This is a complex matter. The amount of time the teabag spends in the hot water is going to affect the tea in at least two different ways: (a) the longer, the stronger and (b) the shorter, the more 'exciting'.

(a) The more time the teabag sits in the hot water, the more it will release its elements in the water creating that strong taste tea has when it is really dark.

(b) Tea contains caffeine; but it also contains tannin, which is a caffeine-antagonist. The release of caffeine starts immediately, while the release of tannin starts after 2-3 minutes. Therefore, a 'short tea' would have stronger exciting effects.

So, my question is: which one do you think it is the best timing for teabags? I know different cultures have different standards, but I do not know if a rule-of-thumb or golden rule actually exists.

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    Until it's the strength you like. There is no better answer. Surely nobody drinks tea for a caffeine buzz? – slim Jul 2 '13 at 14:39
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    @slim As a matter of fact... I do! :) – Edgar Derby Jul 2 '13 at 14:51
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    @slim, a lot of people drink tea near the evening for a small jolt of caffeine to keep up but not enough to cause sleeping problems. There are also people who do not like coffee and drink dark teas for the caffeine. – Jay Jul 2 '13 at 19:54

This will vary greatly depending on the type of tea you are drinking. Green and white teas can have steeping times as short as 30 seconds, and darker teas like puehr can sometimes steep 7 minutes or more. It can also depend on if you are re-steeping the tea (which, using teabags, you probably aren't), as each additional steep will require more time.

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