The tea purists out there are firm in their belief that there’s only one proper way to prepare water for tea, and that’s to use a kettle.
While there’s certainly something to be said for the ritualistic pleasure of waiting for your water to heat up and release that piercing whistle when it’s ready, the truth is that not everyone has a kettle on hand or the time to wait.
Don’t tell your English friends, but in this post we’re going to cover how to make delicious tea using that most American of inventions: a microwave.
How Long Do You Microwave Water for Tea?
For black, herbal and pu erh teas, heat one cup of water in a 1200 watt microwave for one and a half minutes. Less powerful microwaves may need longer times. For green, white and oolong teas, make sure your water doesn’t boil. Never put teabags in the microwave, as they may contain metal staples.
Why microwaving water for tea is tricky
Microwaves have a bad reputation, especially when it comes to making tea. That’s no surprise. If you just put water in and cook it for two minutes, your tea is going to taste acidic and bitter, possibly even burnt.
The fact is, though, that microwaves are amazing inventions. They heat up food and water much more quickly than traditional methods. When you’re in a rush and need to make tea, it makes perfect sense to microwave the water.
However, it’s important to understand how to heat up water for tea before you start. Otherwise, you run the risk of an undrinkable cup.
Where things get complicated is that not only does each type of tea have a different water temperature, but microwaves have different amounts of power. This means you need to be very careful if you want to get properly heated water for your tea from a microwave.
Before we look at the right settings for microwaving water for tea, let’s review the basics of brewing tea.
The right temperature for the right tea
People who wonder how to make green tea taste better are often surprised when you tell them that the most important trick is not to boil the water all the way.
Fortunately, there are only three main temperature points for heating water for tea.
The first and most common temperature point is boiling water (212° Fahrenheit). If you’re making black tea, oolong tea, pu erh tea or an herbal tea (including rooibos and chamomile), you need to make sure to bring water to a boil before you steep your tea.
The next temperature is actually a range. For green and white teas, you should make sure your water doesn’t go above 175 to 180° Fahrenheit or you’ll end up with a bitter drink.
Finally, Oolong teas are somewhere in the middle. You want your water to be almost boiling, but not quite. 195° Fahrenheit is the best temperature for this kind of tea.
Important safety considerations
Microwaving water works just fine, but remember that it will be very hot when it’s done.
Before we go any further, it’s essential to understand and follow the advice below.
- Never put teabags in a microwave oven. Many commercial varieties use metal staples to stay closed, which can damage your microwave or cause a fire. Just boil the water and then add the teabag afterward.
- The steam from boiling water can burn you. Be very careful not to spill any as you remove it from the microwave. Use a dish towel or oven mitts if the water container is too hot to touch.
- Microwave in one-minute increments. Stir after each minute to prevent superheating and ensure an even boil.
- Microwaved ceramic cups get hot, and not all of them are microwave safe. To be on the safe side, use a microwaveable glass or ceramic container for the water and then pour it into your teacup when it’s ready.
For more microwave safety advice, we strongly recommend following these guidelines from the medical experts at Healthline.
How long to microwave water for each tea type
Microwave ovens vary considerably. The higher the wattage, the faster something cooks. If you don’t know your microwave’s wattage, it’s usually printed inside the door. If not, consult the user’s manual or ask the manufacturer.
If you have a 1,200 watt microwave, it takes approximately one and a half minutes to boil one cup (eight ounces) of water. If your microwave is 800 watts, you can expect to have to wait four minutes.
If you’re at a high altitude, your water will take less time to boil, so be sure to take that into account.
And remember that if you’re making green or white tea, you don’t want an actual boil. In these cases, experiment with your microwave and a candy thermometer to determine the best cook time for your needed water temperature.
Now you can focus on more important things, like the best pairings with black tea and the best sweeteners for tea.
More tips for making tea in your microwave
- Don’t add loose leaf tea in the microwave, either. It’s not dangerous like teabags but will make your tea taste burnt.
- Use a candy thermometer to take the temperature of the water if you have one. It will help you make sure you’re getting the best taste.
- Don’t oversteep your tea once the water’s done. It’s important to know how long to steep black tea, as well as any other type, for best results