tea leaves steeping next to a cup of tea

How Long To Steep Tea for the Perfect Cup

Making that perfect cup of tea is equal parts science and art. We’ll dive into how to make the perfect cup of tea, including steep time and water temperature for the type of tea you plan to drink.

What’s more soothing than a cup of tea? Warming and comforting, tea is the perfect accompaniment for any occasion. The perfect cup of tea starts with good quality tea leaves, but making that perfect cup is equal parts science and art. For this post, we’ll dive into how to make the perfect cup of tea, including steep time, water temperature, and how to find the right steep time for the type of tea you plan to drink. When you finish reading this how-to guide, you’ll have what you need to know to enjoy your next cup of tea to the max.

What Is Steep Time and Why Does It Matter?

Before we talk about steep time, let’s first explain what it means to steep tea. Steeping is when you immerse tea leaves in hot water for a determined period of time. It’s the process of extracting the flavor and health-promoting compounds from the dried tea leaves. In simple terms, steeping is essentially just preparing a cup of tea, and it’s the same process whether you use a tea bag or loose tea. You add hot water to the tea leaves, let them soak (or steep), then strain out the leaves and enjoy your cup of tea.

In our article on the types of tea, we shared that there are six different kinds of tea: black, white, green, oolong, yellow, and pu-erh. Each type is processed differently, and they are also prepared differently — and both of these differences impact what ends up in your cup.  If you don’t steep tea long enough, you’ll get a flavorless cup. But steep it too long, and you’ll end up with a bitter and unpleasantly strong cup. So, in addition to selecting a good quality tea, you also need to know the right water temperature and steep time for the type of tea you’re making.

Water Temperature and Steep Time Chart

We’ll share more details below about water temperatures and steep times, but here’s a quick reference chart you can use when making tea.

Type of tea


Steep Time



3-5 minutes


175° to 180°F

2-3 minutes


175° to 180°F

1-3 minutes



2-3 minutes


160° to 175°F

2-3 minutes



5 minutes

Two common mistakes people make when preparing tea are that they simply boil the water for any kind of tea and then leave the tea steeping until they are done drinking it. If this sounds like your tea experience, then no worries! Follow this chart for guidance, and you may find you like tea more than you used to.

Selecting the Right Water Temperature

Once you choose the type of tea you’re in the mood for, start by heating the water. The best water temperature for tea ranges from a full boil (212°F) to what would be considered steaming (160° to 175°F). Black and pu-erh tea should come to a full boil. The water for a cup of green tea or white tea should be steaming briskly, and yellow tea should be steaming between 160° and 175°F. Oolong tea should be just short of boiling at around 195°F. Also, if you’re making herbal tea (which isn’t actually tea, as it’s made of roots, dried flowers, and seeds), you’ll want to bring the water to a full boil.

How Long Should Tea Steep?

The other factor in making a great cup of tea is steep time. As with temperature, steep time also varies by the type of tea. Pu-erh tea steeps for around five minutes, and black tea steeps for between three and five minutes, depending on your preference. If you’re adding anything like cream to your tea, you may want to steep it for a little bit longer. Oolong tea, white tea, and yellow tea steep for two to three minutes, and green tea steeps for just one to three minutes.

With that said, these times are simply a recommended range. Feel free to play around with the steep time until you find your own preference, you can also check out our steeping recipes on our tea pages. If you tend to prefer stronger tea, you can bump up the temperature a little bit and try a slightly longer steep time. If you find the taste of tea a bit overpowering, but don’t want to add anything to it, try reducing the steep time a bit. Herbal teas can tolerate the longest steep times, usually between 5 and 15 minutes, depending on your preference.

Steeping Loose Leaf Tea

You may find some good teas in tea bags, but for a really great tea, a loose leaf tea is where it’s at. To prepare it, use a teapot or a tea infuser. Or, if you’re really determined to use a bag, you can find some great natural bags that you can fill yourself.

Whether you use a bag or not, you’ll still need to heat the water to the recommended temperature for the type of tea you’re going to enjoy. Using a kettle with a thermometer is a great way to do this. Then, once you add the leaves, steep the tea according to the recommended steep time and your own preference.

Need a kettle? Check out these 5 Top Gooseneck Kettles.

Time for Tea?

As we mentioned above, making the perfect cup of tea is both an art and a science. Finding the right balance between recommended water temperature and steep times and your own taste is key to brewing a cup of tea that hits the spot every time.

New to tea? Here are a few of our favorites to get you hooked: