How to Not Burn TeaNot too far from my house is a coffee shop that I like: easy to get to, good people, free wifi, cozy atmosphere, and great tea selection. But they always burn my tea. My white tea is handed to me totally scalded in boiling water, tasting especially bitter, and potent with caffeine.

Are you burning your tea? Is it even possible to burn tea?

Yes, it is possible to burn tea. Some teas, like white, green, and oolong are actually very sensitive to variations in water temperature.

When the water is too hot for the tea, it can cause a very bitter, even sometimes charred taste to the tea, making it less than pleasant to drink. This happens because super hot water releases all the tannins in tea leaves, and tannins are what give tea its bitter flavor. Learn more about why your tea might get bitter.

The other problem with excessively hot water is that all the caffeine is also released at once. When a large cup of white tea is burnt (as in my coffee shop experience), it can make you feel too wired, which isn’t normally an issue with tea. If you’re having a late afternoon cup, this error in water temperate may keep you up at night.

How to Not Burn Tea

Each tea has its preferred water temperature with white needing the coolest and going up from there. Check this chart to make sure you get the water temperature and steeping time right for perfect tea.


Steeping Time

Water Temperature


2-6 min.

158 – 167°F


2-4 min.

167 – 176°F

Oolong (Wulong)

1 min.

185 – 206°F

Pu-erh (Pu’er)

½ – 1 min.

195 – 212°F


3-5 min.

195 – 212°F

Belight Tea

2-3 min.

195 – 212°F

Download or pin this chart here

If you don’t have a variable temperature kettle, the next best option is to use a cooking thermometer to determine when the water has cooled down sufficiently for your white, green, or oolong tea.

how to prepare a proper cup of teaThe next option to approximating the right temperature of water is to wait 1-5 minutes after shutting off the heat source, then pour slowly from a long distance, and/or pour it back and forth in multiple vessels to cool it. The correct temperature for white tea at 158°F feels just barely above drinkable for most people.

Yes, this method takes some patience, but it is much better that suffering burnt, unpleasant tasting tea, or consuming needless amounts of unexpected caffeine.

So, how did I get that coffee shop to stop burning my tea?  I convinced them I was willing to wait an extra 5-8 minutes for my tea if they’d wait for the water to cool before adding my white tea.  Luckily, they found a thermometer (normally used for foaming milk) that they could more accurately achieve my desired white tea water temperature. And thus, I had a lovely, light bodied, floral-noted cup of tea.

Skip the burnt tea.

Instead, follow the above chart to prepare an enjoyable cup of tea, complete with its all its nuances, complexities, aromas, and tastes. Drink to your health!


Tell us in the comments below,

What is your technique for achieving perfectly steeped tea without a variable temperature kettle?