You don’t have to be too careful about steeping times when it comes to brewing herbal tea, or tisanes, which is another name they go by. Unlike “true teas” that shouldn’t be steeped longer than recommended, steeping herbal teas too long won’t ruin the taste.
How Long Do You Brew Herbal Tea?
Herbal teas have far fewer tannins than teas that come from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Tannins are what give the tea a bitter or astringent taste. The longer you steep tea, the more tannins are released. This is why there are recommended steeping times when brewing tea.
Because there are so many different types of herbal teas, the recommended steep time for each kind varies in length. Some are more delicate than others. However, a general steep time for all herbals teas should be between 5 and 15 minutes.
Herbal teas come from a variety of different plants and parts. Although it will not tarnish the quality of your tea, steeping some of the different plant parts, such as petals, too long can make it taste a bit bitter. On the other hand, there are tougher herbal teas that turn out better when steeped longer.
Petals and Flower Heads
Herbal teas like chamomile can be steeped too long. Petals are very delicate so the flavor and nutrients are released much quicker than other herbal teas that come from different parts of a plant.
Although chamomile doesn’t have many tannins, when steeped too long, you risk releasing too many tannins into your tea. Even if you do steep your petals and flower heads too long, you can always adjust the bitter taste with a little added honey. Some other popular herbal flower teas are:
- Rose petal
- Jasmine flower
- Red clover
The recommended steep time for all flower heads and petals is 5 to 6 minutes.
Leaves for herbal tea are usually dried before being steeped. Dried herbal tea leaves are not so delicate as petals so you really don’t need to worry about over steeping them. Though, you do need to worry about under steeping them. Make sure leaves steep about 6 to 8 minutes before drinking your tea. Some herbal leaf teas include:
- Raspberry leaf
- Lemon balm
If using fresh leaves, it’s best to steep longer. 8 minutes is a good steep time for fresh leaves. Fruit teas are also considered herbal teas and can be dried.
Roots, Bark, and Seeds
Ginger root, cinnamon bark, and fennel seeds are some of the most popular root, bark and seed herbal teas. They are also the ones that need to be steeped for the longest amount of time.
The steeping method is a little different from leaves and petals. Root, bark and seed teas need to be boiled along with the water and then left in the heated water to steep.
- Seeds should be boiled for 5 to 10 minutes. Turn off the stove, cover and steep for an extra 5 minutes.
- Roots should be boiled for 10 to 20 minutes depending on how strong you want the flavor. Turn off the heat, cover and steep for 5 minutes.
- Allow bark to boil for 15 minutes. Turn off the stove, cover and steep for additional 15 minutes.
Herbal teas can also come in teabags. All the herbal teas in a tea bag are ground so you get a much quicker brew. Teabags usually only need around 2 to 3 minutes to steep.
How Long to Brew Herbal Tea in Cold Water?
Herbal tea isn’t just good in hot water, it can be brewed in cold water or for iced tea. Something to understand about iced tea is the tea is usually steeped in hot water and then cooled down before adding ice and placing it in the fridge. The tea is typically taken out right after steeping for the recommended time stated above.
Steeping tea in cold, or unheated water is something completely different and requires longer steeping times. What you end up with is a lighter tasting herbal tea, although you can always add more tea to strengthen the flavor. Fruit teas, which are considered herbal tea, are commonly steeped this way.
Herbal teas can be steeped in cold, or room temperature water for 8 to 12 hours. It’s best to keep it in the fridge overnight while steeping. You can check on the taste and color every 4 hours.
When blending herbal teas with different steeping times, you can steep them separately, discard the tea and mix the two drinks together. This works great when blending flowers with leaves. If you’re purchasing a tea blend, follow recommended steeping times listed on the packaging.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.