What Does it Mean for Tea to Steep?

Steeping is an essential part of getting a perfect cup of tea. While steeping tea is a relatively easy task, it’s good to know exactly what does it mean for tea to steep and what it does to affect the taste and quality of your tea. There are also a few tips that can help you steep your tea perfectly.

What Does it Mean for Tea to Steep?

You can understand the tea steeping process by learning about diffusion and osmosis. When you place some tea leaves in a cup of hot water, this allows the molecules in the tea leaves to dissolve or diffuse throughout the water. Osmosis works this way by letting the water flow through the leaves until it results in an equal concentration of both tea and water.

Two cups filled with hot water with tea bags steeping on both of them

In simpler terms, steeping tea is the process of soaking your tea bag or dried tea leaves in hot water for a period of time until they release all the flavor and nutrients into the water. When tea steeps you are basically making a cup of tea.

Steeping tea doesn’t have to be that technical, though. There are still some things you should know if you’re unfamiliar with how to steep tea. 

How to Properly Steep Tea?

Steeping your tea correctly can ensure that you get the best flavor and the right amount of nutrients in your cup. Following the steps below can help you learn how to properly steep tea.

  1. Place 1 teaspoon of tea leaves or 1 tea bag into a cup or teapot. We recommend you use 1 teaspoon of tea for every cup of water. If you prefer your tea stronger, you can use more tea leaves or add another teabag.
  2. Once you’ve heated up your water, you can then pour it over your tea and cover the vessel. Covering your tea while it steeps can maintain the hot temperature as well as speed up the steeping process. For herbal teas, covering it while it steeps can enhance the effect of the medicinal properties.
  3. Let your tea steep for the recommended time stated on the packaging. If you’re unsure about steeping times, you should steep “true teas” from 1 to 5 minutes while you can steep herbal teas for as long as you’d like. The longer the herbal teas steep, the better. Steeping “true teas” for too long can result in a bitter taste so make sure to follow specific steep times. 
  4. After your tea has finished steeping, you can remove the tea bag or leaves. If you’re using a teapot with a built-in strainer or infuser, you can just pour the tea into a cup without removing the tea.
Tea being steeped inside a teapot

As you can see, steeping tea is a very simple process. Once you become familiar with the steeping process, you’ll learn that you have your own preferences when it comes to flavor and strength. 

How to Steep Tea Using an Infuser or Strainer?

A tea infuser is something that you can use to steep loose tea leaves. It’s a device that you can fill with tea leaves and place in a cup to steep. Most infusers usually have holes for the water to freely move through the tea leaves. Tea infusers work best with broken tea leaves. 

A tea strainer usually sits at the top of a cup. Tiny holes in the strainer allow the water to move through the strainer to steep the tea. Some teapots even come with tea strainers attached to an opening. A strainer basically prevents the tea leaves from entering your cup and helps to easily remove any leaves from your cup of tea once you’ve finished steeping.

Tea infusers and strainers typically do the same thing, it’s just a matter of personal preference to decide which one you choose.

What’s a Tea Ball Infuser?

A tea ball is an infuser shaped like a ball. It opens up in the center to separate both halves of the ball. You can place 1 teaspoon of tea inside and close it back up. It comes along with a chain to place on the side of your cup while the ball sits in the water. 

Several teabags and a tea ball infuser hanging mid air

A different tea ball infuser comes with a long handle attached to the ball. The handle has a compressor that when you press it, it opens the tea ball and lets you scoop up the dry tea.

What’s a Large Tea Ball Infuser?

A large tea ball infuser is similar to a cup that has a lid that closes shut. It’s bigger than the average tea ball allowing you to fill it with more tea. A large tea ball infuser has tiny holes all around the body and lid for water to move through.

It has a chain attached that you can put on the edge of your cup. Both the small and large tea ball sink to the bottom of your cup and are fully submerged in water.

What’s a Silicone Infuser?

Silicone infusers come in several unique designs that sit on the edge of your cup and are usually long enough to extend into the water. Usually, the holes of this type of infuser are at the bottom. 


It’s easy to get confused with all the terms involved in making tea. Steeping tea is just a small, simple step in the tea making process. Make sure to follow instructions on tea packages to ensure that you’re steeping your tea as directed.

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