I was talking to a friend from Texas. When I said that my tea was somewhat strong and that the second infusion would probably be better, he did not pick up on it.

When I called it a brew, he said that it sounded better.

So, would you call the act of pouring hot water over leaves a brew, an infusion, or something different? Are there differences between UK / US English?

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    'Infusion' is not really generally used in the US for tea. Someone who is very familiar with tea would use 'infusion' only for herbal teas and not at all for black tea. And 'infusion' is the liquid itself not the act of putting water over the leaves. I can't think of a noun that is the event of having the leaves sit in hot water to become flavored. 'steeping' is the verb for tea and 'brewing' for coffee. – Mitch Jan 23 '16 at 15:41
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    To most people in the US "infusion" is something that's done in a hospital. It's really only used (in the tea sense) by tea fanatics and folks trying to be hoity-toity. – Hot Licks Jan 23 '16 at 21:51
  • I've a sneaking suspicion that Prof Geoff Pullum wouldn't enter the house of someone offering an infusion rather than a nice cuppa. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '16 at 22:47
  • You can percolate coffee, but can you percolate tea? The tea bag acts as a filter, as would a strainer for 'loose' tea? – Christopher Jan 24 '16 at 0:09

In the US, that is known as brewing tea. Further, the verb steep refers to soaking the tea leaves or bag in hot water. Making the perfect brew depends on how long you steep the tea (as well as the quality of leaves and water).

So you could say,

Perhaps the second steep will be better..


There are certainly differences between US and UK English. Further, there are differences within the UK. The interesting English usage guide The Right Word at the Right Time (no author or ISBN is given, but it's published by the Reader's Digest) maintains that brew is used throughout the UK, but many other words (mash, steep, etc.) are used in various regions. It even supplies maps with isoglosses.

I've not heard infuse used before. To me, that implies a longer, and perhaps more mysterious, process; not something as simple and ordinary as brewing tea.


Usually I make some tea. If it's not strong enough I let it brew a bit longer. If it is delicious I call it a good brew. If it has brewed for too long then I would probably say that it has been stewing too long and is too strong.

Infusion - The process of pouring water over a substance, or steeping the substance in water, in order to impregnate the liquid with its properties or virtues (OED, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/95690?redirectedFrom=infusion#eid).

Brew - To make by mixing several ingredients (Johnson), as whisky punch; or by infusion, as tea. (OED, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/23126?rskey=gcAh2Z&result=3&isAdvanced=false#eid).

Stew - To undergo stewing; to be cooked by slow boiling in a closed vessel. Also (of an infusion of tea, etc.), to ‘stand’ on the leaves, etc. (OED, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/190084?rskey=81G847&result=6&isAdvanced=false#eid ).

  • This would be very good if you added the relevant sense for 'brew' (which even ODO gives) and added links. – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '16 at 22:41
  • The free online dictionaries are usually very sound and quite adequate (in fact, in some respects / for some purposes they're better than OED, being revised more frequently and listing senses in estimated order of frequency of use). – Edwin Ashworth Jan 23 '16 at 23:45

In my experience as a tea drinker in the U.S., second infusion is the most common spoken usage of infusion in the context of steeping tea leaves or brewing tea. The initial act of pouring hot water over tea leaves is usually called "making a pot/cup of tea" or "brewing a pot/cup of tea." It would sound stilted and pedantic to say "I'll prepare a tea infusion" or something like that. I've never heard anyone say "first infusion" for initially brewing a pot of tea, presumably because there's no reason to differentiate the "first" one when it's usually the only one.

As another variant, some people use a tea infuser for steeping loose leaf tea so as to make it easy to remove the leaves from the water once the tea has steeped (or brewed or infused) for a sufficiently long period of time and/or to keep the leaves in the pot when the tea is poured into a cup.

A Google ngram viewer search suggests that "make tea" is the most common in written English, but variants with "brew" or "infusion" occur also in both British and American English (though I might have missed other common tea-brewing-related phrases).

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