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Tea Blog

Get the most out of Oolong Teas

Oolong teas cover the range from green to black, with a wide variety of flavors. Learn how to make the most of this wonderful tea category."
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Tea 101: Frequently Asked Questions About Tea

How many servings are in an ounce of tea?
Typically, one ounce will make 10-15 6-ounce cups of tea, depending on how strong you like it.
The volume of an ounce of dry tea leaves can vary quite a bit, though. Some teas are light and fluffy, while others are dense. The photo below shows one ounce of various teas in comparison with a quarter. (Tea names clockwise from upper left are: Egyptian Chamomile, Imperial Silver Needles, Earl Grey White Tip, Emperor's Red, and Temple of Heaven Gunpowder.)
tea comparison One ounce of various loose leaf teas in comparison with a quarter.


How big is a tea cup? A tea cup is considered to be 6 fluid ounces, like a coffee cup. So when we say to use 1 tsp. of leaves per cup, if your cup is 8 ounces, you may need to use a bit more leaves to get a full strength cup

How much tea do I use to make a pot?
Depends on your pot. To measure your pot, fill it almost full with water (leave enough room for an infuser with tea leaves in it) and pour the contents into a large measuring cup. Divide the number of ounces by 6. This will tell you how many cups your pot holds. Use one teaspoon of leaves per cup. Some like to throw in an extra teaspoon "for the pot." Try it both ways and see what you think. It's personal preference. Note: some teas are very dense, like Gunpowder Green, while some are very light and fluffy, like Imperial Silver Needles. The proper amount to use per cup will vary from tea to tea and with your own taste.

What do I put the tea leaves in when I brew it?
You may use an infuser, such as a tea ball or brew basket, to hold the leaves or put them loose in the pot, then pour through a strainer. For more information, please see our definitions of "infuser" and "strainer."

What's the difference between a tea kettle and a teapot?
Use a kettle to boil water, but a pot to brew tea.

How long do I steep (or brew) the tea?
This can vary significantly from tea to tea, but there are rules of thumb. In general a black tea needs to brew 3-5 minutes for best flavor. They will often get bitter if you let them brew more than 6 or 7 minutes. Green teas often need only 1 minute, but 2-3 minutes is not unusual. Oolongs typically need 2-3 minutes. Herbals need 5-10 minutes, and they generally don't get bitter, so you can let them brew as long as you like. In general, finely cut teas, whether black, green, or herbal, require shorter brewing times than large leaf teas.

How can I make tea at the office without making a mess?
If you don't have anywhere to easily clean out an infuser, get some disposable paper filters such as T-Sacs or Mini-Minit. These are paper pockets that you put your tea leaves in while they brew, then throw away.

Why does green tea always taste bitter to me?
You may be brewing it too long or using water that is too hot. Green teas, as well as oolongs and white teas, are more sensitive than blacks and herbals, and boiling-hot water can scald the leaves. Water temperature should be between 160-180 degrees F (boiling is 212 degrees F at sea level, 202 degrees at 5000 feet). Also try a shorter brew time. Taste your green tea at one minute intervals, starting at one minute, to find out where you like it best. Good quality green tea should never be bitter when brewed properly.

How much caffeine is in tea?
Tea contains, roughly, 40 mg caffeine per 6 oz. cup, compared to brewed coffee at 100-150 mg. It is generally agreed that, for most people, moderate caffeine consumption is harmless. Many people find that caffeine boosts mental clarity and alertness in a pleasing way. However, since caffeine is a cardiac stimulant, people with certain heart conditions should avoid caffeine, and excessive caffeine intake can cause restlessness, insomnia, and anxiety. Women should avoid caffeine throughout pregnancy and while nursing.

If you can't have any caffeine at all, you must stick to herbals. Decaffeinated black and green teas still have a little bit of caffeine in them, although not much. If you can have a little caffeine, decafs are fine. Ask your doctor if regular tea is OK. It has one third the caffeine of coffee.

Is green tea really better for you than black tea?
Green and black tea are both good for you. They each contain a different mix of polyphenols which appear to have protective effects against certain cancers, heart disease and many other ills.

How do I make tea for large numbers of people?
This can be a real headache! I can't tell you how many innocent people have come into my shop and reported that they were volunteered to give a tea party for 200 people as a fund-raiser. They don't know how much work this is. Of course, the exact circumstances of the event will dictate the logistics of what you can really do.

Make it as easy on yourself as possible. If you have 200 people for tea, use tea bags. It's a real time-saver at that kind of number. If you're only having 50 people, you could go either way, tea bags or loose tea. Ultimately, it just depends on what you can stand.

To prevent your having to stand in one place and brew tea all day, you'll want to brew as much tea as possible all at once, so most people end up using one (or more) of those 55-cup coffee makers. Just make sure it has never been used for coffee, or your tea won't taste very good. Make sure you have a ready supply of hot water to refill that machine, because they can take a long time to heat cold water. If you don't have a stove, get a few electric kettles to boil water in, or at the very least, have several insulated air pots already filled with very hot water.

Once the water is hot, put your tea in it and let it brew for 5 minutes. If you have tea bags, that part is self-explanatory. If you're using loose tea, you'll need something to contain the tea. Several layers of cheesecloth tied or clipped shut will work for a large volume of leaves. It takes about 4 ounces of tea to make 55 cups, which is about 1 cup of leaves by volume. Make sure your cheesecloth isn't tied around the leaves tightly - it should be at least 3 times as big as your quantity of tea.

The alternative to the above scenario is to make lots and lots of pots of tea, each brewed separately. This is really only plausible if you are not serving more than 25-30 people at once, and you have lots of help. Of course it is essential if you are taking orders for different flavors of tea and making each pot to order. But if you're doing that, you're probably in the food service industry and already have lots of employees to make this happen. But if you're not a restaurant, please don't overestimate your ability to serve good tasting tea to large numbers of people. Keep it simple and get lots of help.

How can I stop my pot from dripping all over?
Drippy teapots are a plague. Ideally, a teapot shouldn't drip, but when you're dealing with ceramics, imperfections happen all the time these days, and a dribbly spout is quite common. Apart from getting a new teapot, there are some gadgets that may reduce your problem. There are drip catchers that fit around the spout and catch drips nicely.

Can I microwave my tea?
I wish you wouldn't. But I know that a lot of otherwise good people use their microwave either to boil the water or to reheat their tea, and that may be OK if you can't taste any difference and if you know when the water is done (or if you have no choice of equipment). Don't over boil it or it will taste flat. Don't under-heat it or you won't get the full flavor of your tea. If you find yourself reheating your tea all the time, then you need a tea cozy to keep your tea hot. It will taste much better than reheated. (Or just toss it and make a fresh cup. Tea is very affordable.) If you are drinking green, oolong, or white teas, please use a tea kettle instead so you can see when the water is ready (steaming, not boiling). Please, please, don't put your tea leaves in the microwave!! The freshly boiled water should be poured over the leaves for a proper infusion instead of putting it all together and then heating it. If you're going to all the trouble to buy good tea, why treat it so cruelly?