Brewing loose leaf tea can sometimes seem intimidating, especially if you aren’t using a special tea service like a gaiwan or a dedicated yixing clay teapot.  While you can always enjoy gong fu style tea with objects you have around you own home, sometimes you’re just in the mood for a nice mug of tea!

If that’s the case, a tea lover’s best friend is a Brew Basket.  Versatile, easy to clean and easy to use, this handy brewing device works well for making both mugs and full pots of tea. If you keep in mind a few simple guidelines, you can enjoy multiple steepings of your favorite fine loose leaf teas with just a brew basket, a mug or a tea cup, and boiled water!

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Step One: Use about 4 grams of Loose Leaf Tea

When you brew tea with a brew basket, you’ll want to use about 4 grams of your favorite tea for every 6 oz of water.  If your mug or cup holds 8oz of water, then you’ll use about 5-6g of tea.  If you do not have a kitchen scale at home, you can always estimate this amount.

For rolled or compressed teas like Tieguanyin or Pu’er, you’ll use about 1 heaped tablespoon of loose tea.

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Pictured above: 4 grams of Master Han’s Shu Pu’er and
4 grams of Hand Picked Spring Tieguanyin

Curled or medium density teas (probably the most common type) like Laoshan Green or Laoshan Black take up about 1 tablespoon and 1 generously heaped teaspoon.

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Pictured above: 4g of Summer Harvest Laoshan Green Tea

 

For fluffier teas, like strip style Wuyi Oolongs or our Yunnan White Jasmine, Bai Mu Dan or Zhu Rong Yunnan Black, you’ll end up using at least two heaped tablespoons.

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Pictured above: 4g of Yunnan White Jasmine

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Pictured above: 4g of Wuyi Mountain Big Red Robe

Step Two: Use Filtered, Freshly Boiled Water

No matter how you’re brewing your tea, we recommend using filtered or spring water whenever possible to make the best tasting brew.  Overly hard water or over-boiled water can make tea that tastes flat, or water with too much calcium can develop oily scum and residue on the surface of your tea.

For darker, oxidized teas, we generally recommend using water that’s just under boiling: about 205 degrees.  For more delicate teas like green tea, we recommend cooler water at about 175 or 180 degrees.  If you don’t have a thermometer handy and you’d like to brew with cooler water, simply wait a minute for the water to cool down before brewing, or pour your water into a glass pitcher to cool it down more quickly.

Step Three: Steep Your Tea for 30 seconds

Place your brew basket with 4g of tea in 6oz of water or cup.  Brew for 30 seconds, then remove the basket and place it on it’s cover-stand.

QUICK TIP: when brewing green teas, do not cover your brew basket with it’s top while your tea is steeping.  Uncovered green tea is less likely to overheat and scald, making for a much cleaner and sweeter brew.

brew basket in mug

Step Four: Resteep  // Adjust to Taste

Once you’ve finished your first mug, feel free to resteep your tea!  You can always resteep your tea stronger or lighter according to your own personal preference.  In general, you will add about 10-15 seconds for each resteeping.  Some teas, especially pu’er and oolong, can resteep over ten times, so have fun with it!

wet leaves mug of tea

12 Responses to “How to Use a Brew Basket to Steep Loose Leaf Tea”

    • Lily Duckler

      How funny! It’s quite possible you can get away with less tea than you are using (though keep in mind, the size of your brewing vessel will affect the recommended amount.) For example, a soda can contains 12oz. of liquid. For a 12oz glass of tea with this method, I would recommend more than 5 grams of tea for the same results (8-10), or recommend brewing for a longer period of time.

      The bottom line is generally: brew the way you enjoy brewing. These recommendations are here for guidance and ideas, especially if you aren’t getting the results you expected or if you are looking to try a new method for the first time. If you enjoy the results you get with the amount of tea you’re currently using, then don’t feel pressured to use less tea! With more tea, you’ll need to steep for a shorter amount of time, and you’ll get more steepings out of the same leaves (alternately, you’ll get a stronger brew).

