"Tea is as easy as boiling water," they say. "Just add boiling water to the tea and let it steep."
"Meh," you say. "I don't like green tea because it often tastes bitter."
"Ah," they say. "Sounds like your water was too hot."
"... I thought this was supposed to be easy?" you say.
Uh, yeah ... about that: We at Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Company are interested in demystifying all types of tea, so it certainly doesn't help when someone criticizes your ability to boil water, right? Soooo ...
Presenting the simplest guide to correct brewing temperatures we've ever written! You won't even need a thermometer. Answer a quick question, and then follow these instructions:
What kind of tea will you be preparing?
Green or white tea: Easy does it. When the tiny bubbles begin to appear at the bottom of the pot, you're good to pour. Once the bubbles get big and start to break at the surface, you risk "stewing" your delicate tea leaves, leading to bitterness. You'll also lose all the delicate flavors of these teas, and that's a big no-no. (If you're gonna get a thermometer, you'll want to see 170 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit.)
Oolong: This is the middle ground, because Oolong leaves can be oxidized like green tea or like black tea, so watch for the little bubbles on the bottom of the pot to have a bit of movement, and the water to have a good amount of steam rising. (180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit)
Black or herbal: Boil, baby, boil! A full, rolling boil — when your tea kettle is screaming and steam is racing out of the spout — is just fine. (208 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit)
With practice, you'll be able to tell what temperature the water is based on the sound your tea kettle makes ... and a rule of thumb: When it doubt, err on the side of cooler. Some specialty teas, like a lovely first flush Darjeeling, may be considered more delicate than your typical black tea, and you wouldn't want to stew those teas either.