Infusion Frenzy: 5 Tea Steeping Tools for Beginners

August 11, 2020

by Janelle Wazorick


Brewing tea is an art form, and as with all art forms, there is no right or wrong method as long as the result makes you happy. If you’re new to the world of loose tea, it can be an overwhelming experience finding the right utensil to brew the perfect cup, but fear not: this quick guide will shed some light on some popular steeping tools used to brew tea. Try them all and see what works best for you.

Tea Ball

One of the most common types of tea strainers, the tea ball is easy to find in both national stores and local shops. They come in three different styles. The first is a ball and chain style, which is a ball made of either soft metal mesh or perforated steel that opens to put tea in and a chain to hook onto the side of a mug for easy removal. Second is a handle style, a tea ball with a handle on the end which functions like a pair of tongs that you squeeze to open. Lastly, there are novelty tea balls that come in various shapes such as boats, animals, and other fun designs. Tea Balls are great for beginners and is one of the first infusers that tea drinkers start with.

Pros
• Easy to find in stores
• Inexpensive, Quick, and Convenient
• Reusable

Cons
• Not idea for brewing large amounts of tea
• Small space in tea ball doesn’t allow for tea to unfurl fully to release all flavors
• Depending on size, only accepts one teaspoon of tea easily

Tea Filter Bags

Do you want the convenience of a teabag and the ability to make whatever kind of tea you want? Tea filter bags, which are empty teabags made from thin fibers, allow the brewer to use whatever tea they desire with the simplicity of brewing and cleanup of a teabag. Usually sold in packs, tea filter bags are inexpensive and come in two main styles: a sachet that closes with a drawstring or a simple fold top bag. Simply fill a tea filter bag with your favorite tea (or create your own tea blend), close it up, and brew like you would a teabag. Simple and effective.

Pros
• Convenient, inexpensive, and customizable
• More room than a tea ball for leaves to unfurl
• Keeps tea particles inside bag
• Easy cleanup: simply toss when done

Cons
• One time use
• Will need to be restocked once bags are exhausted


Basket Strainer

Included with many teapots and mugs, the basket strainer is simply a basket made from stainless steel with perforated holes or a soft metal mesh. Individual basket strainers can be purchased without a teapot and usually come with handles to support itself in a mug. While basket strainers come in various depths and widths, they typically provide enough room for most tea leaves to unfurl freely. To use, simply place the basket in a teacup or teapot with your favorite tea, add water, and remove when brewing is complete.

All of Adagio's teapots come with their own basket strainers. It is also featured in the Iced Tea Pitcher and velociTEA. The simpliciTEA, ingenuiTEA, ingenuiTEA 2, and Iced ingenuiTEA are essentially giant basket strainers.

Pros
• Versatile: can be used in individual mugs or teapots
• Big enough to allow most tea leaves to unfurl and release their flavors
• Reusable and easy to clean

Cons
• Might not be large enough for larger leaf teas (for example: some oolongs which require more space to unfurl)
• Baskets made with soft metal mesh can become deformed and break (not an issue with the perforated baskets)
• Soft Metal Mesh Baskets and baskets with large perforated holes can let small tea particles slip through

Handle Strainer

Similar to a basket strainer, the handle strainer is a popular way of straining tea in Britain. It is usually composed of a small tea basket with a long handle (or alternatively, two short handles) and a drip cup. Rather than placing the strainer in the teapot, the handle strainer is placed over a teacup. The tea leaves are brewed loose in the teapot, and when it is time to serve tea, the tea is poured over the strainer resting on the teacup, filtering the brewed beverage with the leaves left in the strainer. The strainer is removed once the tea is poured, and the tea is ready to drink. This strainer method is great for large leaf teas that would benefit from brewing freely in the teapot.

Pros
• Allows the tea leaves to freely unfurl in the teapot
• One of the best options for large leaf teas
• Easy to clean

Cons
• Depending on the weave of the soft metal mesh, it may not be suitable for teas with small particles
• Contents of teapot must be poured out immediately to prevent oversteeping
• Strainer holds limited amount of brewed tea leaves and will need to be emptied if pouring multiple cups


Tea French Press

The coffee brewing alternative is also a great tea brewing alternative. The French Press consists of a beaker-like container (usually made from glass) and a press consisting of a lid and a circular mesh strainer on a handle. Tea and water are poured into the container for brewing, and once brewing is complete, the press pushes the tea leaves towards the bottom of the container and the brew is ready to be poured into a mug.

Pros
• Allows large tea leaves to freely unfurl and release their flavors
• Great for larger leaf teas
• Visually pleasing and fun to brew

Cons
• Only used to make small amounts of tea (usually one cup)
• Depending on the press, clean-up may be complicated and involve unscrewing part of the press to fully clean it
• Particles and smaller leaf teas might slip through the press