The comments below are meant as a general guide to help those with little or no 'loose tea' experience. Various teas respond differently to water temperature and timing. A knowledgeable source for suggested temps and times will be the tea vendor, from whom you purchased the tea leaf itself. If no suggestions are forthcoming, resort to your best guide - your own personal taste. Experiment. Also check out my page on how to decaffeinate your own tea at home and some tea storage tips.
I have found it interesting that so many people are unaware of the simplicity of making tea with loose tea leaves, in a teapot. I am constantly being asked how to prepare tea. I have had customers that try, with increasing frustration, to jam a strainer down into the teapot. Several have poured boiling water over tea leaves placed in a strainer, expecting the 'drip action' similar to ground coffee to give them a flavorful cup of tea. The possiblities for failure are endless, but so too are opportunities for success. Preparing tea should be a joy, not a challenge.
It's no one's fault that growing up in the United States might mean that exposure to tea is via 'tea bags'. If you are really adventurous, you may be exposed to brewing teas in a tea ball type infuser, which is basically a reusable metal tea bag. Not much of an improvement, except maybe in the quality and diversity of the loose teas used. Even though a teapot might be used, it always seemed to be a receptacle for the tea ball or other type infuser. A surrogate cup for the surrogate tea bag.
The joy of brewing tea, loose in a teapot, comes not just from the opportunity to explore a whole world of teas that are not always available in bag form, but also the extraordinary pleasure that arrives from the tea preparation itself. Although there is great joy in doing so, not all of us need to perform some elaborate ritual of a beautiful asian style, because in the handling of such items as cherished teapots, cups & saucers, or even that funky old, treasured mug, we are creating our own personal tea rituals and traditions - daily.
The selecting, measuring and preparing, the texture and crackle of the dried leaf and tea's aroma in the tin as you scoop out your portions - all add to the total tea experience. The tea kettle, as it comes to a boil plays my favorite song and whistles with gradually increasing impatience until, just at the right moment - full boil. It lets out a little whimpering cry as I lift it from the heat. The wafting aroma as the water hits the dry leaf, the 'agony of the leaf' as it dances and swirls in the pot - becoming saturated to relinquish it's mysteries, also make up part of my personal tea ritual.
In many respects the ritual of tea preparation is quite like the judgment of the tea itself - flexible, individual, unlimited. There are no hard & fast rules. There are however, suggestions that can make tremendous difference to the resulting brew, such as water temperature, brewing times, milk/no milk, sugar or not. Tea is something we lovingly prepare, sometimes accent with tasty treasures and present to ourselves and others - a nectar to sip, savor and dream over.
Steam rises from a cup of tea and we are wrapped in history, inhaling ancient times and lands, comfort of the ages in our hands. F. Greenbowl