Ted Lasso is flat-out wrong. Tea does not taste like “absolute garbage water,” and if it does, that’s on the brewer!
If your tea bags and mug are failing you, it’s time to level up. You don’t have to skip straight to the finish line and buy a teapot or an expensive electric kettle. You can start with something you probably have at home already.
Here’s a news flash for you: French presses aren’t just for coffee anymore!
So, if you’re on the hunt for a new, easy way to brew tea, break out your French press! It’ll make enough to satisfy your daily cravings for caffeine, plus there’ll be plenty to share too.
In this article, we’ll go over exactly what tea is, how to make it in a French press, and the secrets to making a perfect cup.
After Reading this Article, You Will . . .
- Know what tea is (and what it’s not)
- Understand the bag vs loose leaf rivalry
- Find out whether or not French presses are ideal for brewing tea (spoiler: they are)
- Learn the best ways to brew tea in your French press according to the variety
- Discover a few tea brewing tips and tricks, quality brands, and how to make iced tea!
Spilling the Tea on Tea!
All tea comes from Camellia sinensis, including both black and green tea. Talk about a versatile shrub!
Herbal teas are not actually tea. They’re tisanes. But for the sake of this article (and my poor brain), I’ll continue to use the two interchangeably.
The difference in flavor between true teas (aka those from Camellia sinensis) all comes down to the way they’re processed post-harvest. This process involves oxidization, withering, tumbling, and so much more. Longer bouts of oxidization lead to darker teas, so black teas are oxidized for MUCH longer than a green or white tea.
But the real tea (I’m talking Kermit-sipping-on-a-cup-of-Lipton-level tea) is just how good tea is for you. You can still get your daily dose of caffeine in, alongside antioxidants and one heaping spoonful of heart disease prevention. And it might even lower your risk of getting cancer (1).
Although it may be pricier upfront, loose-leaf tea is actually better for your wallet long-term. Obviously, they produce less waste (yay!), but best of all, loose-leaf teas can be re-steeped. So, one tea bag produces one cup of tea. But one teaspoon of loose leaf can brew three (or more, if you’re feeling lucky) cups.
Step 1. Heat Water & Prep
The temperature of your water all depends on what kind of tea you’re making.
Don’t have a fancy kettle that heats the water to an exact temperature? No worries! You can always use this calculator or keep this cheat sheet in the back of your brain. After you boil your water, leave it alone for 45 - 60 seconds to reach about 195°F, 2-3 minutes for 185°F and below.
After heating your water, pre-warm both your French press and your preferred mug. This will help keep the temperature consistent throughout the entire brewing process, so you won’t wind up with weak tea.
Plus, nobody likes drinking cold tea. And yes, there’s a difference between cold tea and iced tea! Pre-warming your mug will prevent it from cooling down as quickly.
Step 2. Measure (or Weigh) Your Tea
There are several types of tea drinkers (just as there are coffee drinkers), so let me address a few of y’all:
- The Casual “All Tea is Tea” Drinker
- The Refined Palate Drinker (Pinkies Up!)
- The “Tea Ain’t Complete Without a Spoonful of Sugar” Drinker
If you’re a casual drinker or a sugary tea lover, you can stick with the general rule of thumb when it comes to measurements: 1 teaspoon of loose-leaf leaves per one cup (8 oz) of water. You can use these handy charts to measure the proper amount you’ll need for your French press (check the size first!):
|Amount of Brewed Tea
|Amount of Tea Leaves to Use
|2 grams/1 heaping tsp (3 grams for stronger cup)
|4 grams/2 heaping tsp (5 grams for stronger cup)
|8 grams/4 heaping tsp (9 grams for stronger cup)
For the refined palate drinker, I doubt I even have to say this, but either check the directions or brew from memory.
In general, it’s always best to check the directions on the package, no matter what kind of tea-drinker you are. Some call for a teaspoon per cup, others a tablespoon. And you’ve got to know the rules first before you can break ‘em.
Now, I may get some flack for this, but I don’t weigh my tea. I measure out my leaves using either a teaspoon or ½ teaspoon. Should the tea be notoriously weak, I’ll use rounded scoops, instead of level ones.
