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The 'Eyes' Have It.

A customer asked me recently for advice about how to make sure your water is at the right temperature. Honestly, these days an electric tea kettle with an accurate thermometer is inexpensive and easy to find. That’s what I use.

Alternately just use any kitchen thermometer, the same instant-temp thermometer you may have for checking meat temperature will work fine or a candy thermometer

But when all else fails, the Chinese tea classics tell us the proper way to judge water temperature by eye. 

The Record of Tea, written in 1049 by Cai Xiang dictates 5 stages of heating appropriate for brewing different styles of tea.

Shrimp-Eye Water  This is the stage of water heating when tiny bubbles just begin to form on the bottom of your pan. This visual stage equates to a water temperature of about 155° F (70° C). This is the correct temperature for very delicate white teas like Silver Needle.


Crab-Eye Water – At this stage the bubbles are a little larger and denser distributed. A few bubbles are no occasionally releasing and floating to the top. You’ll also see a bit of steam. This equates to about 175° F (80° C). this is the righ temperature for Jiaogulan and most green teas.


Fish-Eye Water – Now the bubbles are noticeably larger and floating up more frequently. If you stick you hand over the water, condensation will form immediately now. This equates to 185° F (85° C). this is perfect temperature for most oolong teas and mild black teas like our Dragon Pearl.



String-of-Pearls – Now the water is really bubbling briskly. The bubbles floating to the top form near continuous strings, reminiscent of a pearl necklace. There is quite a lot of steam now. This equates to about 200° F (90° C). This is, practically speaking, the hottest you want your water to be for brewing tea. It’s best for black teas or our White Mulberry Tea.


Old-Man-Water – This is your basic rolling boil. There are big bubbles right at the surface all the time and lots of steam. I almost never use this temperature water. You can taste the difference in the water itself at this stage. It tastes flat and dead. This is 212°F (100° C). You can use this for puerh teas or, if you are still buying cheap teabag teas (Have I taught you nothing?) go for it. It can’t hurt.


I hope you found this helpful. Enjoy your teas. Leave a comment if you have any questions. 

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