Knowing how much loose leaf tea per cup to use can make the difference between a delicious beverage and a watery mistake. Along with water temperature and brew time, how much tea you brew has a huge impact on the final results.
With tea bags, it's an easy job. Each bag contains just the right amount for one tea cup. But with loose leaf tea, it's a different story.
This quick guide will take you through the perfect amount of loose leaf to use for Zest's teas, standard teas, and some popular specialty teas too.
Typically, there's not really any difference between loose leaf tea leaves and the tea leaves found in tea bags. For example, our loose leaf Earl Grey contains black tea, bergamot flavor, and natural caffeine. The list of ingredients for our Earl Grey teabags is exactly the same! We even keep the large leaf size and whole ingredient pieces the same. And this goes for all 6 hot tea flavors in our range.
That's not always the case with other brands, however.
As a general rule in the tea industry, loose leaf tea is usually a higher quality leaf tea. Smaller broken pieces of tea leaf are often used in teabags to keep the cost down. Similarly, many teabag blends contain flavoring instead of real ingredient pieces.
When it comes to loose leaf tea made from larger pieces or even whole leaves, you need to measure exactly the right amount to get the perfect cup of tea.
Here's how we do it at Zest.
To measure loose leaf tea, most people will use a teaspoon and the most common advice is to use one teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup. This is also what we recommend for our energy tea blends.
For professional cupping, tea drinkers will weigh the tea instead. This enables them to use exactly the same amount of tea for each cup prepared, thus keeping tasting standards consistent. This is also why you may see the instructions to use "1 teaspoon or 2 grams" of tea on some tea packaging.
But for drinking tea everyday and many of the common tea types listed below, your trusty kitchen teaspoon will get the job done!
After measuring tea leaves using our guide below, you just need to add them to an infuser and pour over water. We recommend this Paris Tea Cup Infuser to make this process easier. Once the leaves have brewed to the desired strength, you can take out the infuser to remove the leaves and discard them.
Simply open up your Zest Tea loose leaf pouch and use a teaspoon to pull out one teaspoon worth of green tea leaves or black tea leaves. This will be enough for a cup of tea.
Traditionally, a tea caddy spoon (also known as a tea spoon or tea measuring spoon) was used for this task. Popular in the 19th century, they were wide and flat with ornate decorations.1
Remember that the instructions provided for loose leaf tea are a suggestion that should provide the perfect cup. But depending on your personal tastes, one teaspoon may be too much tea or not enough to create a robust tea taste.
So, don't be afraid to experiment with how much loose tea per cup you use, as well as the steeping time. The more tea you use and the longer you steep it for, the stronger the flavor.
Just make sure that you don't stray from the right temperature!
For the best flavor, the water temperature you use is just as important as the amount of loose leaf you brew. Most teas require heated water to a specific temperature. For robust teas, boiling water will suffice. But for more delicate teas like white tea and green tea, using water at a full boil will scald the leaves and create a bitterness that overpowers the delicate flavors.
The exact temperature varies depending on the tea type, usually somewhere between 70°C (158°F) and 100°C (212°F).
Ultimately, if you need a stronger brew, use more tea and steep it for longer!
To learn more about the correct water temperature for brewing hot tea, read our Tea Brewing Temperature Guide.
Find your tea type below, from green and white teas to herbal tea and even iced tea, to discover how to measure the loose tea leaves for the perfect cup of tea.
At Zest, we have both black and green flavored tea blends for you to enjoy hot or iced. If you want to try our tea iced, see 'Iced Tea' below.
For hot tea, we recommend using one teaspoon per 8oz cup. To keep things simple, we also recommend using one of our pyramid bags per 80z cup too!
This ensures that you get the full flavor of the teas and all the caffeine to boot.
The two most popular caffeinated tea types are undoubtedly black teas and green teas.2 For standard black and green tea leaves - the kind you can find at the grocery store and from mainstream tea brands - use at least 1 teaspoon per serving.
Some flavored teas, like Earl Grey, can be quite weak. Other black tea varieties, like Assam tea from India, are particularly bold and malty. So, adjust the amount of tea leaves and steeping time to taste.
