When you make tea, once the water is boiled, the next step is to steep the tea leaves. This steeping process soaks the leaves in the hot water to extract the flavor & properties to create a wonderful tea experience.
When using tea bags, this process is pretty simple. Put tea bag in hot water. Easy, right?
But what about when you have loose leaf tea? You can use a tea infuser or a strainer to steep the tea in your teapot or tea cup. But what’s a tea strainer and tea infuser? And what’s the difference?
Tea Infusers are perforated receptacles that hold loose tea leaves and are fully immersed in hot water.
These infusers enable the tea to be extracted into the water, while keeping the tea leaves contained. This enables one to easily remove all the tea leaves from water and control how long the tea steeps for. And for that we’re thankful (I’m pretty sure it’s a minority of people who actually like getting tea leaves stuck in their teeth when they’re drinking tea).
Tea Infusers can be useful when making larger quantities of tea or can be used to create a single cup.
Teas with larger leaves like some Green, White or Oolong teas might be better suited for larger Tea Infusers. This is because larger leaves need space to expand and enable proper extraction.
Types of Tea Infusers
Tea Infusers come in multiple sizes and shapes.
Brewing Baskets are typically made of mesh are can be dunked in water to extract the tea leaves. These are larger and can be good if you are using larger tea leaves or have a lot of tea leaves to steep.
Tea balls are like the name suggests: it’s a ball-shaped receptacle that holds tea leaves and is typically connected to a chain/handle for easy removal from hot water (see this post’s featured image for an example). Tea balls are smaller and so can be limited in how much tea can be made as well as might be inhibitive to bigger tea leaves (which need space to expand and interact with the water).
Silicone Tea Infusers
These are similar to Tea balls, but are made of the Silicone material. Some people do not prefer silicone infusers as they can create an after taste or are not as effective as other infusers.
Cups & Teapots with Infusers
Some travel mugs, thermos, and teapots come with infusers built-in. The travel mugs and thermos can make for on-the-go tea infusing, while teapots with infusers can be an effective way to steep tea.
Similar to Tea Infusers, Tea Strainers are used to 1) extract the loose tea leaves of their flavor and properties, 2) keep the loose tea leaves together and 3) enable tea drinkers to control how much they want their tea to steep.
Yet, the key differentiator is how the tea leaves are exposed to the water. As Infusers fully immerse the tea leaves in the water for an extended period of time, Tea Strainers rest on a cup or teapot rim, holding the loose tea leaves above the tea as one pours the hot water through.
Tea Strainers are used when the tea leaves do not need to be infused for a long time or get bitter if exposed to water for a long time.
Whether you use a Tea Infuser or a Tea Strainer, both can be used to steep tea leaves and create a nice cup or pot of tea.
It depends on how you want to steep: immerse your leaves in water (i.e. Tea Infuser) or pour water through the tea leaves (i.e. Tea Strainer). It also matters what tea you are using: the more the tea needs to be exposed to water, certain Tea Infusers might be a better teaware to use.
Let us know what you prefer and which Tea Infusers and/or Tea Strainers you use!