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How Long to Steep Black Tea — The Answer

How Long to Steep Black Tea — The Answer

Black tea hails from a shrub referred to as Camellia sinensis. As you can expect, the flavor, aroma and color of this beverage varies significantly based on factors such as the grade, season of harvest, and the length of time used for steeping. 

This drink gets its name from the dark color of its tea leaves. But in China, it’s actually called “red tea”, in reference to the color of the final product. 

In the following article, we’ll be examining one of the factors that determine its flavor, that is, steeping duration.  

If you add tea leaves to boiling water and remove them almost immediately, your drink will barely have any flavor.

On the other hand, if you leave them in for too long, then the bitter tannins take away from its delightful flavor. So just how long should you steep your black tea? Read on to learn more.


How Long to Steep Black Tea

You should steep black tea for just three to five minutes. The specific duration will depend on the flavor you’re looking to achieve. For a bitter flavor, leave the tea leaves to soak for the whole five minutes. For a less bitter flavor, steep for the minimum period of three minutes. 

The recommended period for steeping black tea is between three and five minutes. Compared to other kinds of tea, black tea is steeped for longer. For instance, green tea is steeped for just 1 to 2 minutes while oolong tea is steeped for 2 to 3 minutes. 

Steeping black tea for longer is necessary so as to boost the caffeine content while also helping to create a dark, and full-bodied cup. 

Overall, the specific length of time that you steep black tea will depend on other factors such as the specific type of black tea you use, your preferred flavor and the purpose of preparing this beverage in the first place.

Steeping time for different types of black tea



Ranked the world’s best black tea, Darjeeling is loved for its floral and fruity notes. It should be steeped for at least 3 minutes. 

Quick tip: if taking this tea for the first time, try it without any accompaniment so you can enjoy the full spectrum of its subtle fruity tones. 



Named after the area where it’s produced, assam is another prominent black tea. Its flavor is pretty malty and strong. To achieve this, steep it for no less than five minutes. 


If you want a milder version, you can incorporate common condiments like sugar, milk or creamer. 

Dian Hong

This black tea is of Chinese origin, and it’s known for its soft and savory flavor. But what makes it even more unique is the strong woody, honey-like aroma. 

For the best result, steep this tea for just three minutes. 

Ruby Black

More popularly known as the Red Jade or Ruby 18, this tea is grown in Burmese and Taiwan. It has an intense flavor with aromatic tones of mint and cinnamon. 

Steep your Ruby Black tea for 3 minutes or less, using water that is just about to reach boiling point.


Earl Grey 

This is one of the most revered varieties of black tea blends. In its simplest form, it’s a mixture of black tea and bergamot oil. 

When it comes to steeping Earl Grey, allow its tea leaves to sit in boiling water for 3 minutes to extract its full flavor. 


The preferred flavor when steeping black tea

Flavor is one of the most important factors you should consider when steeping your black tea. While some people like their tea just mildly bitter, there are those who like it a little more intense. 

If you prefer to take your black tea bitter, then steep for the maximum period of 5 minutes. But if you don’t like it bitter, steep it for no longer than 3 minutes. 


Purpose of drinking

Another factor that comes into play when steeping black tea is the purpose of drinking. Are you taking tea to get a caffeine boost? Or are you drinking it to simply enjoy its health benefits?

If you’re steeping it for its health perks, then don’t go beyond the 2 ½ minute mark. 

A study published in the journal Beverages back in 2016 revealed that allowing tea leaves to steep for longer, results in a drink with more polyphenols. (Polyphenols are compounds that help to prevent cancer and to regulate lipid metabolism). 

But at the same time, you don’t want to let the leaves steep for too long to the point where the antioxidants get broken down.

Thus, experts arrived at the 2 ½ minute timeframe, believing that this would allow enough production of polyphenols without compromising the antioxidants. 

On the other hand, if you’re preparing your black tea to get an energy boost, then steep it for a little longer, preferably, 3 to 5 minutes. 

While it’s not as potent as its cousin, coffee, a cup of tea that has been brewed correctly is enough to give you a caffeine punch. 

In this study published in the Journal of Analytical Toxicology, researchers reveal that brewing your tea for several minutes increases its caffeine content. 

For this experiment, investigators used a sample of Lipton black tea, which they added to about 6 ounces of water. Initially, the caffeine content was 17 mg per 6 ounces of water. 

But after steeping for 3 minutes, the caffeine content increased to 38 mg per 6 ounces of water. By the fifth minute, it had 47 mg of caffeine. 


The technique when steeping black tea

Just as crucial as the duration of steeping is the technique you employ.

Two things in particular that you’ll want to pay attention to entail temperature and the teapot used for brewing. 

I like to dedicate a specific brewing pot for my black tea, and for good reason.

Over time, teapots take on the flavors of the tea brewed in them. For heavily oxidized teas like black tea, the flavor is quite intense, meaning it can ruin the taste of other beverages prepared using the same appliance. 

Another point to keep in mind is the temperature of the water you use to steep your black tea. For delicate tea varieties like green or white tea, the ideal temperature range is 70 to 85°C (158 to 185°F).

But for deeply-fermented varieties like black tea, a higher temperature range is recommended, specifically, 95 to 100°C (203 to 212°F).