The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with Tea (And 11 Things Every Tea Beginner Needs)

pouring a cup of tea with loose leaf tea around it

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage, next to water, that has been enjoyed by millions worldwide for thousands of years. From its range of flavors and fragrant aromas to its countless health benefits, there are many reasons why people are drawn to tea. Whether you’re just beginning your tea journey or are a tea lover looking to elevate your tea game, this guide will provide you with a better understanding of tea, answer any questions you may have, and highlight the necessary tools and items required to become a tea connoisseur in no time!

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What are the different types of tea?

different types of loose leaf tea

Black Tea:

The most well known and popular tea across the globe, black tea is made of fully oxidized leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant.

Known for its dark rich color, and bold flavors, black tea is the one that is most often referred to in Western culture. 

Check out our guides below on some of the most well known black teas:

Green Tea:

Green tea is a type of tea made from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Recognized by its natural green color, green tea is one of the least processed teas available, meaning it is loaded with beneficial properties.

Since it is typically unoxidized, green tea boasts a delicate, light, and fresh taste. 

Check out our guides below on some of the most well known green teas:

White Tea:

One of the most delicate types of tea, White tea is made up of young, minimally processed Camellia Sinensis leaves.

Known for its light color brew and sweet, floral flavors, white tea has been held in high regard for centuries. 

Check our guides below on some of the most well known white teas:

Oolong Tea:

A traditional Chinese tea, Oolong tea is made with partially oxidized Camellia Sinensis leaves.

Although it is less common in Western cultures, its sweet, floral, fruity taste often converts tea skeptics, that dislike the bitterness found in other teas varieties, into tea lovers. 

Check out our guides below on some of the most well known oolong teas:

Puerh (Fermented Tea)

Puerh tea is a special Chinese fermented tea. It is the most oxidized type of tea available, with a very distinct earthy taste.

There are two classification of Puerh tea: Raw (Sheng) and Ripe or Cooked (Shou).

Check out our guide to learn all about Puerh tea:

Herbal Tea (Tisanes)

Herbal teas, or “tisanes”, are not technically tea, since they are not made from the Camellia sinensis plant.

Rather, they are made from a variety of herbs, fruits, and spices steeped in boiling water. 

To learn everything you need to know about each type of herbal tea (and how to make them properly), head over to our database of herbal teas to select the one you are interested in reading more about! 

Choosing the right tea

Selecting a tea can be challenging, with so many options available. To simplify the process, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing just the right tea for you:

1. Flavor Profiles:

Consider what flavors you enjoy. Are you looking for a strong and robust taste or a light and delicate flavor? Review the tasting notes and undertones of each type of tea to find one that aligns with your personal preferences

2. Health Benefits:

If you’re seeking specific health benefits from your tea, such as antioxidant properties or stress relief, research the different health benefits associated with various types of tea.

3. Preparation:

Think about whether you prefer to drink your tea hot or cold. Some teas are better suited for one preparation method over another, so choose a tea that can be enjoyed the way you like it.

4. Caffeine Content:

Be mindful of the caffeine content of the tea you’re interested in, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine or have dietary restrictions. Something like matcha is known for its high level of caffeine, while herbal teas are totally caffeine-free!

5. Sustainability:

If you are concerned about the environment, look for teas that are sustainably grown and harvested, or teas that are certified organic.

Should I use loose leaf tea, tea bags, or tea sachets (and what’s the difference)?

loose leaf tea, tea bags, and tea sachets

Loose Leaf Tea

Loose Leaf Tea is considered the highest quality option, as you are steeping whole tea leaves that have not been crushed or broken. 

This results in the most fragrant and flavorful cup of tea you can find; the full tea leaves have the opportunity to unfurl during the steeping process, releasing their essential oils and trademark flavors into the water. 

Loose leaf tea can be used to brew tea in a teapot, gaiwan, pitcher for cold brewing, and countless other brew methods.

Tea Bags

While tea bags are the most convenient option, pre-portioned and ready to steep in hot water, they typically contain lower quality leaves that have been crushed or broken down, leading to a less flavorful cup of tea. 

Some tea bags can also be made of materials that aren’t biodegradable, which is not environmentally friendly.

Tea Sachets

While tea sachets appear to be a similar option to tea bags, they are actually the better choice between the two. 

Made from biodegradable materials such as paper or silk, tea sachets are great eco-friendly option. 

Even more importantly, tea sachets often provide a better tea drinking experience compared to their tea bag counterparts. 

They contain higher quality tea leaves, as well as give the leaves more room to expand and release their flavors during the steeping process. 

If you cannot purchase loose leaf tea, your next best bet is to use a tea sachet. 

