top of page

How to brew the perfect cup of loose leaf tea

It can be quite a daunting task when you make your first brew with loose leaf, especially if you've never handled tea leaves before. You will have never met a dedicated tea strainer and your previous brewing methods may have been somewhat lackadaisical; throw a teabag in a mug, show it the water and reflexively jerk it back out before throwing it in the compost. In principle looseleaf is no different, but in practice it's a bit more hands-on.

So, I thought this might be a useful tool for those who are new to loose leaf and while I'm hopeful that it's just as helpful to those who already have worked with it, this post is primarily written with the newcomer in mind. It's probably worth my mentioning that even though I try to be concise with the instructions that I write on each packet when I send it out to someone there's still some room for error (what size spoon, what kind of milk; that sort of thing) that can affect the resulting brew, and these opportunities for error are largely avoidable. I'm sure this is the same for any tea seller. In any case, this set of instructions are still quite open and for the most part just represent how I prefer to brew my own leaves. That isn't to say that it's the only way (more on that later I suppose). With all that preamble out of the way then, let's dig in.


1. The mug. First things first, find your favourite mug. The things I'm thinking about when I pick a mug is its shape and the material its made from, which in turn effect heat retention (how long the brew stays hot for) and the mugs fit (in your hand). For whatever reason, I seem to enjoy tea more when it is in a curved, glass mug. I like being able to watch the brew settle through the glass, even at the expense of the tea cooling a little faster than it might if it was in a ceramic mug and I like it curved because it fits the shape of my hand more succinctly. This might seem trivial but I really do think the right kind of mug means something to the person drinking out of it, why else would we all prefer one over another?

2. The infuser. The first thing you'll have inevitably noticed is that loose leaf means there is no tea bag, hence the need for some means of separating the brew from the leaves later on. Instead of a bag we need either a strainer or an infuser of some sort. I wouldn't say it's worth getting too deep into which ones I prefer right now (although the one in my shop is great if you haven't got one yet), so long as the leaf remains separate from the end brew, it'll do. All I would recommend is avoiding those made from plastic (the plastic may 'sweat' in the brew, which I'm sure can't be good for you) as well as steering clear of those little ball strainers if you're working with very fine tea leaves like rooibos (it just ends up everywhere, including in your brew!).

3. The Leaf. Assuming we're all set let's get started by heaping some loose leaf onto a teaspoon and dunking it into the infuser (for this I've used Carrot Cake). In most cases, this will equate to around 2 grams of tea but we can add more tea to the infuser should we want to make the brew stronger, but I would say one heaped teaspoon is a good starting point (I typically eyeball it now though and I do like mine strong, however in this case I kept the spoon level)