What’s the Best Tea Time and Temperature?

Tea is second to water as the most widely consumed beverage in the world. Preparation methods, such as temperature and time steeped, vary according to type of tea and country. Curious as to the most effective method of preparation, researchers from the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia tested white, black, and green tea, and discovered that temperature and steep time affected antioxidant capacity. Published in the Journal of Food Science, the results obtained may give way to a more standard and universal method of preparing different types of tea infusions to maximize their potential antioxidant benefits.

Dried Black Tea leaves isolated on a white background close up with copyspace for text.

The Difference Between the Teas

White, green, and black tea all comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, but the methods used to process them are different. The more the leaves are processed and the higher the levels of oxidation, the stronger the flavor and the darker the color.

White: White tea is the lightest, sweetest, and most delicate because the leaves are picked when they are very young…when the tiny white hairs are still visible and the buds still closed. White tea leaves don’t undergo any oxidation (fermentation) and are simply dried in the sun. The taste is light and sweet.

Green Tea: Green tea is heated (either steamed or pan fried) before being rolled into different shapes. For instance, sencha leaves are rolled into fine strands, while gunpowder leaves are shaped into pellets. Green tea undergoes very little oxidation and has a grassy flavor. It’s also enriched with the unique and highly potent antioxidant HGCG.

Black Tea: Black tea is the most highly processed of the three. The leaves sit out in the sun to slightly wilt. As the chemicals in the leaves interact with the air, oxidation (fermentation) kicks in. The leaves darken from green, to red, to black. The leaves are then dried and shaped, and the end result is a much more caffeinated tea with a strong, bold flavor.

How the Colors Fared

Researchers tested two varieties of each type of tea: white, green, and black. They steeped each in hot water for two hours and then in hot water for five minutes. They then mimicked the process, steeping each variety of tea in cold water for two hours, and then in cold water for five minutes. Each tea responded differently according to temperature and time steeped.

The white tea had the most antioxidant activity when steeped for a longer time, but was unaffected by temperature.

The green tea was the most sensitivity to temperature and had the most antioxidants when steeped cold for two hours.

The black tea exhibited its highest antioxidant threshold when steeped for five minutes in hot water, but its antioxidant capacity decreased when steeped for a longer amount of time.

Overall, white tea was found to have the highest antioxidant activity of the three, but all three teas are a healthy way to jumpstart your day.