Ah, tea brewing temperatures! Though most teas will produce a decent cup if you steep them all in boiling water, many of the finer teas will do much better at lower temperatures. Green and white teas, for example, have more delicate leaves and you'll get more flavor if you brew in slightly cooler water. Delicate leaves steeped at too high of a temperature will burn and leave a bitter flavor in the cup.
If you’re a big tea drinker then you’ve probably heard that there are optimum and “correct” water temperatures for brewing different kinds of teas. This is true due to the different properties of each tea. Let’s be specific, though: we’re referring to real loose leaf tea–not bagged tea. If you’re drinking bagged tea then it doesn’t really matter what temperature of water you’re using. Nothing is going to affect the taste of bagged tea.
These tea steeping times are only approximate, and you should adjust them depending on your own personal tea taste.
Approximate Tea Steeping Times
Black tea–Black is the most robust of the tea varieties and can be brewed in truly boiling water, usually steeped for 4 to 6 minutes.
Oolong tea–As to be expected, oolong tea falls between green and black. The best temperature is around 190 F. But oolong should be steeped longer than black tea, for around 5 to 8 minutes.
Green tea–You will need to be more gentle with your green teas. The water temperature should be around 150 to 160 F and only steeped for 2 to 4 minutes.
White tea–Another delicate tea that should be treated gently. Water can be a bit warmer than for green tea, at 180 F. You should let it steep longer, though, for at least 4 to 6 minutes.
Rooibos tea–This red herbal tea from South Africa is very hardy stuff and should be prepared with fully boiling water, just like black tea.
Most herbal teas–With so many different herbs that can be used for herbal tea blends, there is no way to give any temperature or steeping guidelines with any accuracy. Most herbs can be brewed in boiling water and steeped for about 5 minutes. You might need a bit of trial and error to get the perfect cup.
If you don't have a thermometer handy, you can tell the water temperature by watching the bubbles. Small bubbles will float to the surface of the water 160 to 170 F, and you'll see strings of bubbles from the bottom of the kettle at 180 to 190 F. After that, you'll have a full rolling boil.