Can You Steep Tea for Too Long?

Steeping tea is a quick process that is easy to do. Companies usually print instructions and steeping time on the tea packaging so you know exactly how it’s done. If you’ve asked yourself “can you steep tea for too long?,” you should know that because of the different types of tea, the length of time can vary. 

Can You Steep Tea for Too Long?

Forgetting about the tea you left to brew is quite common and can happen sometimes. You should steep your tea for only a few minutes to get the desired taste however, some people prefer to steep their tea longer. 

Steeping your tea longer than the recommended time will only make it bitter tasting. Tea leaves start to release tannins when left in hot water too long and this results in a bitter-tasting tea.

Tannins are not harmful to consume and only change the taste of the tea. Although, they can make your mouth dry. 

How Long Should I Steep Tea?

Because of the different types of tea, the steeping time varies. It also depends on how strong you like the taste to be. 

A tea-filled cup on a stack of books placed on a stool

Black Tea

For black tea, you’ll usually want to steep a little longer than other teas. This is because it takes a little longer for the water to absorb the flavor than with other teas. 

For a full-flavored cup of black tea, 4 to 5 minutes is a perfect amount of time. If you prefer your tea to be on the bitter side, you can steep for a few more minutes. 

It’s always best to heat your water to the recommended temperature. Which is exactly right before the water starts to boil rapidly. If you like to be precise, you can use a cooking thermometer to check if the water is at the perfect temperature, which would be between 200 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Green Tea

Green tea is a bit more bitter than black tea. With green tea, you need to be careful not to boil too long because then the flavor will be all bitter and not sweet. 

The amount of brewing time would be 1 to 3 minutes depending on how you like your tea to taste. Keep in mind that small leaves will be absorbed faster than larger leaves. 

You also need to think about the water temperature, which should be between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a cooking thermometer, wait for it to almost begin boiling and then turn the heat off immediately. This is when you will start to see tiny bubbles form in your water. 

Hotter water tends to absorb tea flavor quicker. To make sure you get the perfect flavor, heat your water to the exact temperature and let it boil for the recommended time. 

White Tea

Because of the many different methods of brewing white tea, you should follow the directions on the tea container. There are many different preferences for how long white tea should be steeped.

To make sure the taste is how you like it, taste your tea every 30 seconds after the 1-minute mark. You should steep white tea for 1 to 5 minutes. However, some people steep it up to 10 minutes. Again, this really depends on how you like your tea to taste. 

You should heat the water at 170 degrees Fahrenheit. This is around the same as green tea. You should start to see tiny bubbles forming. Make sure not to let it boil rapidly. 

Oolong Tea

Some people prefer brewing Oolong tea in a Yixing teapot. This makes the flavor stronger without brewing it for so long because Yixing teapots absorb the aroma of the tea with constant use. 

Whether or not you own a Yixing teapot, brew time should be around 1 to 5 minutes. Oolong leaves come in two styles; flat-leaf and rolled leaf. Flat leaves will infuse quicker than rolled leaves so keep that in mind when figuring out how long you should steep it. 

The water temperature for oolong tea should be between 180 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the heat off as soon as you see bubbles forming. 

A cup with a floral design filled with tea

Herbal Teas

You can steep herbal tea made from flower petals, roots or stems for however long you’d like. Some people don’t consider herbal teas true tea because they don’t come from the tea plant, or Camellia Sinensis plant. 

Herbal teas do not contain tannins so they will not taste bitter if steeped too long. Actually, most people would recommend steeping herbal teas for a long time. 

Does Steeping Tea Longer Make it Stronger?

When you steep tea steeped to its recommended time, the tannins and caffeine released make the tea very strong. If you steep tea longer than stated in the directions, this will allow the water to absorb more tannins and caffeine. 

So, yes, the tea will be stronger if steeped for longer than recommended. If you prefer a higher caffeine content without a bitter taste from the tannins, add more tea leaves or bags to your water and steep for the exact time.


Even though tea can be steeped too long, don’t be worried, because there are no associated health risks. The only thing you risk is a dry mouth from the bitter taste of your tea.

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