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How Long Should Oolong Tea Steep for — A Difficult Question

How Long Should Oolong Tea Steep for — A Difficult Question

There are a lot of different components that go into making the perfect cup of tea.

One element is getting the water temperature right. Another is measuring out the right amount of loose-leaf tea.

Yet another important element is how long you should steep it.

Too long and your tea is too strong, but too short a time and you’ll end up with a weak, flavorless beverage.

How long you need to steep tea varies based on what type of tea it is.

In this article, we’ll talk about steeping oolong tea.

How long should oolong tea steep for?

How long to steep oolong tea varies based on your taste, the type of brewing method and what kind of oolong tea it is, including whether it is leaf, rolled or strip. You can steep for 1-5 minutes, tasting it every 30 seconds after the first minute to check when the flavor seems right to you.

Variables to consider in steeping oolong tea

Many guides on steeping oolong tea suggest that around three minutes is the right amount of time.

Some will say the steeping time is from anywhere from one to five minutes, which is more accurate.

However, the fact is that the range of time in which you can steep oolong tea is even broader, from just a few seconds to as many as seven or eight minutes.

The reason there is so much variation is that the type and form of oolong tea can vary a lot as can the method of preparing it.

Steeping oolong tea and the type of leaves

Your loose-leaf oolong tea might come in three different ways.

If it is leaf style or strip style, it will need a shorter steeping time.

Semi-balled or rolled style oolong tea will need to steep for longer.

Western or Eastern-style preparation

There are two main ways that you can brew oolong tea. You can either use a Western-style approach or an Eastern approach.

In the Western approach, you generally steep the tea for about three minutes although you can certainly use the method suggested above of starting to taste the tea every 30 seconds after the first minute.

However, if you are taking an Eastern-style approach, the steeping time will be different.

You might just steep the tea for a few seconds, or it could be for longer than five minutes.

An Eastern-style approach might also involve multiple rounds of steeping the tea.


You can’t tell how oxidized a type of oolong is by looking at it, but the length of time it is oxidized varies a great deal, and this can also affect how long it should be steeped.

Oolong teas may be as much as 80% oxidized and as little as 8% oxidized.

Type of oolong tea

There are different types of oolong tea, and they all have different steeping times.

There might be some guidance on the package about how long that time should be.

For example, tea from the Anxi region or Red Robe tea only needs to be steeped for about a minute although it can then be re-steeped. White-tipped oolong should be steeped for two to three minutes.


Oolong tea and steeping more than once

There are people who will reuse a black tea bag, but if you’re a tea aficionado, you probably wouldn’t dream of doing this.

However, when it comes to oolong tea, steeping the tea multiple times can be an important element of preparing it. This can bring out a variety of flavors.

There are special teapots you can use to steep oolong tea known as a gaiwan. You can also use a small unglazed clay pot.

Some people have separate pots for preparing light and dark oolong tea because the vessel does take on the flavor of the tea over time.

You can start with what is sometimes known as a “rinse.”

This first steeping is just a few seconds long. You would pour the hot water over the tea and then immediately pour it off.

Then, you would pour the hot water over a second time and steep for 45 seconds. At that point, you would take the infuser out and drink the tea.

At this point, you can steep for a second time. After an additional 30 seconds, you would remove the infuser and steep it a second time.

This second cup of tea will have a somewhat different flavor from the first cup.

You may be able to steep the tea several more times.

You can experiment with the time of each steep, the number of times you do it and the variety of tea that you use to tease out all the different flavor experiences that oolong tea can produce.