What tools and equipment do you need to get into tea?

Being equipped with the right tools is essential for making and enjoying the perfect cup of tea. Whether you already have some supplies at home or you are starting from scratch, the items and tools outlined below will help get you off to the right foot in your tea journey!

1. Loose Leaf Tea

Loose leaf tea is the preferred choice of tea connoisseurs and offers a much more complex and flavorful experience than tea bags. Loose leaf tea also provides a wider range of options, from classic black teas to rare and exotic blends. When choosing loose leaf tea, look for high-quality, organic blends from reputable tea shops or online retailers.


2. Tea Kettle

A good quality tea kettle is essential to the tea making process, in order to boil water. There is a wide variety of tea kettles available on the market, but it is important to choose one that is made from high-quality materials and has a sturdy handle. 

We recommend purchasing an electric tea kettle with built-in temperature setting. This will allow you to set the exact temperature that is best for your specific type of tea – a simple feature that will really bring your tea game up a notch! 

Here are a couple of options to choose from. Or you can check out our full post: The Best Electric Tea Kettles for Tea Drinkers.

3. Teapot

The teapot is one of the most traditional and well known methods of brewing tea.

There are a plethora of teapots to choose from for every type of scenario – tea for one or a party, materials to retain heat or allow you to view the tea leaves dancing as they steep.

You may also be interested in a teapot with an integrated strainer, allowing you to strain your loose leaf tea with ease.

You can find the perfect teapot for you with our guide: 7 Teapots All Tea Enthusiasts Will Love.

4. Tea Thermometer

If you do not have an electric tea kettle with a temperature setting, then it is advisable to invest in a tea thermometer.

This will ensure that you are boiling the tea water to the proper temperature.

5. Tea Infuser

Using a tea infuser is another great method to steep loose leaf tea. You can choose whatever style suits your fancy, from infuser baskets to tea balls, long-handle infusers, or even fun infuser “characters”. 

To learn more, check out our guide: How to Brew Tea With a Tea Infuser. We will cover everything you need to know and answer any common questions you may have.

6. Tea Strainer

A tea strainer is a useful tool to have on hand for straining loose tea leaves  after steeping.

This will prevent any tea leaves floating in the water from getting into your teacup.

A fine-mesh strainer works best, as it will effectively strain out even the smallest tea leaves.

7. Tea Scoop

A tea scoop is the perfect tool to help you measure the correct amount of tea leaves every single time! 

If you plan on drinking a lot of loose leaf teas, you won’t regret having this tea tool.

8. Tea Timer

Having a tea timer is crucial in making sure your tea is brewed to perfection.

This tool allows you to precisely monitor the steeping time of your tea, which can vary based on the type of tea being brewed.

There are several types of tea timers available, from digital to hourglass timers.

9. Tea Cups

Having a good quality set of tea cups and saucers is a must for any tea beginner.

Not only do they add to the overall tea experience, but they also help you to fully appreciate the taste and aroma of your tea.

When choosing tea cups and saucers, consider the size, material, and design. Porcelain, bone china, and glass are all great options.

10. Tea Storage Containers

A tea storage container is a must-have for storing your loose leaf tea and protecting it from air, light, moisture, heat and odors.

Opt for containers that have a secure lid and are made of opaque materials, such as non-reactive metals, glazed ceramics, and non-absorbent plastics. 

To make sure you’re not making any common mistakes, be sure to check out our full guide on the best practices in tea storage!

11. Tea Books

books about tea

While its not a must-have, books and resources on tea are a nice-to-have addition to your arsenal. 

You can check out our full list of tea book recommendations.

The importance of water quality in brewing tea

tea kettle of water boiling

When brewing a cup of tea, the quality of water you use is just as important as the quality of tea leaves you choose. 

Different types of water can affect the flavor and quality of your tea, so it’s important to understand the differences between tap water, filtered water, spring water and distilled water.

Spring water is considered the best option for brewing tea, thanks to its naturally pure and balanced mineral content.

Unlike tap water, which can contain impurities such as chlorine, lead, and other minerals that can negatively affect the taste of your tea, spring water is naturally filtered through rocks and soil, resulting in clean, pure water that is free of contaminants. 

The balanced mineral content of spring water can even enhance the natural flavors and aromas of the tea.

If you’re seeking to enhance the taste of your tea, but spring water is not readily available, filtered water is a solid alternative. 

The filtration process eliminates impurities such as chlorine and lead that can impact the flavor of your tea. 

To get the best results, it’s advisable to opt for either a well-known brand of bottled filtered water or to use a top-notch filtration system in your home.

It is best to avoid using distilled water to brew tea. While distilled water has been purified, it lacks minerals that are essential for brewing tea, resulting in a poor, flat-tasting cup of tea. 

