Tea Time Basics

For those that enjoy a wonderful cup of hot tea but need a review of the basics of selection and brewing tea, here is a brief guide. For the sake of simplicity, this article will focus on 4 types of tea: green tea, black tea, herbal & rooibos, and oolong tea.


Green Tea

Green tea is a tea that originated in China, and since then its production and manufacture of several varieties of green tea have spread to other countries in East Asia.

Steeping too hot or too long results in the release of excessive amounts of tannins, leading to a bitter, astringent brew, regardless of initial quality.

The brew’s taste is also affected by the steeping technique; two important techniques are to warm the steeping container beforehand to prevent the tea from immediately cooling down and to leave the tea leaves in the pot and gradually add more hot water during consumption.

Regular green tea is 99.9% water, provides 1 kcal per 100 mL serving, and is devoid of significant nutrient content.


Black Tea

Black tea, also translated as red tea in various Asian languages, is a type of tea that is more oxidized than oolong, white, or green tea. Black tea is generally stronger in flavor than other teas. Five varieties of black tea come from leaves of the shrub (or small tree) Camellia sinensis.

While green tea usually loses its flavor within a year, black tea retains its flavor for several years. Plain black tea without sweeteners or additives contains caffeine but negligible quantities of calories or nutrients.


Herbal & Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea is made using leaves from a shrub usually grown on the western coast of South Africa. Rooibos is a herbal tea and is not related to green or black tea. Traditional rooibos is created by fermenting the leaves, which turns them a red-brown color known as red tea or red bush tea.



Oolong is a traditional Chinese tea (Camellia sinensis shrub) and is often described as a partially oxidized tea. But oxidation levels in oolong can vary from 8% to 80% depending on the production style of the tea master. This is why the flavor profile of some oolongs may lean more toward a fresh green tea (less oxidized) and others toward a malty black tea (more oxidized).


To host a fuss-free tea party, keep a few pointers in mind:

  • Refresh Regularly – if the pot is nearly empty after pouring the tea, begin steeping the next brew instead of leaving a scant amount, which will cool quickly.
  • Go Light – No need to serve a full meal at tea. Snacks are part of the charm.
  • Sweeten To Taste – Traditionally, black tea can take milk (dairy or plant-based) or lemon but not both at once. For other types of tea, skip the milk and stick to sugar or honey. But feel free to bend this rule-the point is to make tea you like.


Green Tea 

Quantity: 1 tea bag/ 1 tsp. loose tea

Water Temperature: hot but not boiling (175°-180°F)

Steep Time  2-3 minutes


Black Tea

Quantity: 1 tea bag/ 1 tsp. loose tea

Water Temperature: boiling (208°-212°F)

Steep Time: 4 minutes


Herbal & Rooibos 

Quantity: 1 tea bag/ 1 tsp. loose tea

Water Temperature: boiling (208°-212°)

Steep Time: 5-7 minutes


Oolong Tea 

Quantity: 1 tea bag/ 1 tsp. loose tea

Water Temperature: sub-boiling (190°-195°F)

Steep Time: 4 minutes


Tea for two?  Enjoy your tea moments.



Author: Michelle Hanson

Michelle Hanson, MA, RD, LD is Fresh & Natural Food’s Registered Dietitian. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Nutrition and Clinical Dietetics with a minor in Community Health from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She is a registered dietitian and current member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Michelle has been a nutrition consultant for numerous years as well as a nutrition research director at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

Michelle is passionate about food and nutrition and believes in helping people find simple, realistic ways to make healthy eating a part of their everyday lifestyle.
If you are interested in meeting Michelle or have questions for her, you can email her at: michelle@fnfoods.com. She will look forward to meeting you!