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Can you over steep loose leaf tea?


Can you over steep loose leaf tea?

Posted by Pumphreys Coffee ,30th Jun 2023
Can you over steep loose leaf tea?

If you’re a new tea drinker, especially with loose leaf tea, you might not feel fully confident in preparing it correctly. As a result, over steeping can occur. It’sprobably the most common mistake people make when brewing their tea. Everyone naturally has different preferences and what might seem over steeped to one person might be perfect for another.

However, when we talk about over steeped tea, we are referring to tea that has been steeped for longer than the recommended time stated on the packaging, or past the guidelines that have led to it not tasting good to you. Now that we’veestablished that yes, tea can definitely be over steeped. In this guide we’ll be covering everything you need to know about over steeped tea.

How does over steeped tea happen?

As a quick introduction for anyone who isn’t sure what steeping is, it’sessentially how long you leave your tea to brew in hot water before removing the leaves or tea bag.

Getting your timings right and knowing how to make the perfect loose leaf tea isn’t easy when you’re new to it. Over steeping can occur by allowing the leaves to sit in your teapot for too long rather than straining them out. The outcome of this is very uneven strengths and flavours in each cup of tea you pour. The first one might be very weak with hardly any flavour whilst the last ones from that brew will likely be too strong and bitter.

Another way your tea can be over steeped, and one of the most common ways if you’re trying to make tea at work or whilst you’re busy, is leaving the tea to steep and forgetting about it. If you go to do something else and forget about the tea, by the time you come back it could have steeped for twice as long as it should have. And you end up with a ruined tea and wasted leaves.

Is your tea ruined if you over steep it?

If you don’t mind a powerful flavour, then slightly over steeping your tea probably won’t ruin your day. However, you would lose out on the more subtle and unique flavours of the leaves. What would be the point in buying high quality, delicious loose leaf tea if you can’t enjoy all the flavours and benefits it offers? The delicate notes in tea are often light, layered, and smooth. If you over steep it, all of that will be masked by bitterness and a murky or burnt flavour.

For example, Earl Grey tea is one of the most popular teas on the market. It has an iconic flavour of light bergamot citrus with a hint of floral. When steeped for too long, all you will be able to taste is the astringent tannins od the black tea, missing out on the full potential and depth of the flavours. Also, keep in mind if you’re a fan of green tea that it’s one of the easiest types of tea to over steep. It is quite fragile and needs your full attention in order to get the best flavours out of it.

If you over steep your tea it cannot be re-steeped as all the flavour has already been extracted from the leaves. Therefore, you should take plenty of care when steeping to try and get it just right first time.

How long should you steep your tea for?

Steeping loose leaf tea usually takes around 3-5 minutes. This allows the nutrient compounds in the tea to release into the water. When your tea is steeped to the perfect level, there is a good balance of caffeine, nutrients, and tannins extracted.

Tannins are a type of polyphenol that contain antioxidants, but they are known for being astringent and bitter in their flavour. If you over steep your tea, more tannins are released than there should be. As a result, the tea becomes significantly darker in colour and the bitterness from the tannins is far too overpowering. Especially if you’re making a black tea or blend like Russian caravan tea.

What is the best way to avoid bitter tea?

It might sound like a complicated process, but steeping tea isn’t an exact science. Use your best judgement and you should be able to create a perfectly balanced brew that suits your taste preferences. There are three main things that will help you: water temperature, the amount of tea, and the steeping time.

Tea-making is a simple process depending on the type of tea chosen and that the right procedure is followed. The water should be heated to between 79C and 100C, and the tea should be steeped for between 2 and 5 minutes. To avoid over-steeping, the right equipment should be used, such as a tea strainer or a mug with an infuser. This will ensure that the tea is not ready to be consumed until the infuser is removed.

If you suspect your tea is over steeped but you still want to salvage it rather than wasting the leaves and starting again, there are a few things you can do to improve the taste. You can try adding milk, sweetener, or a squeeze of lemon to counteract the power of the bitterness and mellow out the flavour overall. Also, reducing the temperature of the water and increasing the steep time can sometimes improve the negative effects of over steeped tea.


We hope this guide helps you on your journey to creating the perfect brew of tea. If you’re wondering where to find high quality tea look no further than Pumphreys. Our team are tea and coffee specialists, providing the highest standard of loose leaf tea in Newcastle. Explore our wide collection of products today and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.