When I make black tea, I usually put the leaves (or tea bags) into cold or room-temperature water before I start boiling it. I've noticed that certain cultures always insist on first boiling the water, and only putting in tea leaves once it reaches a full, rolling boil.

Does boiling the water before putting in the leaves make a difference? I tried both ways and couldn't find a difference in taste. It seems like boiling for more than a few minutes means both would have similar levels of oxygen (not sure why that would make a difference).

To clarify: I personally *boil my tea leaves (or bag) for several minutes, as in 10-20 minutes or more. It seems like the other popular way to make tea is to steep in boiling water for several minutes.

I would like clarity on whether putting the leaves/bags in cold water makes a difference, especially given the time-scale of boiling (should it be shortened).

  • 1
    You don't need to go to anything wacky like oxygen for there to be a difference; the steeping temperatures (and probably times) of the two methods are totally different.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 14:13
  • @Jefromi my question is not about steeping; it's about boiling. Yes, some of us boil our tea leaves to death.
    – ashes999
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 14:23
  • Could you clarify how you're making your tea then? I assumed that this was about the difference between "boil, drop tea bag in, wait a couple minutes, take it out" and "put tea bag in, bring to a boil". If you're instead boiling for a long time either way, that's a bit different.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 14:25
  • @Jefromi clarified. The process is "put the bag in cold/boiling water, wait 10-20 minutes, and take it out." That's the question: cold or boiling water, what's the difference?
    – ashes999
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 14:52
  • Possible duplicate of: cooking.stackexchange.com/questions/10721/…
    – ashes999
    Commented Aug 25, 2013 at 14:54

3 Answers 3


As you're heating the temperature of the water will rise at different rates, depending on the amount of heat, on the quantity of water, and on whether the pan is covered or not. With the tea in the pan, this would create an infusion gradient, as the temperature rose over a varying number of minutes.

If you boil the water first, then infuse, you've fewer variables: the quantity of tea and the quantity of water. So you'll have less to adjust to get the brew perfect.

I don't see how you could brew even the finest black tea for 10-20 minutes without over-extracting it, producing a stewed, bitter flavour that dries the tongue.

  • It does impart a lot of flavour as well. If I cut down the brewing time, how else can I extract so much flavour without over-extracting?
    – ashes999
    Commented Sep 4, 2013 at 10:18
  • I've never tried your way, but I'm satisfied with the flavour I can get with boiling-water steeping. If it is possible to brew tea for such a long time without stewing it (sun-tea?), then it's something I'd like to try. Might try it this weekend. What's your recipe please?
    – silves89
    Commented Sep 5, 2013 at 10:55

In Turkey, we have a two-pot system (çaydanlık) for making black tea.

enter image description here

Lower pot is used to boil the water, while upper pot contains the loose tea. This helps the tea leaves to get somewhat conditioned before steeping. Boiled water is poured over the loose tea, then steeped for about 15 mins. The lower pot keeps the upper pot warm enough to help release all the flavors. Then, the tea is diluted with the boiling water when served. Glass is preferred for serving, to see the color mostly.

enter image description here

It is told that boiling the tea leaves or even adding boiling water could burn them and make the taste bitter.

This way tea tastes awesome.


From my brief experience, I put my tea bag in the pot, pour a cup of tap water (room temperature) and heat until the boiling point - this gets me a better tasting tea from cheap tea bags (English Breakfast, Earl Grey - or so said in the box).

When I got loose tea leaves (Twinings Earl Grey and English Breakfast caddies) I tried the same and the result wasn't as spectacular as I hoped. For loose tea leaves it works best if the leaves are poured boiling water rather than getting boiled along with it

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