  1. If the green tea is brewed with 175 degree water, will it still burn if the lid is covered, making it stay 175 degrees? I frequently brew in my Breville, which keeps the same temperature throughout the brewing process…..

    • Lily Duckler

      Good question! Yes – it’s quite possible that brewing covered is contributing to a slightly higher temperature. However, given that the Breville is a very large vessel, some of this effects are diminished.

      However, if you enjoy the way your green tea is tasting when brewed in the Breville, you should not worry – continue enjoying your tea! I do think it could be an interesting experiment for you to try brewing in another vessel (perhaps an unvcoered tempered glass, or two tempered glass pitchers), just to see if you notice a difference in flavor. You may find you enjoy the difference in flavor, and then you’d be able to use that brewing style whenever you’re craving it.

      Ultimately, we recommend experimenting with brewing styles ad feeling free to brew the way that brings you the most enjoyment. Sometimes, that will be the way that is most convenient. Sometimes, that will be a way that’s fun to do with friends, and sometimes, that will be a brewing method that reveals new and exciting flavors.

  2. Is the water supposed to be the appropriate temperature before or after it gets into the cup? I just realized that my zojirushi water boiler has the water at the right temp when I take the measurement in the heating container, but if I measure immediately after it dispenses into the cup, it is significantly lower. Maybe this is not as great of a method as I had hoped for heating water?

    • Lily Duckler

      Good question, Amanda. If you’ve been enjoying your tea as brewed with your Zojirushi up until this point, I would say you should not worry. The important thing I want folks to take away from the above guidelines is that they are guidelines – if you’re enjoying what you’re drinking, then mission accomplished! If you want to experiment, then you should feel free to play with water temperature and brewing times to see how that effects your brew.

      Water temperature is generally the water temperature of the water as it is poured onto the tea. It sounds like the water in your Zojirushi cools as it is dispensed, either because it is being dispensed into a cold container (which steals the heat and cools the water down like an ice cube) and / or because it is being dispensed from a height. Traveling in a stream through room temperature air can definitely cool down your water, too. If you find your tea is weaker than you expect because of cooler water temperatures, try heating up your brewing vessel first before brewing, and trying to place it very close to the dispenser mouth of your Zojirushi. If your brewing vessel is a good insulator (rather than tempered glass, for example), that will also help keep your water temperatures more consistant.

  3. great article, thanks so much for posting! I was surprised a bit at the recommendation for such a short steeping time, I’d generally heard that for a western method of brewing, most teas go from 1-5 minutes, depending on the tea. I guess when you use more tea, you need less time.

    • Lily Duckler

      Exactly! The higher your leaf-to-water ratio (more leaves, less water), the shorter your steep times. This means you get to enjoy full bodies, engaging brews, even over multiple steepings!

    • Lily Duckler

      Great question! Really, it depends on the tea. Any tea will be happiest if you brew it as soon as possible, with the least amount of time letting the leaves sit wet and exposed to the air. Greener, more delicate teas will do the most poorly, while darker oxidised and aged teas tend to do much better. Personally, I’ve left sheng and shu pu’er out overnight and enjoyed my brew over two days quite often! However, if we were in a restaurant or cafe, we would have to recommend throwing out any leaves that have been sitting for four hours. Any food product that sits above 40 degrees and below 140 degrees for that amount of time is at a much greater risk of food borne illness – tea is at a much lesser risk than, say, chicken!

      For best results, I recommend brewing as close to back-to-back as you can. If your leaves sit wet for an hour or more, since them very quickly to “wake” them back up (and to rinse out any tea liquor that may have been “brewing” while sitting on the leaves). If you’ve left your tea for three or four hours, I’d recommend switching to another tea (especially if you’re brewing something greener and less oxidised).

      Hope this helps! Happy sipping 🙂

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