If you are using a tea pot to brew tea for multiple people, the usual recommendation is to use 1 teaspoon of loose leaf per person, plus an extra teaspoon 'for the pot.' If you have a 3-cup teapot, then use 4 teaspoons of tea. Brew with hot water as usual, then strain out the leaves as you pour the hot tea.
With a specialty tea, how much loose leaf you use is best determined by weight. There are some unusual tea varieties available with unique shapes. For example, silver needle is a type of white tea that's made from the tips of the tea plant, and unlike standard green and black tea, the whole buds won't naturally be scooped up with a teaspoon.
Another example is tai ping hou kui, a green tea also known as monkey tea, pictured above.3 The flattened leaves can't be measured with a teaspoon, so weighing them is more appropriate.
This also applies to oolong tea varieties that aren't available in tea bag format. For specialty teas, the amount you should use for one cup is typically 2g to 4g. You might struggle to get these teas in a standard tea infuser too!
Unlike caffeinated teas, brewing tea made from herbs (or fruits) is a simpler affair. You can use hot water at any temperature and as much or little loose herb as you desire. Most herbal tea blenders will recommend using 1 to 3 teaspoons of leaf per cup.
There's also a lot more freedom with brew times. For most herbal ingredients, a very long brew won't turn the tea bitter, like black teas do. You can easily brew for 5 to 10 minutes for a flavorful cup of tea.
Pu-erh is a type of fermented tea made from the same tea plant, Camellia sinensis, as other traditional tea varieties. However, pu-erh is aged and is often packed into "cakes" of compressed tea leaves, so scooping them up with a teaspoon to measure them is not ideal.
As with specialty tea like oolong tea, it's best to measure loose leaf tea that's in cakes by weight. You might also find instructions from tea sellers that refer to volume, e.g. break off a 1cm cube.
Matcha is not really a brewed tea. Unlike most green teas, the leaves aren't soaked in water to brew and then removed. Matcha is a finely powdered tea that's whisked directly into water to create a thick, rich and frothy beverage.
Traditionally, a matcha scoop known as a chashaku is used to measure the correct amount of matcha powder. This usually equates to around 1 teaspoon. If you are making a matcha latte, you may want to use a generous scoop and a half to enhance the flavor through the dairy element.
Learn more about this interesting tea type in our article Understanding Matcha.
Iced teas are made by brewing hot tea, then pouring it over ice to instantly cool it. The ice tends to dilute the tea a little, so brewing your hot tea stronger than normal is advantageous. You can do this by increasing the amount of leaf you brew, or by steeping the tea for longer.
You can turn any tea into iced tea, even herbal teas, so all you need to do is find your favorite tea above and add a few extra minutes to the brew time or an extra teaspoon of dry leaf.
Extra tip: if you're adding a sweetener to your tea that doesn't dissolve well in cold water, e.g. rock sugar, make sure you add it while the tea is still hot and brewing!
Cold brewed tea is made by infusing dry tea leaves or ingredients with cold water for a long time. You can leave the water at room temperature or keep it in the fridge. You'll want to leave the tea for at least a few hours to infuse, or longer if possible. A good way to make cold brew is to prepare it in the evening, ready for the following day.
Cold brew tea tends to be smoother and sweeter than hot tea, however it's also quite weak. That's why we recommend such a long brew time. You can also try doubling up your loose leaf tea measurement, e.g. if you usually steep 1 teaspoon of our Superberry Samba in hot water, try steeping 2 teaspoons for a cold brew. Bear in mind that this will double the caffeine content as well.
1 teaspoon, or 2 grams, of loose dry leaf is the perfect amount for one cup of tea. You can always adjust the amount of tea you use, or alter the brewing time, to achieve the right strength for your tastes.
1 teaspoon of loose leaf per 8 fl oz of water will create a cup of tea (or a small mug).
A minimum of 1 teaspoon, or 2g of leaf, is recommended for making a single serving cup of tea. If you are making a whole pot of tea, use 1 teaspoon per person plus one extra.
First, you select high-quality loose leaf tea, like Zest Tea. Add 1 teaspoon of the dry leaf to a tea infuser and steep it in water as directed (usually 3 to 5 minutes). Once brewed, remove the loose leaf infuser just like you'd remove a tea bag, and discard the spent leaves.