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Herbal Tea 101: 8 Ways To Brew Loose Leaf Tea
By Stacy - January 28, 2015

Herbal Tea 101: 8 Ways To Brew Loose Leaf Tea

Tea is one of the simplest natural remedies available. Requiring little more than steeping loose leaf tea or loose herbs in water, tea can be made quickly and easily and enjoyed on a daily basis. Today I'm sharing eight simple ways to brew loose leaf tea:

Herbal Tea 101: 8 Ways To Brew Loose Leaf Tea

1. Tea Ball/Infuser

Mesh tea balls/infusers are great for making one cup of tea. Simply add loose leaf tea to the ball and close tightly then place into a cup of hot water. In general, you will need to add 1 teaspoon of tea to an infuser or tea ball. If you pack the tea ball with too many herbs, there will not be enough room for the water to circulate around the tea. Dried herbs and loose leaf tea usually increase in size when added to water, so room is needed for them to expand. Place tea ball into hot water and leave to steep for 3-5 minutes before removing. Pros: Can make one cup of tea quickly and easily. Is inexpensive and reusable. Cons: Sometimes very fine herbs or tea pass through the mesh and float in the cup of tea. Also, unless covering the cup with a large bowl while steeping, heat will escape and tea may not be the desired temperature once steeped and ready to drink.

2. Over-cup Strainer/ Tea Mug Basket

This method is much the same as when a tea ball/infuser is used. However, more tea can usually be added to a tea mug basket strainer than to a tea ball. To brew, add 2 teaspoons or dried herb or loose leaf tea per cup of water to the tea basket. Place basket in a sturdy mug and pour hot water through the herbs until the cup is full. Steep for 3-5 minutes minutes before removing the tea basket and the herbs. Pros: Can use more herbs than a tea ball which means you can make extra strong tea or large cups of tea, if desired. Straining is simple, just lift the basket out of the water! Cons: Heat can escape from the mug. Put a plate or bowl over the top to keep heat in.

3. Press and Brew Bags

Press and Brew bags allow you to create your own tea bags so they are ready to be brewed whenever necessary. Fill tea bag with 2-3 teaspoons of loose leaf tea/herbs. Leave about half an inch between the open end of the tea bag and the herbs inside. Use a hot iron on low and gently press to seal the open end of the bag. Use as you would a regular tea bag. (See a photo tutorial of my press-and-press making experience here.) Pros: Ability to create custom blends from herbs you know and trust. Cons: Takes a bit of time to prepare the bags (but not much. It's actually fun!).

4. Pre-Made Tea Bags

Whether using press and brew tea bags or store-bought versions, tea will be brewed using the same method. I don't always do this, but when I want the perfectly brewed cup of tea, I follow these steps:
  • place tea bag in a mug and pour almost boiling water over the tea bag.
  • cover the cup with a lid or plate (this helps keep the vital nutrients and beneficial properties of the herbs in the cup and not evaporating into the air)
  • let steep for at least 3-10 minutes (depending on how strong you like your tea)
Pros: Quick and simple. Cons: Store-bought tea bags can sometimes be old and stale and even contains additives. Use a trusted brand and always read ingredient labels.

5. French Press

While many reserve a French Press for making coffee, it is also a great tool for preparing loose leaf tea. Making tea in a French Press is quick and easy, however, it should be noted that if tea is left in the press too long, it will become very strong and may have a bitter taste. It is generally recommended that one should only brew as much tea as can be consumed after the first steeping, when brewing in a French press. If more tea is made than can be consumed, it is advised to pour all of the brewed tea into another container so as not to cause it to become bitter. To brew tea in a French Press:
  • measure 2-3 teaspoons of herbs per cup of water you intend to use
  • add herbs to the French Press
  • pour boiling (or close to boiling) water over the top and place lid on the French Press, but do not push plunger down
  • let steep for 5 - 15 minutes (depending on how strong you want the tea and what herbs you have used)
  • slowly push down the plunger, but not all the way to the bottom. Leave room for the leaves to float freely so as not to crush the leaves, which may cause them to release a bitter flavor.
  • pour tea into cups and drink
A French Press can also useful for some other fun things. I love mine! Pros: Looks pretty while brewing, makes tea quickly while keeping the water hot. Cons: Tea can become bitter if left too long.

6. Sun Tea

Sun tea is a method of brewing tea, using the warmth of the sun to steep the tea. I have only made sun tea with fresh herbs, but dried herbs or tea leaves will work too. Sun tea can be made by filling a jar half full with fresh herbs or 1/4 full with dried herbs. Fill the jar with water and close lid. Let jar sit in the sun for about six hours. Strain off the tea and sweeten with honey, of desired. If tea is too strong, dilute with extra water. Pros: A fun, simple method for brewing tea. No need to use electricity! Cons: Takes a number of hours (requires patience). Some fear that this brewing method may encourage the growth of bacteria. To minimize this risk, use jars and herbs that are clean, make only enough tea that can be consumed in one day, and refrigerate once brewed.

7. On the Stovetop

Tea can be made on the stove top by decocting herbs in a saucepan or heavy pot. This method is usually reserved for brewing roots, barks, or other woody parts of herbs not loose leaf tea leaves. To make a decoction: use approximately 1 teaspoon of dried (or 2 teaspoons of fresh) herbs per 1 cup of water. Bring water to a boil and add herbs. Cover pot with lid and simmer on low heat for at least 20 minutes. Cool and strain out the herbs. Pros: A reasonably quick method. Effective for getting nutrients and herbal properties out of roots and barks. Cons: May be too cumbersome when only a quick cup of tea is desired

8. Mason Jar Infusion

A mason jar is perfect for making tea. It is reserved for preparing infusions as the stovetop method is for decoctions. Infusions are most suitable for brewing leaves, flowers, crushed berries, or seeds. To prepare an herbal tea infusion, place 1-3 teaspoons of dried herb per cup of water into the mason jar. Pour hot water over the top. Cover and let steep for 10-30 minutes. Strain and enjoy. Pros: Good for preparing strong teas and getting the most out of leaves, flowers, crushed berries, or seeds. Cons: Takes a little time and preparation. As you can see, there are many ways to brew loose and herbal tea. Some are quicker than others, but most are reasonably simple. Need some tea recipes? Here are 52 DIY Herbal Tea Recipes. You can also find some delicious blends already prepared for you at The Bulk Herb Store.
What is your favorite way to brew herbal tea? Share with us in the comments below!