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How to Steep Green Loose Leaf Tea

Updated on August 12, 2012

How to Steep Green Loose Leaf Tea

Green Tea as a Lifestyle

The benefits of drinking green tea in loose leaf form are no mystery. Here in the West, however, teas often come in tea bags with vague or outright inaccurate steeping instructions. Many tea distributors use these bags as an excuse to sell poorer quality tea leaves, since few open up the tea bags to check. The poor leaves and constricted space decrease the release of flavor and beneficial compounds. In fact, tea bags often cause green tea to taste bitter.

By using loose leaf green tea and steeping it for the right amount of time and at the right temperature, drinkers can expect a richer, sweeter tea complete with all the benefits that have made green tea central to so many world cultures.


Types of Green Tea

Chinese Green Teas

  • Gunpowder
  • Dragonwell
  • Snowy Mountain Jian
  • Kai Hua Long Ding
  • Hyson Lucky Dragon
  • Xin Yang Mao Jian
  • Hou Kui

Japanese Green Teas

  • Gyokuro
  • Sencha
  • Bancha
  • Genmaicha
  • Kukicha
  • Houjicha
  • Matcha

How to Steep Chinese Loose Leaf Teas

Gunpowder: Green Tea

Once processed, this popular tea has the shape of pellets. It's typically made from a mix of new leaves and old, and consequently, drinkers should steep the pellets on the lower end of the green tea temperature range. Once exposed to hot water, the pellets unravel to reveal beautiful leaves.

  • 170°F for 3 minutes on the first steeping.
  • Add additional 15 seconds for subsequent uses.

Dragonwell: Green Tea

One of the most famous of China's green teas, Dragonwell has a forgiving and accessible steeping temperature and time range. The leaves have a distinctly jade color with a delicate fold along the vein.

  • 180ºF - 185ºF for 3 minutes on the first steeping.
  • Add additional 15 seconds for subsequent uses.

Snowy Mountain Jian: Green Tea

This slightly-sweet tea has a pungent, smooth flavor. Dark green with silvery tips, Snowy Mountain Jian has a selective picking process that makes it comparable to first-flush teas.

  • 180ºF for 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
  • Add additional 30 seconds for subsequent uses.

Kai Hua Long Ding: Green Tea

Another popular green tea from China, Kai Hua Long Ding has a strong grassy flavor that increases with the steeping time. Those more sensitive to the flavor might want to steep on the lower end of the time range.

  • 175ºF for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add additional 15 seconds for subsequent uses.

Hyson Lucky Dragon: Green Tea

This green tea is made with twisted leaves that unfurl during steeping. This tea has forgiving steeping conditions and makes for a soft grassy flavor, very amenable to novice green tea drinkers.

  • 175°F - 180°F for 3 minutes.
  • Add additional 30 seconds for subsequent uses.

Xin Yang Mao Jian: Green Tea

One of the most famous Chinese teas, Xin Yang Mao Jian has a light, sweet taste and a delicate aroma. The brewing temperature and steeping time is on the lower end of the spectrum for green teas due to the delicacy of the leaves.

  • 158°F - 176º for 1 minute.
  • The second use also requires a 1 minute steeping time. Add 15 seconds for the third and all additional uses.

Hou Kui: Green Tea

These tea leaves are emerald with beautiful veining. Growers process the tea by pressing it in cloth, which also gives the leaves a criss-cross pattern. This popular tea gained renown for its light floral flavor and sweet aftertaste. As a result of its delicacy, Hou Kui has a finnicky steeping time and temperature.

  • 158ºF to 176ºF for 1 minute.
  • The second use also requires a 1 minute steeping time. Add 15 seconds for the third and all additional uses.

How to Steep Japanese Loose Leaf Tea

Gyokuro: Green Tea

Arguably the finest Japense green tea, Gyokuro has a soft, full flavor, with no grassiness. Gyokuru, like most Japanese green teas, has a somewhat cloudy appearance caused by both the leaves and the broken pieces the leaves shed during steeping. Notoriously fussy, drinkers should experiment to find the ideal temperature and time range for their brand of leaves.

  • 122°F to 140°F for 23 minutes.
  • Add additional 30 seconds and 5º for additional uses.

Sencha: Green Tea

A first-flush tea, Sencha is both loved for its traditional place in Japanese culture and popular the world over. Sencha calls to mind edamame and its delicate flavor. Steeping for too long will create an intense bitter, grassy flavor, so be careful!