While you can use teabags in your French press (and I can’t tell you not to), I won’t recommend it either.
Why? The beauty of using a French press is its spaciousness. All this wiggle room allows the leaves to fully expand and release all the elements that make your cup as flavorful (and caffeinated) as possible.
Tea bags prevent the leaves from uncurling by design and can lead to a more bitter cup. And tea bags contain tea leaves processed in the crush-tear-curl method, which ain’t the best (2).
So, give ‘em some space and always check the directions!
The Benefits of Loose-Leaf Tea
Step 3. Steep Your Tea
Here’s my favorite thing about tea: it may all come from the same plant, but each blend has different brewing needs. So high-maintenance, and so worth it.
For example, black tea and green tea (which both come from Camellia sinensis) are brewed at different temperatures for different time periods. Black teas usually take boiling (or 30 seconds - 1 minute off boiling) water and brew for anywhere between 3-5 minutes.
Green tea will taste burnt and bitter if you use boiling water. Stick between 150°F - 185°F (I usually go for 175°F) and let it steep for just 2-3 minutes.
Usually, you can brew tisanes (herbal teas) for longer than other teas. Some tisanes can even steep for up to 15 minutes.
So, check the packaging! Follow the rules! And then break them, as needed, to reach your preferred taste.
It also matters what kind of water you’re using: ideally, use fresh, filtered water that’s not hard, but leaning towards soft. I know—kind of hard to make happen. But do your best! Get a filter for your tap water and let that be enough for now.
Fun Fact: Hard water can muck up the flavor of your tea by carrying minerals and other sorts of flavor-destroyers. Teas brewed in hard water may taste somewhat metallic.
Step 4. Plunge & Pour
Onto the good part!
Once your timer’s ringed, carefully plunge the filter down until it hits the top of the tea leaves.
Now, you’re ready to pour!
Keeping one hand on the top of your French press, pour your tea into your prewarmed mug and take your first sip. Good, right?
If you have tea left over in your French press, do not leave it there! Like coffee, the tea can become over-extracted and turn bitter. Pour it into a separate carafe (or to-go mug, mason jar, etc.) and save it for later.
There’s no need to squish the leaves beneath the filter. Doing so may compress the leaves and make them release no-fun, bitter flavors. Not worth it!
Water Temperatures for Tea
While black tea is associated with boiling water and green with much lower temperatures, there is still a range within each tea group.
Why? Because every tea is different! So, use this table as a guide for your basic water temperatures for tea, but be sure to check the package first for their specific instructions.
Adjusting Brew Times for Different Kinds of Tea
Those steeping times up there are ranges—for a reason. Before brewing a brand-new tea, please check the directions and see what they recommend. Chances are, they know what they’re talking about, and even if they’re wrong, it’ll be a good jumping-off point.
If you want a stronger cup of tea, don’t steep the tea for longer! Instead, add more tea leaves before brewing, increasing by between ¼ - ½ teaspoons at a time.
You may have noticed that tisanes or herbal teas brew for much longer than the others. And certain tisanes brew longer than that! If you’re brewing a cinnamon-heavy blend, take a tip from me and follow the instructions. That wonderful spice can actually be fatal if overly ingested.
How to Make Iced Tea in a French Press
Making iced tea in a French press is just about as simple as brewing hot tea. All that changes is the amount of leaves you use: double the amount of tea per cup of hot water.
Brew according to package directions and let it sit in the fridge afterward to cool down.
For my first batch of French press iced tea, I used about 10 teaspoons (20 g) of loose-leaf Earl Grey and 32 ounces (950 ml) of water (so, 2.5 teaspoons per 8 ounces… a smidgen over double the recommended 1 tsp per oz for brewing hot cup). I let it steep for about four minutes, which is typical for my morning cup of Earl Grey.
When I drank it fresh and hot, it was bitter. Even with a spoonful of honey, it was still barely tolerable.
But iced, it was the PERFECT flavor. That bit of icy dilution really does the trick, so don’t be afraid to play with proportions for iced tea.
