180-185 degree water for 2–3 minutes to reach peak flavor. Black teas can be brewed under more “extreme” conditions, with water of up to 206 degrees and steeped for 3–5 minutes. Oolong has a wider range and can be brewed from 185-206 degrees for 3–5 minutes. Both rooibos and mate leaves can be brewed under 208 degree water for 5-6 minutes, since again, they are more like herbal infusions and not actual teas. Now what about those fancy fruity teas we all enjoy so much? Well, there’s less of a chance for them to be burned, plus the flavors are usually weaker than tea leaves, so feel free to brew them with 206 degree water for 5–7 minutes to reach full aromatic flavor. I use a kitchen thermometer to test my water temperature, but if you don't want to be that exact, simply boil your water and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes before pouring it over your tea, depending on the type of tea you are brewing. 

There’s so much to enjoy about tea, and when you start to learn about its different properties, flavors, and benefits it gets even more fun to experience the “art of tea drinking.” Now that you know the basics on how to brew an optimum pot of tea, go forth and enjoy!

espresso, tea, coffee
Courtney Claassen