How to Steep Tea

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on July 12, 2023
3 min read

Tea can be a wonderful part of a healthy, balanced diet. That said, coffee shop brews and bottled tea may have more sugar and calories than you need. By steeping tea at home, you know if you add anything to it that makes it less healthy.

Brewing tea takes attention to detail to get the right flavor balance. Follow these steps:

1. Boil water. You don’t need special water to brew tea. In fact, tap water that isn’t softened or hardened is fine. Bring the water to a boil on your stovetop or in the microwave. Then let it cool for 2 to 3 minutes.

2. Add tea leaves. Pour the water into a teapot or container made of glass, china, or porcelain. If your leaves are free, let them float in the water. If you’re using tea bags or an infusion ball, make sure there is room for the ingredients to move around.

Follow instructions on prepackaged teas for the amount of water to use. If you’re steeping fresh leaves, use 1 teaspoon per 6 ounces of water.

3. Rest. Allow the tea leaves to steep for 3 to 5 minutes. A longer steep gives you stronger tasting tea. It may take some trial and error to get a flavor you enjoy.

4. Strain. Use a mesh strainer to remove any large particles from the steeped water. You can drink your tea hot or let it cool down before you start sipping.

There are many varieties of tea, each with a unique taste profile and nutritional benefits:

  • White tea is made when young tea buds are steamed rapidly after picking and are dried to deactivate the enzymes that cause leaves to turn brown. White teas are high in catechins, a flavonoid that helps open your blood vessels and break down fat.
  • Green tea is made when leaves are freshly picked and steamed so they retain their green color. The specific catechins in green tea are called epigallocatechin gallate. These flavonoids lower bad cholesterol and inflammation.‌
  • Black tea is made when leaves are rolled or crushed to oxidize catechins. This process creates the tea’s rich flavor and dark color. Black tea is good for bone health, and it may also protect against heart attacks.

Tea has caffeine, although the amount is less than half of what you find in coffee. If you buy decaffeinated tea, it may not have as many nutrients because of the dilution process.

Tea also contains polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. These help to protect cells in your body from damage and even promote healing at a cellular level. Antioxidants may lower your odds of getting heart or blood vessel diseases.

You may be tempted to add milk, sugar, and other flavorings to your tea so it tastes better -- but it’s healthy with no additives. A tea you buy from a coffee shop may have upwards of 42 grams of sugar added for taste. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of calories per day.

Health benefits. Research shows that tea drinkers have a smaller risk of getting chronic health conditions like:

  • Cancer. Tea may help lower the chances of cancer cells forming, along with attacking existing cancer cells.
  • Heart disease and stroke. Tea opens your blood vessels, lowering your risk of clogged arteries and blood clots. It also reduces the amount of “bad” cholesterol levels in your blood.‌
  • Diabetes. Tea may lower your odds of getting type 2 diabetes.

Researchers believe that catechins are responsible for the health benefits of tea.

Serving sizes. There’s no specific recommendation for how much tea to drink each day. Two to 10 cups per day seems to be safe and provides health benefits.

Watch your additives. When you add sugar to tea, you lower the nutrition by adding in unnecessary calories.

Enhance the flavor. Lemon can boost the taste of your tea without adding extra sugar.