Since then, I’ve been fiddling around with the ratio, but have come back to my initial Earl Grey recipe time and time again.
For a different type of iced tea, try sun tea! This is sort of like the tea equivalent of a cold brew (except it’s a warm and sunny brew). It was a cornerstone of my childhood and always tastes best in the summer.
Here’s my mama’s recipe:
- 1-quart mason jar—or you can use your French press!
- 4 Earl Grey tea bags (Mama recommends Bigelow)
“After draping your teabags over the edge of the jar, pour the filtered water in. Make sure the tails of the tea bags remain outside the jar and don’t fall in with the rush of the water. Once it’s all in, take it outside and set it on your porch, a windowsill, or anywhere else that’s somewhat safe.”
Now, you gotta eyeball it. That’s right—this is a real Southern recipe, AKA it doesn’t come with any specific instructions.
And, I know—I said no tea bags: but the recipe above is how Mama makes it (AKA the traditional recipe), and loose leaf in a mason jar can be a bit tricky. To give this recipe a French press twist, you can take advantage of that built-in strainer and make this sunny steep with loose leaves—and, yes, Bigelow even has a bag of loose-leaf tea!
The darker the color, the deeper the flavor. But make sure it doesn’t get too dark or you’ll wind up with a bitter mess. The brew can sit for anywhere from 1-4 hours. I recommend brewing an hour then checking on it every 15 minutes if it’s your first time, and every 30 if it’s your second.
You can keep your quart of sun tea in the fridge and pour over ice whenever you need a sip! If it’s just finished steeping and you’re DYING for a glass, use cocktail ice cubes. The ice will take longer to melt and prevent your sun tea from getting too watery.
Can I Use the Same French Press for Coffee and Tea?
Yes, you can, but should you?
In a world where having multiple French presses per household is the norm, I would not recommend using the same carafe for both coffee and tea. Coffee’s strong flavors can easily overpower tea’s more delicate sensibilities. Why risk it if you don’t have to?
Designate your stainless steel French press as the coffee one, and save the tea-brewing for the glass carafe. You’ll be able to watch the leaves unfurl, as the water darkens that way.
Now, if you’ve only got one French press, you can absolutely use it for both. I’ve done it before! My Bodum (only a year or so of coffee-brewing) produces a much cleaner tea than my stainless steel French press, which has been through a lot. Years of nonstop brewing—cold brew included—will do that to you.
I recommend starting with strong black teas to see if you can taste any coffee before moving on to green, white, or herbal teas.
When switching between coffee and tea in your French press, you’ll want to make sure that you wash the press thoroughly. Whether you use dish soap and warm water or a more industrial cleaner like Cafiza or Puro Caf, remember to clean it each time so you don’t transfer the flavor of coffee to tea and vice versa.
What Brands of Tea Work Best in a French Press?
For any newbie tea drinkers, welcome to the club! Consider starting with a classic like English breakfast for a plain black tea or Earl Grey to spice things up with a hint of bergamot.
If you’re buying tea from a grocery store, start with Bigelow and work your way outward.
Or if you want to switch things up, check out your local farmer’s market and tea shops! For those in the Wichita area, the Spice Merchant has the largest selection of tea around, including a delicious peach brandy black tea that’s perfect over ice.
Let’s say you’ve experimented with black teas, but aren’t feeling it. Try an oolong!
Characterized by their long and slow oxidation, oolong teas are one of the most difficult teas to process. Just so you know: black teas are 100% oxidized, green 0%, and oolong somewhere in between.
But boy, does that extra effort create something beautiful. I personally love oolong teas and their many re-steeps.
I’ve recently been drinking tons of Firebelly teas, as well as a few blends made by a local apothecary, Mama Maple. For Firebelly, I highly recommend their jasmine tea. The quality of the leaves is superb, and the taste itself? Well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
For black teas, Firebelly has several delicious options. My favorite is their Forest Fresh blend, with whole cardamom pods and a healthy dose of caffeine. Even my tea club (yes, you read that right) loves it!
