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How much loose leaf should I use?

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is about preparing loose leaf tea. I break down the 3 key steps in How to brew the perfect cup of tea - portioning, water, and steep time. It seems that the step people struggle the most with is portioning. This makes sense when you consider that many people are introduced to tea through tea bags, and only later discover and start brewing loose leaf tea.

For the most part, the tea industry is in agreement that the ideal ratio for western style tea brewing is 3 grams of loose leaf tea per every 8 ounces of water.

This means that knowing the size of the vessel you are brewing in is paramount to getting the water to tea leaf ratio correct. Unless the capacity is clearly printed on the vessel itself it may be necessary to do a little measurement test. Fill your brewing vessel with water and transfer to a larger glass measuring cup. This will give you an idea of how many 8oz servings you are brewing and how many servings of tea leaves you will need. Easy peasy!

As for the tea..... Different types of tea have different densities, making it impossible to standardize tea leaf measurements across different types of tea or even among different leaf styles of the same tea type. Three grams of tea can be anywhere from 1 teaspoon - 2 tablespoons depending upon the type of tea and style of leaf.

So, short of weighing your tea leaves each time you'd like to make a cup, how do you know how much tea to use? First and foremost, there should be accurate measurements on your package of tea. Unless it is noted to uses a "heaping teaspoon" it should be assumed that the measurement should be a level teaspoon. A "heaping" or "rounded" teaspoon refers to a teaspoon that is not level but is filled above the rim to create a dome or "rounded" top. This is equivalent to approximately 1 1/2 teaspoons and sometimes easier than trying to measure out 1 and a half teaspoons. At S•TEA•P we are as accurate as possible with our suggested measurements. While still allowing for adjustment to personal taste.

I'll leave you with a few other tips that may help you in learning to measure and visualize 3 grams.

  • Smaller leaves will be more dense (i.e. heavier). Examples include CTC and Rooibos.

  • Larger leaves will be less dense (i.e. lighter). Examples include chamomile and some white teas such as Michigan Moonlight.

  • Tea blends with flavoring and inclusions (i.e. lavender, hibiscus, etc.) tend to be heavier than pure leaf teas.

  • Rolled or balled teas will be denser than non-rolled teas like those with wiry or twisted leaves.

  • A way to achieve consistency in measurements is to use the same measuring device each time you make tea.

The more tea you make, the better you will become at "eye balling" a serving of tea. Remember, 3 grams/8oz. isn't a hard and fast rule. It's a starting place. Tea should always be prepared to suit one's personal tastes.

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