Now my partner loves a good cup of tea, but if you ever asked him to make one he'd probably just stare at you and render his face in an adorable version of “I don't know.” He's a great resource to me in his current state of new-to-tea. It means I get to ask him “what do you wanna learn about tea?” His response this week was “What's up with temperature?”
He's referring to the fact that teas need to be steeped at different temperatures based on the type of tea you're making. This isn't a fact that a lot of people know, and it's surprising how easily it's missed.
So, for those of you who aren't aware, here's the 101!
The general rule of thumb is the darker a tea is, the hotter the water should be. Therefore a black tea uses hotter water than white tea. The reason for this is that the hotter the water, the more astringency the tea will release. Lighter/less processed teas are more “raw,” and therefore have more astringency to release than teas that are darker/more processed.
It's pretty easy to google an infographic for this, but I'll summarize the different types of tea below:
Pu erh 96ºc/205ºf
Herbal Infusions 98ºc/208ºf
That being said, I have found there is a lot of flexibility. If you don't have a thermometer or a variable temperature kettle, my advice is to boil your water, and leave it for 2-5 minutes. This usually brings it down to 85ºC/176ºF. I steep all of my teas at this temperature with absolutely no problems at all.