How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea

Herbal teas are prepared by steeping fresh or dried plant matter (such as roots, seeds, flowers, herbs, or bark) in hot water. They are an easy and delicious way to enjoy the medicinal benefits of herbs! While herbal tea bags are a convenient and effective way of enjoying herbs, many local growers choose to pack their herbs loose, which protects the integrity of the herbs and reduces waste. We asked local farmer, Nicole Bauza of Oma Herbal Teas, to share the methods she uses to brew loose-leaf herbal teas.

Herbal Tea Oma Kimberton Whole Foods

Note: the directions below are appropriate for herbal teas. The basic methods outlined here would also work for traditional green, black, or white teas, however temperature and steeping-time may vary. (Nicole shares that technically, herbal teas are “tisanes” or “infusions”, not teas! Learn more here.)

What You’ll Need:

  • Loose leaf herbal tea of choice
  • Kettle or pot for boiling water
  • Any of the following: strainer, infuser, reusable tea bag, tea ball, or french press to steep the herbs
  • Mug of choice

Step 1 – Boil Water

Using a kettle or a pot on the stove, bring water to a full boil. If you have an electric kettle with temperature settings, program it to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. The hotter the water, the better for extracting the flavors of the herbs.

Step 2 – Prep the Herbs for Steeping

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While the water is boiling, measure out 1 tablespoon of herbs per 8-10 ounces of water (about one cup) for your infusion. You can use a tablespoon to measure your herbs, and crush them gently to fit into the tablespoon.

Crushing the herbs is key because it releases the volatile oils and biochemical compounds, which provide the nutrients in the tea.

You can crush the herbs with your hands, a mortar and pestle, or a grinder–whatever way will work so long as you crush them (with love).

Step 3 – Steep the Herbs (10 minutes +)

Now you will pour the boiling hot water over the herbs to steep. The two important factors in steeping are: how long you steep the tea and covering the tea while it steeps.

Steep for 10 minutes

pour-water-over-herbs-steepingHerbs need very hot water and a longer steep time than tea leaves to get the most flavor, phytonutrients, and polyphenols (potent free radical scavengers that destroy cell-damaging free radicals in the body). Most herbal blends require 10 minutes to steep. Some herbs and blends do better with a longer steep, and you might prepare it before bed, let it steep through the night, and enjoy your herbal tea in the morning.

cover-tea-to-steep

Cover the tea

The volatile oils released when you crush the herbs are aromatic, like essential oils, but they are not water soluble, meaning they will not be absorbed directly into the water. Essential oils are created through steam distillation, so when you steep the herbs, the oils will condense against the cover and return to the tea absorbed in the droplets–but you retain the highest amount of these by covering the tea while steeping!

Ways to Steep Herbal Loose Leaf Tea:

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Put crushed herbs directly into a pot of water, cover it to steep, and pour the tea through a strainer into your mug.

pour-water-into-tea-infuser

Put crushed herbs in a tea infuser, pour boiling water over it into your teapot, and allow it to steep before serving.

use-tea-ball-tea-bag-for-herbal-loose-leaf

Put crushed herbs into a reusable tea bag or a tea ball and pour boiling water directly over it into your mug. Cover the mug while the tea steeps!

Brew loose leaf herbal tea in a french press by putting the crushed herbs in as you would coffee and pouring boiling water over the herbs to steep. Then you simply plunge the mesh filter and serve your tea.

Step 4 – Enjoy your steaming cup of tea

Once your herbal tea has steeped the proper amount of time, serve and enjoy! It’s simple as that. Then just rinse and repeat. Your body will thank you!

Photos courtesy of Oma Herbal Teas. Tea availability varies by store location.