An introduction to Tea Infuser
A whole lot more goes into brewing high-quality tea than simply boiling up a bit of water, pouring it over some tea leaves, and waiting until you feel ready to take a sip.
Unfortunately, we have been tricked in our modern world to think that the highest quality tea comes in tiny little bags, already pre-ground up and turned into dust.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you’re serious about drinking high-quality tea, whether that be something special you have purchased from overseas or just a quality tin you grab at your local grocery store, you’re going to want to make sure that you have the right tools on hand to brew that tea with the respect and patience necessary to coax everything out of it possible.
You’re going to need a tea infuser.
Below we highlight all of the things you want to look for in a quality tea fuser, guaranteeing that you’re able to make the most of every single batch of tea leaves you to purchase from here on out.
The best thing about buying a top-tier tea infuser straightaway is that you’re going to be able to use it with ANY tea leaves you want to brew later down the line. This is an investment in your tea drinking that’s going to pay off for years and years to come.
Let’s dive right in!
What Exactly Is a Tea Infuser, Anyway?
Tea infusers have gone by a bunch of different names throughout history, but at the end of the day they all are representative of the exact same little gadget – a tiny little basket designed to hold loose tea leaves so that you can brew and steep the freshest, highest quality tea possible.
Almost always placed directly into a pot (or into a cup that you’ll be brewing your tea inside of), these little baskets are compact, relatively inexpensive, and designed to make sure that hot water has plenty of room to circulate throughout your loose tea leaves without letting those tea leaves leach out into your brew.
As we highlighted above, these little baskets have been called tea balls, tea eggs, and tea makers. They have been around for a couple of hundred years but really only started to gain popularity in the later half of the 18th century in the earlier part of the 19th century. Today they are beloved by those that take their tea breaks very seriously, tea enthusiasts and aficionados that want to be guaranteed that their brew is always the best it can be without exception.
The overwhelming majority of tea infusers on the market today are going to be made out of perforated stainless steel material, though silicone options have started to gain a lot of traction in today’s market.
Either of these choices is picture-perfect thanks to the heat resistant capabilities they offer, though you’ll want to avoid options that are made out of plastics (BPA free or not). You never know what kind of chemicals are going to leach out of those plastics into your cup of tea.
The strainer sizes on these tea infusers are going to be different depending on the specific make and model you choose to take advantage of. Most of the metal options are going to feature very fine strainer/sieve configurations, allowing for a lot of water to circulate throughout the loose tea leaves while at the same time holding back any of the broken tea leaf particulates from getting into your mug.
Silicone options usually have slightly larger strainer holes which makes them ideally suited to larger tea leaves. You’ll want to be careful not to break up your tea too much when using a silicone tea infuser – that’s a surefire recipe that you will be picking little bits of tea leaves out of your teeth for the rest of the day with this approach.
What Makes a Tea infuser So Important to Begin With?
There isn’t a serious lover of tea on the planet that would tell you bagged, broken “tea dust” is better and more flavorful than looseleaf tea.
If you want to enjoy tea the way that it has been traditionally enjoyed, want to take advantage of all the health-boosting benefits it may bring to the table, and want to unlock all of the flavor, aroma, and unique experience it is capable of you absolutely MUST be brewing directly from looseleaf tea leaves.
At the same time, you don’t want to necessarily dump a handful of loose tea leaves directly into your favorite mug and then pour some hot water over top.
Sure, that would definitely get the job done if you left everything to sit for a couple of minutes to brew and steep. But then you’d have the unpleasant duty of picking out all those little tea leaves individually or potentially swallowing them with every step you take.
A tea infuser gives you the opportunity to take advantage of everything that looseleaf tea has to offer without constricting or constraining the leaves the way that traditional teabags will. You’ll be able to let each of these leaves soak and simmer in the water that you have boiled for your beverage, allowing the tea to release into your mug with a lot more freedom than even the highest quality teabag allows.
Traditional tea bags are packed very tightly and processed pretty roughly. That’s why so much of the tea leaves contained within are reduced into dust. This process inevitably eliminates a lot of the polyphenols and antioxidants (the health-boosting properties tea leaves contain) almost completely – just another reason to use a tea infuser whenever you have the chance to do so.
The last big benefit we want to highlight with a tea infuser is the ability to allow your tea leaves to expand and to release as much of their aroma and flavor as possible in a way that tightly constricted teabags cannot provide.
If you ever feel like teabag options are somewhat bland, bitter, and anything but exciting you aren’t alone. Study after study shows that tea leaves that are tightly compacted before they are brewed cannot release as much flavor, as many helpful biochemicals, or as much aroma as looseleaf tea – really handicapping your overall experience.
With a tea infuser, though, that’s never going to be a problem.
Selecting the Right Tea infuser
You wouldn’t be alone in thinking that every tea infuser is pretty much identical to every other, a simple little basket designed to hold tea leaves intellect water circulates throughout.
How hard could pick the right one be?
Well, you’d be surprised to learn that finding the right tea infuser for your specific needs and your specific budget is a whole lot more challenging than most people ever would have considered. Different tea infuser styles are going to be better suited to different types of loose leaf tea, depending on their shape, their style, and the construction materials that they take advantage of.
High-quality tea infusers are also engineered specifically to avoid the inhibition of the flavors and biochemicals you want to get out of high-quality tea to begin with. There’s a world of difference between the kind of tea infuser you can grab at your local grocery or department store and a top-notch tea infuser designed by serious tea masters or enthusiasts.
To help you make a decision more confidently it’s important to look at the four major categories of tea infusers on the market right now.
The first (and most common) type of tea infuser you’ll find for sale today is the tea infuser basket.
This is the type of tea infuser that tea masters and tea enthusiasts are most likely to use, the simplest and most straightforward option available, and the type of basket that allows plenty of room and space for your tea to expand and to release its aroma, flavor, and biochemicals.
Secondly, you have ball style tea infusers. These are usually pretty small and compact, ideally suited for single servings, and almost always made out of high-quality stainless steel or fine mesh materials.
Usually connected with a long handle or a thin chain for easy retrieval, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t overstuff or overpack a ball style tea infuser or you will eliminate the benefits it was designed to offer in the first place.
Silicone options are another popular choice if you aren’t afraid of dulling a little bit of the flavor and aroma that your tea would have brought to the table otherwise. Silicone is going to inhibit some of those elements quite a bit more than stainless steel or mesh ever would – though the difference usually is quite negligible and may not even be something you notice to begin with.
Lastly, you will have an opportunity to purchase teapots specifically designed with internal tea infusers built right in.
These kinds of options are fantastic for those that don’t want to have to clean or maintain a separate tea infuser whenever they want to brew a bit of tea, as well as those that want to take advantage of a tea infuser designed specifically to have plenty of room and space to accommodate the teapot capacity you’re working with.
You want to make sure that the infuser contained within is as large as possible but other than that you won’t have anything to worry about as long as you are purchasing a teapot with an internal tea infuser from a reputable company you can trust.