In conclusion, it is best to use spring water or high quality filtered water to brew the perfect cup of tea. 

Brewing the perfect cup of tea

Brewing the perfect cup of tea can sometimes be a challenge, especially for those who are new to tea.

In order to get the perfect cup every time, it’s important to understand the key elements of tea brewing including steeping times, water to tea ratios, and temperature guidelines. 

For instance, different types of tea require different temperatures to extract the full range of flavors and aromas. Green tea, for example, is typically brewed at a lower temperature to prevent it from becoming bitter, while black tea is brewed at a higher temperature to bring out its full flavor.

To find specific instructions and tips on how to brew the perfect cup of tea, head over to our database of all the types of tea. Select the particular tea you are hoping to brew to find a full guide on everything you need to know about brewing the perfect cup! 

You can also download our free brewing guide, to remember all of the most important guidelines for each type of tea! Having this resource at your fingertips will take you from beginner to tea expert in no time! 


With our cheatsheets, you will have the perfect tea-to-water ratios, temperatures, steeping times, and tasting notes for every type of tea at your fingertips!

Download our Free Brewing Guide

Enhancing the flavors of your tea

adding milk and sugar to tea

Whether you are looking for a sweeter taste or a bolder flavor, there are many ways to elevate your tea drinking experience. Here are some tips on how to enhance the flavors of your tea: 

Adding Lemon to Your Tea:

Lemon can provide a burst of flavor to your tea while enhancing its taste. Whether you prefer a slice of lemon of a squeeze of lemon juice, the zesty fruit can highlight the tea’s natural sweetness, balance any bitterness, and even deliver a dose of Vitamin C to your cup! 

Adding Milk and Sugar to Your Tea

Adding milk and sugar to your tea can give it a creamy and sweet taste. Milk can enhance the flavor of the tea and help bring out its natural sweetness. Just make sure to not overdo it, as too much milk or sugar can overpower the tea’s flavors. 

What are some dairy-free alternatives to add to your tea?

If you are lactose intolerant, or just want a dairy-free option to use in your tea, we have some great substitutes for you: 

Almond Milk

This plant-based milk alternative will add a hint of nutty sweetness to your tea.

There are different flavors and sweetened options, however we prefer to stick with the original unsweetened version. 

Oat Milk

Derived from whole oats, this dairy-free milk will give your tea some creaminess with the a neutral flavor.

Coconut Milk

Extracted from the pulp of mature coconuts, coconut milk will add a rich sweetness to your tea without any lactose!

What are some different methods or styles of brewing tea?

There are many different ways you can brew tea, from traditional to ceremonial to modern. 

While the most common and well-known way to brew tea is with a teapot, there are so many other methods you may not yet know about, such as cold-brewing, gongfu brewing, grandpa-style brewing, using a French press, and more!

To learn more about the different methods of brewing tea, check out some of our guides:

Storing and Preserving your tea

When it comes to preserving loose leaf tea, there are several factors that must be avoided to retain its quality. 

These are exposure to air, light, moisture, heat, and strong odors.

To maintain the freshness of your tea, it’s important to store it in a container that shields it from these potential threats. 

Opt for containers that have a secure lid and are made of opaque materials, such as non-reactive metals, glazed ceramics, and non-absorbent plastics. 

Wooden storage containers, while visually appealing, should be avoided as they may give off their own scents that can affect the flavor of your tea.

Once you have your tea stored in a suitable container, keep it in a cool, dark location to prevent any potential degradation.

Here are some good options for storing your loose leaf tea:

Looking for ways to organize your tea bags? Try these:

You want to make sure your tea will stay fresh as long as possible. To make sure you’re not making any common mistakes, be sure to check out our full guide on the best practices in tea storage!

What is bubble tea (boba)?

what is boba bubble tea

Bubble tea is a popular Taiwanese tea-based drink typically consisting of black tea, milk, and sugar that comes together to create a sweet, creamy mixture. 

Bubble tea’s trademark ingredient is the tapioca pearls, also known as “boba”, that are added to the bottom of the cup. 

These chewy, translucent balls are made from cassava root and add a unique texture to the drink. 

Bubble tea can be made with a variety of different teas, and customized with different flavors, such as fruit syrups, honey, or flavored powders. 

While you can make your own bubble tea at home, there are countless cafes and tea shops that specialize in serving bubble tea. 

Check out our guide to find the best places to get bubble tea in a city near you!

Is Kombucha a type of tea?

what is kombucha

Kombucha is a slightly fizzy fermented tea drink with a tangy-sour taste accompanied by a hint of sweetness.