  • 160ºF - 175ºF for 1 minute.
  • Add 20 seconds for subsequent uses

Hojicha: Green Tea

Hojicha, a type of Bancha tea, has a reddish-brown color and a nutty flavor. Hojicha is very sensitive to water temperature and steeping time. Its nuttiness releases only at the optimal temperature, which may vary between each crop of tea.

  • 194ºF - 212ºF for 3 minutes.
  • Add additional 30 seconds for subsequent uses.

Genmaicha: Green Tea

This form of Bancha tea, called 'brown rice tea,' is a finicky tea with a bold flavor and demanding preparation process. Make sure the Genmaicha includes fine-quality green leaves to enhance the overall flavor.

  • 180ºF - 190ºF for 3 minutes.
  • Cannot be reused.

Matcha: Green Tea

Used in tea ceremonies, Matcha plays a central part in the cultural traditions of Japan. This powdery tea requires a Matcha bowl, tea whisk, and bamboo Matcha spoon. Because so much of the plant remains in the drink, this green tea has great health benefits.

  • Warm the Matcha bowl, then dry it completely.
  • Add the Matcha to the dry, warmed bowl.
  • Add 1/2 cup of 175ºF water.
  • Whisk the Matcha in a "W" pattern until the tea has a thin froth, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Drink!

Recommended Tea Products

The Tea Spot Steeping Mug, 3-Piece Handcrafted Porcelain Ceramic Tea Mug with Infuser & Lid, 16-Ounce, color: Blue Sky
The Tea Spot Steeping Mug, 3-Piece Handcrafted Porcelain Ceramic Tea Mug with Infuser & Lid, 16-Ounce, color: Blue Sky
Notice the depth of the infuser and the way it has plenty of room for the leaves to unfurl. Not only does this cup come with the best overall consumer report, but I can also recommend it from personal experience.

More about Green Tea

Loose Leaf Tea Tips

  • Don't steep green tea for more than 4 minutes, as doing so adds only bitterness to the cup and diminishes the flavor of subsequent brews.
  • Use a proper teacup! It should have a deep infuser that goes as close to the bottom of the cup as possible and offers plenty of room for the green tea leaves to unfurl. The teacup should also include a saucer to cover the top for proper steeping.
  • To get the exact temperature of the water, use either a thermometer or electric teakettle. Not all thermometers and electric teapots/kettles are made equal, however. Scan consumer reviews to get the best value for your money.
  • Find high-quality loose leaf teas, but don't think that cost always indicates quality. Amazon's Subscribe & Save has some thrifty, organic options made with high-quality leaves. Many of the best tea-sellers in the world choose to sell their goods online. While Amazon usually has the best price for their goods, don't hesitate to price-check.
  • Since steeping to impart the maximum flavor and health benefits of green tea relies so heavily on water temperature, the process benefits from a pre-warmed teacup or teapot. Use boiling water or hot water from the tap. Empty and dry the warmed cup or pot before placing the infuser and making the tea.


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    • The Ursine Eye profile image

      The Ursine Eye 

      8 years ago from Darwin's Waiting Room (Middle South Carolina)

      Highly informational, superbly written and presented. Now I'm craving a cuppa of this year's Gyokuro Kenjyo (which I ran out of, having pounced on this year's shipment like a pit bull on an ass flavored Milk-Bone)


    • profile image

      Ainslea Coviello 

      8 years ago

      My husband was given a host gift from China which was 5 tins of loose tea leaves. I looked up this site to see how to steep tea and I found everything I need to know. Thank you for that. I just need to get the translation for the different teas that we have because the packaging is, of course, in Chinese

    • Alex James Ray profile image

      Alex James Ray 

      9 years ago

      It really is amazing the difference of loose tea vs bag tea. I find bagged tea kind of like the Mcdonalds of hamburgers while its cheap and convenient it SUCKS. Sad that more people have never tried loose tea.

    • theseattlegirl profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago

      You know, before I tried loose lose, I actually preferred my coffee over my tea. But ever since I made the switch, well. There's no going back! The taste is completely different. It's like I had never actually tasted tea before. Give it a try!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      9 years ago from San Francisco

      SUCH a convenient guide. I've bookmarked and am rather looking forward to giving this a try! Just have to buy some loose leaf tea... I've been sticking strictly to tea bags until now :D

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Shebel 

      9 years ago from Midwest, USA

      Fantastic hub! Rated up and useful!


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