Learning how to make loose leaf tea is easy with this three step tutorial. Included are tips for making the best tasting cup of British tea just like the Royals enjoy!
There’s absolutely no need to feel intimidated about making loose leaf tea. You also can make loose leaf tea without an infuser, honest!
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There’s also no need for any special equipment, other than a teapot, to make a satisfying cup of British tea using loose leaf tea versus teabags. You may have already read my tutorial on how to make a proper cup of British tea using teabags.
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My Qualifications as a “British Tea Expert”
I have both experience and knowledge in regards to British tea, in more ways than one. I’ve been drinking tea practically since I was born! Babies are/were given bottles with milk and a little tea in the UK. I even have a scar on my left arm (from when I was 3 or 4 years old) from reaching up for a cup of tea which had just been poured.
Apparently, I really wanted my tea in a hurry and spilled the hot liquid, which didn’t have milk in it, onto my arm. The reason I still have a scar is because a.) boiling water was used to make the tea, and b.) my grandmother put butter on it 😫.
I have had tea all over the UK: in homes, restaurants, and 5 star hotels (for afternoon tea). My tea-making tutorial is trustworthy, and I double-checked my method in Paul Burrell’s book, In the Royal Manner, and it’s spot on (he was Princess Diana’s butler).
You Have Probably Never Tasted Good Tea! (If you Think you Don’t Like Tea)
I want to preface this with saying that if you have only tasted tea that’s made in the US with Lipton tea bags and hot water, and decided it’s not your cup of tea (sorry, couldn’t resist!) I DO NOT BLAME YOU! This “tea” is a travesty and it’s definitely not British! Honestly, it’s nothing like a real cup of British tea!
Do you really think the tradition would have lasted as long and the Royal Family would be having tea every day if it wasn’t an enjoyable experience? I have converted many non-tea drinkers who have visited me. When they tell me they don’t like tea, but I convince them to try a cup, they are always stunned (even if it’s made with teabags) .
If you have read my “how to make a proper cup of (British) tea” post, then you’ll already have the basic idea and simplicity of how to make loose leaf tea. I think most people may think there’s more to it than there really is! However, there are a few things that will definitely impact the flavor of your cup of tea.
“If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; If you are excited, it will calm you.”
-William Ewart Gladstone, former Prime Minister of Great Britain
What Makes the Best Tasting Cup of Tea?
There are several things that need to be checked off when making British loose leaf tea (or even when using tea bags).
1. Use boiling water. I don’t mean hot water, I mean 212℉ (100℃) water. If you don’t think it makes a difference, then make tea using very hot water, and make another pot using boiling water, and you’ll understand. There’s a reason every British home has an electric kettle.
NOTE: do not make your tea in your kettle; you should only use water in your kettle.
2. Use a teapot. You can’t get the same outcome when brewing tea in a cup, or mug. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but you do need a pot. Don’t try making it in another container or a pot, as you won’t have the same outcome.
3. As always, use good quality loose leaf tea. How will you end up with a good cup of tea if you don’t start with good quality tea leaves?
Here’s an example, and a tea I really enjoy: Brodie’s teas from Scotland.
The Scottish Grocer online will provide you with an array of choices for loose leaf teas, and as I’m an affiliate, if you place an order, use this link THE SCOTTISH GROCER and code CHRISTINASCUCINA for 10% off your entire purchase. Isn’t it a beautiful caddy? I think it makes a perfect hostess gift!
What Does Loose Leaf Tea Look Like?
Here are two samples of loose leaf tea. The one on the left is a black Assam tea, and the one on the right is the black Scottish breakfast tea from Brodies.
Afternoon tea is just so civilized, especially when you add scones, cream and jam.
Once you learn how to make loose leaf tea, all you need next is a little afternoon tea time! You can have your tea with (British) biscuits. You can make afternoon tea scones to enjoy with your cuppa. You can also make finger sandwiches and have a full on English party, for example, to celebrate the Coronation!
“Tea is the only simple pleasure left on us.”
– Oscar Wilde
When Should you Have Tea?
Afternoon tea time is different than asking when should you have tea. You can make a pot of loose leaf tea (or use teabags) any time of day. It’s perfect with breakfast, instead of coffee. In fact, it’s always a part of a full British breakfast, like this Scottish fry-up with Lorne sausage.
Now I’m excited to show you how to make loose leaf tea, so you can try it and see what you think! And if you’re lucky, you may end up with the beautiful Victoria Eggs brand, Charles III Coronation cup and saucer, and the matching tea towel! Don’t forget to check out all the amazing china, housewares, textiles and even British food at The Bee’s Knees British Imports. GIVEAWAY DETAILS BELOW.
How to Make Loose Leaf Tea
by Christina Conte makes 2 cups
FULL PRINTABLE DIRECTIONS BELOW
What you Need to Make Loose Leaf Tea
- a 2 or 4 cup teapot (preferably made in the UK or Europe/USA)
- loose leaf tea
- a kettle
Step 1. WARM THE TEAPOT: Boil about a cup of water in the kettle, and pour it into the teapot. Put the lid on and leave it.