If you’re not a matcha or black tea person, but still want that hit of caffeine, try yerba mate! It has about 80 mg of caffeine per cup, just like coffee, but with a much milder flavor (3).
There are so many ways to brew tea, so don’t let those dust-filled tea bags or the price of a new tool hold you back!
With your French press by your side, you can delve into the world of iced tea, cold brew tea, and more. Try brewing Thai iced tea (Cha Yen) or this homemade chai which *gasp* combines both coffee and tea in one!
And before you brew some cracking tea, let me remind you of one more thing: please clean your French press! All you hardcore coffee drinkers out there—it takes one to know one—have undoubtedly built up lots of residue inside of your French press.
Take a few minutes to clean that bad boy out, so you can have a refreshing, coffee-free cup of tea.
Can You Make Loose-Leaf Tea in a French Press?
Yes, in fact, you should make loose-leaf tea in your French press!
French presses are much more spacious than your average mug (and come with a built in strainer), which makes them perfect for loose-leaf teas. Most loose-leaf teas need that extra room to fully uncurl and release all their flavor.
Will My Tea Taste Like Coffee?
That depends on whether you’re using the same French press for both coffee and tea, as well as your cleaning habits.
If you’re a regular coffee drinker, I would NOT brew white, green, or herbal teas in your French press.
Unless you are extremely clean, the leftover coffee residue will spoil the flavor of your tea. Stick with black if you use your French press regularly. Not picking up on any coffee flavors? Awesome—try a lighter tea next and see how that goes.
If you have two French presses, label one for coffee and the other for tea. Say, ceramic French press for coffee, while the Bodum’s for tea. If not, clean your French press after every use with warm, soapy water or a stronger cleaning agent, like Cafiza or Puro Caf to keep your tea tasting like, well, tea.
Can You Make Iced Tea in a French Press?
If your tea calls for one teaspoon per cup of hot water, simply double it for iced tea. Brew as you normally would, and then let it chill in the fridge.
I consider iced tea to be the lightweight champion, while cold brew is the heavyweight. Iced tea is light, slightly fruity, and it gets the job done. Cold brew tea packs a punch and takes a little longer to beef up.
You can also pour it immediately over ice, but I recommend using cocktail ice cubes, if so. They’ll melt less quickly than their average-sized counterparts.
Best Teas to Make in a French Press?
Whatever tea you want!
I recommend trying loose-leaf tea in your French press since the extra wiggle room should result in a more robust cup.
If you’ve been brewing coffee in the same French press, start with black tea before experimenting with lighter teas. Coffee tends to leave behind a residue that could taint the flavor. Taste-test and see what happens!
Does French Press Tea Taste Better Than Traditional Tea Bags?
Did you use tea bags in your French press, or did you use loose leaf?
If you use loose-leaf teas, I bet it’s going to taste better. In my experience, it always does.
French presses allow the leaves to expand fully and release all their yumminess, which teabags can’t do thanks to their constricting nature.
So, yes! French press tea (coffee stains aside) should taste better than a traditional tea bag.
How Do I Choose the Right Tea Leaves for Brewing in a French Press?
There are no right or wrong teas for brewing in a French press. Loose-leaf tea will taste better than teabags, but then again, it usually does.
So, pick your poison: are you a caffeine lover, hate getting the jitters, or need something to help you calm down?
If you need a strong dose of caffeine, try a black tea. You can’t go wrong with a simple English breakfast, Earl Grey, or the ever-classic Marco Polo.
But if coffee makes you jittery, green tea (or yerba mate) might be more up your alley. It’ll still give you the wake-up boost you need but without the unpleasant side effects.
What's the Ideal Tea-to-Water Ratio for a French Press?
Most (but not all) teas call for 1 teaspoon of tea per 8 ounces (or 2 grams per 240 ml) of water. If you’re brewing iced tea, the amount of tea you use should double. The ice will water it down later.
But remember, one-size-does-NOT-fit-all when it comes to tea! I’ve got this great Firebelly tea called Internal Combustion that steeps one tablespoon of tea per eight ounces. And let me tell you, it is perfect after dinner!
