How much tea should I use when I make tea?
This question comes up often and is a difficult one to answer. The old adage of a teaspoon per cup and one for the teapot sounds good but is not at all a consistent measure. In fact we don't even use teaspoons in our offices. They are too small. Different types of tea have different densities resulting in varying weights for the same volume of tea. A leafy green tea is very different from black tea in terms of density. For example, a tablespoon of Jade Spring green tea weighs 1 gram and a tablespoon of Golden Needle black tea weighs 2.5 grams.
Most black tea can be easily measured by tablespoons, but green tea can be difficult to balance on the spoon as the leaves are light and large. At In Pursuit of Tea we like to use about 3 grams of tea per an 6 oz serving. All of our teas are quality, loose-leaf teas and although some people use less, this amount insures a rich flavor and full body. The leaves can then be re-steeped for the next cup. If you are brewing a pot of tea, simply increase the amount of tea based on the total number of 6 oz servings the pot makes. Most western teapots hold 15-20 fl. oz.
A teabag contains about 2 grams of tea (often less) and diffuses quickly into the water since it is made up of tiny particles classified as "fannings" and "dust' in the industry. Loose-leaf tea infuses at a slower rate because the leaves open and release their flavor into the water. This is why teabags often brew bitter tea; loose teas can more easily be controlled.
Here is a rough guide to compare 3 grams to a common tablespoon for some of our teas:
White Peony Bai Mudan - heaping Tablespoon, as much as will fit on the spoon!
Jade Spring Green Tea - two rounded Tablespoons
Tieguanyin Oolong - rounded teaspoon, the tightly rolled leaves sit well on the spoon
Honey Phoenix Oolong - heaping tablespoon
Darjeeling Black Tea - rounded teaspoon
Ceylon Orange Pekoe Black Tea - one rounded teaspoon
After you've tried using these measures, you can now experiment with steeping time. Some teas, such as Darjeelings, become very astringent if left too long. The key here is to remove the leaves when the tea tastes good to you. Experiment with longer and shorter steeping times, and remember to judge the tea on its taste -- not the color of the infused liquid. Some green and white teas will appear almost like water when the taste is the sweetest. Once you play around with the variables you will feel more comfortable with making the tea the way you like it.