Making the Most of Your Tea Leaves: Measure

November 17, 2021

by Diana Rosen

You’ve purchased the best tea you can afford; stored it in a nitrogen-flushed bag or sturdy container with tight-fitting lid to avoid moisture, heat, and sunlight. Now, you’re ready for the pleasure on your palate.

Before dipping your fingers into the pouch for a good pinch, remember that there is a reason tea vendors taste teas multiple times using a variety of water temperatures, brewing times, and most importantly, quantities. For the first cup of a newly-purchased tea, follow the guidelines; you can always adjust the amount of tea for subsequent cups.

Why measure? Using too much tea not only spoils the pot, it wastes money; too little tea provides a weak cup.

tea photo

Begin with 3 grams of tea leaves per 8 ounces of water for herbals and black teas. No scale? Start with 1 level teaspoon of tea for 6 ounces of water; 1 heaping teaspoon of tea for 8 ounces of water. Adjust to taste. Adding more tea leaves is always a possibility, taking it away, not so much. When in a total fog, opt for tea sachets; they’re always the right amount for an 8-ounce cup. There is more to measuring, and more to tea than herbals and blacks. Do read on!


For measurement precision, use a tea scale that can measure by grams. Tea scales are easy to use, small and portable, and should come with a metal weight to keep the scale accurately adjusted. Scales offer a precision that is unparalleled and are a worthy investment for a lifetime of tea-drinking pleasure.

The tea industry standard is 3 grams of leaves per 8 ounces of water. While that is a benchmark, there are, alas, many variations: the denser the leaves are, like a Sencha, the fewer leaves are required. The larger, and lighter, the leaves are, like a Silver Needle, the more leaves are needed. Also, be aware of fruits or petals or herbs that contribute to the weight and, of course, your personal taste for strong or weak tea.

So, 3 grams is a good estimate for most herbals and black teas; 2 grams for dense leaves, and 5-6 grams for large-leaf teas. Oolongs are the anomaly; their larger leaves require greater quantities but less water. Start with 4 grams of tea for 4 ounces of water.

Use a measuring teaspoon, not a cutlery teaspoon. Use 1 heaping teaspoon of black tea for 8 ounces or 1 level teaspoon of a small-leaf green tea. For greens and whites that are lighter in weight and larger in size, use two 2 heaping teaspoons for an 8-ounce cup. Remember the water-to-tea ratio for oolongs is smaller, so use four ounces of water for one heaping teaspoon of oolong leaves. Add more to taste.

Vendor teaspoons are another choice, and work best with their teas. Nonetheless, measure how much the vendor’s teaspoon holds as some hold more than 1 teaspoon, from 1.25 to 1.5 teaspoons.

Using a scoop. Part of the pleasure of tea preparation is the beauty of the utensils, and Asian-style scoops are just the beginning. They’re made of beautiful woods and easy to use. But, how much do they actually hold? The answer is, you don’t know until you measure. Filled to the halfway point, most scoops hold a heaping teaspoon. Don’t assume. Scoop out some tea and put it into a measuring spoon or on a tea scale. Practice until you feel confident you can eyeball the appropriate amount for the tea you’re brewing.

Do materials matter? No. Measuring spoons or scoops are both functional and beautiful in sterling silver or silver-plate, stainless steel or aluminum, plastic, exotic woods or bamboo. In their dry state, tea leaves won’t be compromised by any of these materials. The same cannot be said for brewed tea in aluminum, sterling or pewter teapots because the taste of these metals may leech out into the hot water used to brew the leaves.

When in doubt, use bamboo, wood or stainless steel. They require no washing, just a good wipe of a clean cloth. They’re economical, so you can buy several to accommodate different sized leaves or use a variety of spoons to match your brewing vessels.


How big is your cup or mug? The typical industry standard for a cup of tea is 8 ounces of water. Your choice, however, could be a 5-ounce guywan, a 12-ounce mug, or a classic fine-dinnerware teacup, which holds 6 ounces.

That’s why, before you brew tea, you need to measure how much liquid your cup or mug actually holds. To do this, take an eight-ounce measuring cup, fill it with water then pour six ounces of water into your cup. If it fills the cup perfectly, your cup is the conventional dinnerware size and a level teaspoon of most tea selections should work. As mentioned, use twice the amount of tea leaves per cup for larger leaves.

For larger cups or mugs, continue to add water until you learn exactly how much it holds. That way, you can adjust the tea quantity accordingly to achieve the perfect cup every time.

How big is your teapot? Individual or small Yixing teapots vary considerably in size, so don’t guess the quantity they hold. Fill them up with water, empty the water into a measuring cup, and note the quantity to determine how much water your new teapot holds. Now, you can add exactly the right amount of tea needed for your perfect cup. The same measuring technique should be applied to any size teapot. Remember, when brewing oolongs, it’s always best to use less water to bring out the fullest flavor, usually four ounces of water to one heaping teaspoon of leaves.

NOTE: Small Asian cups hold only two to three ounces, and thimble cups even less. However, most people do not brew just one cup, but a pot of tea to provide multiple servings. It’s still a good idea to know how much your teapot holds to give you an idea of how many 2-ounce cup portions the first infusion will provide, especially if you’re hosting guests.