Step 2. MAKE THE TEA: Add about 2 cups of COLD water to the kettle and just before it comes to a boil, empty the hot water from the teapot, and bring it over to the kettle. Add 2 to 3 teaspoonfuls of loose leaf tea directly into the teapot (or you can use an infuser if you have one). Pour the boiling water into the teapot, close the lid. Note: I never measure my water for tea. Once you have made tea a few times, you will get a feel for how you like to make it: more or less tea leaves, or water, how long to steep it, etc.
Step 3. STEEP THE TEA: Set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes (I prefer 5 minutes), and allow the loose leaf tea to brew. If you have a tea cosy, you can put it on the teapot.
That’s it: you’ve made loose leaf tea! I told you there was nothing to it! Now all that’s left to do is to pour and enjoy.
If you have a tea strainer, you can use it to catch any stray leaves that may go into your cup. However, as you can see here, the tea leaves fall to the bottom of the pot, so it’s not necessary. Any stray leaves that may go into your cup will also fall to the bottom, so just give your tea a second to settle if you stir it with a spoon.
I take my tea with milk only, but it’s perfectly acceptable to add a little sugar. I highly recommend trying out any of my scone recipes. My afternoon tea scones are a classic, but you can also make these apple scones, which are very easy to make. Take your pick from any of these scone recipes.
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How to Make Loose Leaf Tea
The proper way to make British loose leaf tea.
- loose leaf tea
- 2 or 4 cup teapot (preferably made in the UK or Europe/USA)
WARM THE TEAPOT, MAKE THE TEA, STEEP THE TEA
- Boil about a cup of water in the kettle, and pour it into the teapot. Put the lid on and leave it.
- Add about 2 cups of COLD water to the kettle and just before it comes to a boil, empty the hot water from the teapot, and bring it over to the kettle. Add 2 to 3 teaspoonfuls of loose leaf tea directly into the teapot (or you can use an infuser if you have one). Pour the boiling water into the teapot, and close the lid.
- Set a timer for 3 to 5 minutes (I prefer 5 minutes), and allow the loose leaf tea to brew. If you have a tea cosy, you can put it on the teapot.
- It is critical to the flavor of the tea for the water to be boiling, but don't let it boil for long. Don't re-boil water, either.
- Use good quality loose leaf tea for the best results.
- Add the milk after pouring the tea. (Do not add cream to British tea, only whole milk.)
- Sugar is optional.
- If you have a tea strainer, you can use it to catch any stray leaves that may go into your cup. However, the tea leaves fall to the bottom of the pot, so it's not necessary. Any stray leaves that may go into your cup will also fall to the bottom, so just give your tea a second to settle if you stir it with a spoon.
Once you have made tea a few times, you will get a feel for how you like to make it: more or less tea leaves, or water, how long to steep it, etc.
Christina’s Cucina is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associate Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
So. . . If you make a big pot to enjoy multiple refills, can you let the tea continue steeping as you use it or are you supposed to use it all at once? And, I have had success adding a bit more hot water to the pot when there’s about half a cup left, is this what is meant by “one for the pot”? I love proper British tea, I was taught about it from my Sri Lankan friend in grad school and never looked back! But I’ve always wondered about these two points. Some loose black teas say to remove the leaves after the prescribed steeping time but that seems awkward, especially if you’re not using an in-pot strainer.
Good questions, Suzanne. Since I don’t mind strong tea, I leave the leaves. For those who don’t I think it would be better to remove them, but yes, you’d have to use an in-pot strainer as you suggested. I don’t think they mean one of the pot so that it’s meant for extra, but then again, that’s just my guess! Maybe you’re correct! Glad you’re a tea-lover! Thanks for the note!
Brewing loose tea is the only way to enjoy a good cuppa. I enjoy British Blend by Tetly and various kinds from Tea Forte.
After a cuppa, my Scottish aunt would read my tea leaves. Great memories.
I remember that, too!
Sometimes the simple things can be the hardest to master. Thanks for this excellent primer!
I enjoy my tea with a bit of milk, any time of day or night. I started in my tea drinking family with my own Brown Betty 6(!) cupper in my mid teens. So much tea!!!!
Awesome, Maureen! Good luck!
I enjoy my tea with a splash of milk. I enjoy a nice cup of black tea!
Me too, Leyla! Good luck!
There is nothing better than tea!
A nice cup of tea made in my fancy teapot for Sunday afternoons!
A big mug of tea during the week has to be made in my brown Betty teapot!
Tea just makes life better!
Agreed, Susan! Good luck!
I love an afternoon tea of with a little bit of milk and sugar. I’ve just returned from a trip to Scotland so now drinking some of the loose tea I purchased and will be using your method of making tea as well.
Yay, lucky you, Heather! Good luck!
I love to have my tea with a little milk. I love having a good cup of black tea! My parents drank tea at out dinnertime. I grew up brewing the evening pot!
Nice to have a routine, isn’t it? Good luck, Beth!