How Long Should I Steep Tea in a French Press?
That depends on what kind of tea you’re drinking.
Tisanes, or herbal teas, steep the longest. Although most range between 5-7 minutes, some can be steeped for up to 15!
White and green teas require the least amount of time, usually between 1-3 minutes. Black teas fall in the middle, around 3-5 minutes.
Start on the lower end of the ratios, and work your way up, taste-testing as you go. Eventually, you’ll find your personal sweet spot!
Can I Re-Steep Tea Leaves in a French Press? If So, How Many Times?
Yes, but it depends on what you’re brewing.
Tea bags and re-steeping do not mix well thanks to the lack of surface area and crushed, dusty leaves.
Rolled, whole leaves (loose leaf, baby!) can be re-steeped 2-3 times. Some green teas can even be re-steeped up to 7 times! All this to say, loose-leaf tea is actually a better investment than tea bags.
How do you know when to stop re-steeping the same batch of leaves? You can experiment and see when certain leaves or blends lose their flavor—there’s your limit!
There are two resteeping options:
- Pour your cup, remove all excess liquid, and then pour hot water right back on top.
- Remove all excess liquid and leaves. Drain what’s left and rinse out the French press. Then add your leaves back in, plus the hot water. Brew as you normally would.
The first option is clearly easier and less time-consuming. In the picture above, you can see both methods of re-steeping used on Firebelly’s Forest Fresh (if you love cardamom and black tea, this one’s for you!).
The jar of tea on the left was made via the first method, while the one on the right employed the second. The first jar tasted more bitter and darker than the second. No doubt the excess tea from the first brew mingled with the second.
If you like light and fruitier tea, stick with the second, more proper option. If you’re just there for the caffeine, give the first method a shot.
Can I Brew Herbal Teas or Tisanes in a French Press?
There aren’t any special adjustments you need to make either. Unless you decide to make iced tea (iced hibiscus tea, anybody?), at which point you’d want to double the amount of tea you throw in there.
However, there’s one danger to brewing tisanes in a French press, specifically if you’re a regular coffee drinker. The coffee may have stained the insides of your French press and could result in a bitter, vaguely coffee-tasting tea. Make sure to give it a good cleaning before you use it.
How Can I Keep My Tea Warm When Using a French Press?
The answer is simple: ALWAYS pre-warm your French press and mug. This will help maintain the ideal temperature throughout the brewing process and leave you with a toasty mug.
Of course, if your tea gets cold too fast (or if you’re a slow drinker like me), you can use a mug warmer, heat it up on the stove, or zap it in the microwave.
Can I Make Cold Brew Tea in a French Press?
Yep, and the French press is actually the perfect tool for it (as well as for cold-brew coffee)!
To make cold-brew tea, you’ll need tons of teabags or loose-leaf tea and your French press. You’ll still follow the rule of one teabag (or 1 teaspoon of loose leaf) per cup of water, only this time, the water should be cool and filtered.
After placing your tea and chilly water in the French press, stick the lid on without plunging it and leave it in your fridge overnight for at least 12 hours. The longer you steep, the stronger and darker the tea will be.
Once it’s ready, take it out of the fridge and plunge! Pour over ice and enjoy.
You can even add a simple syrup to it, like in this cold brew lemon iced tea recipe.
If you’re using teabags, feel free to mix it up and try different blends together! For example, using a majority of peach tea bags with one or two mint tea bags would result in a fresh, peachy iced tea.
How Can I Avoid Tea Dust or Small Particles in My Cup When Using a French Press?
This all comes down to two factors: the quality of your French press’s filter and the size of your tea leaves.
Most oolongs (my favorite is rock tea!) have rather large leaves that would never make it through the French press’s mesh.
But if this has been a consistent problem for you, it may be time to either upgrade your French press or use a paper filter too—you can use the paper filter with the French press the same way as you would for coffee!
Simply cut the paper filter into a circle about the circumference of the mesh filter. Then stick it between the filter and the top of the water line before plunging. You should be good to go!
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