How to Choose Your Tea Infuser

How to Choose Your Tea Infuser

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When you first switch to drinking loose leaf tea, the very first question you may have is how exactly you’re meant to steep the leaves. If all you’ve been drinking up until this point has been tea that you’ve picked up from the supermarket that was already conveniently bagged, you very quickly realize you do not have the same convenience with loose leaf tea.

While you can just dump the leaves into your cup and steep your tea that way, not everyone likes the idea of potentially drinking the leaves while trying to enjoy a delicious warm beverage. And honestly, unless you know what you’re doing, I wouldn’t recommend drinking it that way, either.

Fortunately, there are a variety of tea infusers that exist. Not only do these tea infusers make it easy to separate the leaves from your cup once your tea is done steeping, but they also make the whole process of brewing your tea so much easier.

Unfortunately, there’s such a large variety of tea infusers that attempting to figure out which kind best suits your needs can be a bit overwhelming. There are even some that you probably should stay away from.

But finding the right one for you doesn’t necessarily need to be difficult! It all comes down to what works best for your lifestyle and how much tea you’re making at once. So let me try to help guide you through this sea of tea-infusing contraptions.

Tea Ball Style Infusers

A white table is in the foreground, a person blurred in the background. On the table is a glass stein-style mug of steeping tea. A tea ball, a type of tea infuser, is suspended into the mug. An empty tea ball sits beside it. Two small glass teacups, filled with tea, sit on the far right of the image.

You may be familiar with the concept of the tea ball or the tea egg. This particular tea infuser comes, quite predictably, in the shape of a ball (either made completely from metal with some holes in it or shaped mesh) with a latch in the middle to split the ball into halves. They also have a chain typically with a hook on the end of it that can hang outside of your mug and attach to the handle, making it easy to fish the ball from your cup once you’re done steeping your tea.

Of all the infuser styles we’ll be talking about today, tea balls are perhaps the most similar to a classic teabag.

I have even seen some tea balls with long handles, where instead of a chain and a latch mechanism, you can compress the handle to open the ball and scoop in the leaves in that way. The handle easily sticks out of your mug, making it incredibly easy to remove, and you don’t have to worry about a chain detaching from the handle and slipping into a mug of hot water.

I’m particularly fond of tea balls if you don’t have a lot of counter space to dedicate to various tea gadgets. Tea balls fit easily inside drawers or even your favorite mug when not in use. However, you do have to be careful with these as sometimes the latching mechanisms are not particularly secure and there’s always a risk that the gap between the two halves of the ball will allow tea leaves to sneak through and into your cup. You also want to make sure the mesh is particularly fine to keep larger leaf particles out of your cup entirely.

All that said, however, I’ve seen some say that since the tea ball is on the smaller side of things, they don’t really allow much room for the leaves to expand. So if you’re going to go this route, then I’d suggest looking for larger or more oblong-shaped tea balls as these tend to give you more room for leaf expansion.

Novelty Infusers

An assortment of five silicone tea infusers sitting in five glass mugs of tea. In the topmost row are a green owl, a pink cat, and a grey hippo. In the row below are a grey bear and a pink platypus.

Although they bear similarities to the tea ball, novelty tea infusers are made primarily from silicone. These tend to be cute and come in a variety of styles to not only make tea drinking fun but also give you a way to display your personality a little bit.

These come in a variety of shapes, too, so you’re almost guaranteed to find something that feels like you. You can find whales and manatees (mana-tea! Hah!) and divers and leaves… if you can dream it, it probably exists. These also come in a variety of colors, many of them bright and vibrant.

There are just a few problems with them.

The chambers of these novelty infusers tend to be fairly small which, again, does not allow enough room for the tea leaves to expand. Some users have even said that the silicone gives the tea a bit of a plastic flavor, although I feel like this is a “your mileage may vary” sort of thing. Additionally, people have had difficulty removing the leaves from the tiny holes in the infuser.

If you elect to go this route, though, make sure whatever silicone item you pick up is BPA-free to reduce the risk of harmful chemicals leeching into your tea.

Basket Infusers

A marble countertop. Sitting on the countertop is a glass mug of tea with a basket tea infuser sitting inside. Propped up against the edge of the mug is a lid wrapped in blue silicone. In the foreground is a similar basket tea infuser, it's arms folded down against the body. Propped up against it is it's lid, this one wrapped in green silicone.

A basket infuser is a larger sort of tea strainer that fits conveniently inside your mug or even a teapot, and while the concept seems incredibly simple, a basket infuser is not to be underestimated!

I love basket infusers. These are quite possibly my newest obsession for tea making and consumption, especially for people who might not have a lot of counter space to dedicate to tea-specific gadgets. They’re very easy to store (mine sits in one of my mugs when not in use) and to clean, making them quite possibly one of my favorite tea gadgets ever.

But don’t just take my word for it! Tea gurus are reportedly fond of basket infusers as these give your tea leaves enough room to expand as they steep.

Now, I will caution that you will need to do a bit of measuring to find the right one that will fit in your commonly used mugs. You’ll need to be able to figure out both the diameter of the opening of your favorite mugs and how tall they actually are or you might wind up purchasing a basket that won’t fit your mug properly. That said, you’ll still want to find the largest one that your mugs are capable of accommodating if you want the best possible tea experience.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of variety when it comes to basket infusers, and you’ll be hard-pressed to not find one that will suit your needs. Some come with lids. Others do not. Some come with patterns etched into them. Others do not. Some even come with heatproof wings!

But whatever you choose, you really can’t go wrong.

Teapots

A glass teapot, which doubles as a tea infuser thanks to the metal basket inside.

Teapots are a must-have if you’re brewing more than one cup of tea at a time (maybe for a party or if you’re going to be drinking more than a cup in a sitting)! They come in a variety of styles and shapes, most of them even arriving with basket infusers or built-in strainers, so you’re almost guaranteed to find something to suit your kitchen decor. Their variety is actually my favorite thing about teapots in general. They come in everything from cast iron to clay to even glass.

(I’d highly recommend glass if you can get it, if only because it’s kind of cool to see the water change colors as the tea steeps over time, but that may just be me.)

When it comes to choosing your teapot, you’ll need to evaluate which kind best suits your needs and how much counter space you have to work with. The majority of the teapots on the market tend to be your traditionally-shaped teapots with a spout, but if you can’t use those for whatever reason, don’t despair! There are several that dispense the tea from the bottom of the pot via a spring mechanism, and there are others still that more closely resemble a french press with a slightly less intimidating spout.

But maybe you’d prefer something more simple or something that better suits your decor! Or maybe something that doesn’t even resemble a teapot at all!

The possibilities are virtually endless!

Final Thoughts

There are a lot of tea infusers out there on the market. Some of them will suit your needs better than others, and you kind of have to take into account what you have for counter space and storage space when it comes to choosing the best one for you.

I personally have two main infusers I switch between: a tea basket, which I love for single cups of tea and the fact that it takes up a bit less storage space, and a teapot which you’ll see in any of the tea videos I make. The teapot that dispenses tea from the bottom of the pot was actually the first method I was introduced to when I first started drinking loose leaf tea and is my personal go-to, but what works for me might not necessarily work for you.

It might take a bit to find the one that best suits your lifestyle, but you really can’t go wrong with any of the kinds I’ve mentioned in this post.

(Well. Maybe with the silicone, but, again, your mileage may vary.)

But take this knowledge I have given to you all, go forth, and steep deliciously.

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