Tips on Brewing Rare Teas


Start with good-tasting water. Experiment with different spring waters. Do not use boiling water when brewing a white, green or oolong tea. Boiling water “cooks” the leaves of these teas, destroying their flavor.

Here are some suggested water temperatures:

White or green teas: 70° – 75° C. (160° – 170°F.)
Oolongs: 80° – 90°C. (180° – 195°F.)
Black teas: Near boiling
Pu-erhs: Full, rolling boil

View from a tea table with teapot and cups over the mountains of the Western Cape in South Africa © Don Bayley 2008 iStockphoto

View from a tea table with teapot and cups over the mountains of the Western Cape in South Africa

Choose a ceramic teapot, or covered cup, with a four- to twelve-ounce capacity. A teapot with a built-in strainer will prevent leaves from entering the spout. Preheat the teapot with hot water.

Use approximately four grams of tea per eight ounces of water. Use twice that amount for Oolongs and Pu-erhs. Brew these teas loose, not in a tea ball or infuser, to allow the flavor to develop fully. Different teas have widely varying volumes; visually, your teapot will be more full of leaves when brewing a lighter tea such as Organic Emerald Sprouting rather than a denser tea like a Lung Ching (Dragon Well).

At first, until familiar with a particular tea, steep for a minute or two, then taste. Pay attention to the taste rather than the color. When the tea tastes right to you, serve or pour off the entire contents to avoid over-steeping. Most rare teas are meant to be infused several times; simply add more hot water when needed, increasing steeping times with subsequent infusions.

Brewing for too long will release the tea’s tannins, possibly causing the infusion to taste bitter and astringent. Nevertheless the leaves must be adequately steeped or the caffeine and flavors won’t fully develop, producing a weak cup of tea more like “water bewitched.” When infused, the first chemical compound that escapes from the tea leaves is the caffeine. As the infusion progresses, compounds called thearubigins seep out of the plant and some will adhere to the caffeine, preventing it from connecting to the brain receptors and inducing alertness. The longer the tea leaves are saturated, the less caffeine will be absorbed by the body, therefore a shorter brew time can also be more energizing.

Feel free to experiment with water temperature, brewing time, and proportion of tea to water. There is no right or wrong way. Don’t overlook the beautiful colors and shapes of the leaves while brewing; appearance is very much a part of the experience.

Most importantly, enjoy the tea!




All tea has a shelf life. Proper storage is necessary to prolong freshness.

Store tea in opaque containers to avoid contact with light. Use a container with a tight-sealing lid to guard against moisture and preserve flavor. Store in a cool place.