In order to make it, tea leaves are steeped in boiling sugar water. Once the tea leaves are strained, a symbiotic culture of yeast and bacteria, also known as “SCOBY”, is added to the to sweetened tea. 

The yeast and bacteria feed on the sugar in the tea, thereby producing a mixture of enzymes, acids, and vitamins. 

Kombucha has become quite popular in recent years, touted as a “health drink”, thanks to its probiotic content and potential health benefits, including improved digestion and a boost to the immune system. 

What are the health benefits of drinking tea?

health benefits of drinking tea

Tea is not only a delicious drink, but also a source of numerous health benefits! Here are just a few of the key health benefits of tea:


Tea is abundant in antioxidants, specifically polyphenols, which play a crucial role in defending the body from damage caused by free radicals. 

Drinking tea regularly can lower the risk of various chronic illnesses, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and stroke, thanks to its power antioxidant properties.

Anti-inflammatory Properties:

While inflammation is a natural response in the body, chronic inflammation can lead to various health problems. 

Tea contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. 

Heart Health:

Studies suggest that drinking tea can have a positive impact on heart health. 

The active ingredients in tea are known to have a positive effect on cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and overall cardiovascular health. 

Tea is a great addition to a healthy lifestyle for those looking to improve their heart health.

Brain Function:

Tea contains caffeine and L-theanine, two compounds that can improve brain function and alertness. 

In fact, drinking tea has been shown to improve memory and reaction times!

Stress Relief:

Tea can provide stress and anxiety relief by promoting a sense of relaxation and well-being, thanks to its combination of caffeine and L-theanine. 

Furthermore, herbal teas, such as chamomile, lavender, and peppermint, are known for their calming and soothing effects.

Drinking tea can be an effective and natural way to cope with the stresses of daily life.

To learn more about the specific benefits of each type of tea (as well as some possible side effects) check out our guides:

What foods pair best with tea?

pairing food with tea

Tea can be enjoyed on its own or be paired with a variety of foods to create a more complete and well rounded dining experience. Whether light and delicate, or rich and full-bodied, the right tea can complement a dish and elevate the flavors of a meal. 

Here is a brief overview of some teas and the foods that best complement them:

Black Tea Pairings:

Black tea pairs well with hearty and savory foods such as roasted meats, grilled sandwiches, and strong cheeses.

Green Tea Pairings:

Green tea goes well with lighter and more delicate foods such as sushi, seafood, and salads.

White Tea Pairings:

White tea is best enjoyed with light and sweet foods such as fruit, pastries, and desserts.

Oolong Tea Pairings:

Oolong tea is versatile and pairs well with a variety of foods, including poultry, pork, and spicy dishes.

Herbal Tea Pairings:

Herbal teas, such as chamomile, mint, and hibiscus, are often enjoyed on their own or with light snacks like crackers or fruit.

To read about pairing tea with different foods in more depth, be sure to check out our full post:

The Art of Tea and Food Pairing

What is the difference between afternoon tea and high tea?

afternoon tea vs high tea

While you may be under the impression that afternoon tea and high tea are the same thing, they are in fact two distinct type of tea services with different origins and customs. 

Afternoon Tea:

Afternoon tea is a lighter meal that is served in the late afternoon, typically 4pm, and is typically a more formal and elegant affair. 

Think fancy tea cups and tiered servers with finger sandwiches. Afternoon tea was first introduced in England, among the wealthy upper class, during the 19th century and has since become a popular tradition around the world. 

Afternoon tea is enjoyed as a social occasion with full tea service alongside finger sandwiches, scones, and other pastries.

To learn more about afternoon tea, including proper etiquette, course order, and answers other frequently asked questions, check out our Ultimate Guide to Afternoon Tea: Everything you Need to Know (and how to do it properly).

If you are hoping to plan and host your own afternoon tea party, check out our Ultimate Guide to Planning and Hosting a Tea Party! You can even download our free planning guide. 

Looking for the perfect place to have afternoon tea? Check out our guides for the best places to have afternoon tea in a city near you! 

High Tea:

While “high tea” sounds like an elaborate high society affair, it actually referred to a more substantial meal served to lower class workers in the early evening (around 6pm), often as a replacement for dinner. 

High tea typically included hot dishes such as soup, meat pies, and potatoes, accompanied by tea and bread.  

High tea earned its name after the high top tables that the manual laborers ate at to refuel after a long day of work. 

In conclusion, starting your tea journey can be a simple and enjoyable experience with the right information, tools, and equipment under your belt.  With this ultimate guide to getting into tea, you now have all the information you need to get started; from selecting the right tea and equipment to brewing the perfect cup, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a tea expert in no time.

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