What Is a Tea Infuser? Types, Uses, Do’s and Dont’s, a Guide


Tea Facts /

We’re experiencing a rise in the use of loose leaf tea, especially in light of fears that Tea Bags contain plastic. This means the tea infuser has become more popular too – alongside the increased popularity of specialty teas.

There’s something very classy about using a tea infuser, especially during your Afternoon Tea! In fact, the entire process and minutia of creating your flavorsome cup of tea is something both soothing, engrossing, and rewarding. The Tea infuser merely enhances the experience. But what is a tea infuser?

A Tea Infuser is an accompaniment to the teacup or teapot, usually ball or spoon-shaped, with a perforated or mesh style container to allow water to flow through. Leaves are placed into the infuser and immersed in the vessel. Tea infusers come in many styles and materials for a variety of purposes.

What does a tea infuser do?

Loose leaf tea has been known to provide a richer experience when used instead of tea bags – which are often a blend of mainly black teas – in case you’re wondering What Tea is!

A Tea Infuser allows you to use loose leaf tea straight into a mug or pot. A bit like tea bags – but for loose tea.

As it’s usually introduced into the heart of the water, it prevents the leaf particles from escaping into the liquid.

It also provides a smoother all-rounded beverage. Mainly because it allows the water in the cup (or pot) to flow freely around the leaves more readily. Crucially, it enables tea to be steeped directly in the cup, rather than using a teapot.

Is a tea infuser the same as a tea strainer

An infuser is slightly different from a tea strainer in that it (usually) wholly contains the leaves – so no teapot required. The leaves go in the infuser and the infuser goes into the cup and is allowed to mix with the water.

old tea strainer

A tea strainer is very similar – but the use is different. Traditionally the strainer is more of a half-circular ball like mesh device – like a small spoon sized sieve. It’s used after steeping tea in a pot – usually with black tea.

The strainer is placed over the cup to capture tea leaves as the tea is poured out of the teapot 

When leaves are added to the pot they’re allowed to flow around the entire vessel. The strainer is then placed over the cup prior to pouring …to capture tea leaves as the tea comes out of the teapot.

Strainers can eventually become difficult to clean, read here if you want to know how to clean your existing tea infuser

There are two main types of tea strainer/infuser

When a tea strainer IS an infuser! –  There are infusers on the market that are shaped like a deeper version of the original tea strainer.

You add the strainer to the cup either before or after adding the water. Add your loose leaf tea and allow to steep for the desired period of time. These are also available for your teapot.

Then remove the infuser (or strainer) and enjoy! … more on this later when we check out some different types…

When was the tea infuser first used?

A tea infuser became popular in the early part of the 19th Century when the rise in tea was really starting to take hold. They’ve had a resurgence in recent years – for a number of reasons...

Firstly, the teabag is seen as containing a lower quality tea, often containing lower quality leaves as well as tea ‘dust’ as a result of its mass production process.

Secondly, since the backlash against plastics, tea bags have been cited as containing non-biodegradable products. Therefore the move towards using an infuser is seen as a move towards a ‘greener’ way of enjoying tea – no pun intended!

Can you put a teabag in a tea infuser

In theory, yes you can, but there would be little point. When using a teabag, the bag part is the infuser, so it would be overkill, as you are effectively infusing the tea twice.

But, if you were thinking of removing the contents of the teabag and adding them to the infuser this can work.

The tea in a tea bag can be pretty fine in structure, and in some cases contains tea dust particles that some infusers would not be able to hold.

Infusers are designed for loose leaf tea, which has relatively fewer dust particles and is generally cut and rolled into larger shapes. So expect there to be some tea leaf residue in the bottom of your cup of tea when you’re done infusing the tea bag contents. Maybe you can use that to learn how to read tea leaves!

Try adding herbs, spices, and even dried fruits to your infuser as well if you’re going to experiment with this method.

If you have an old faithful Tea strainer or Tea Infuser already and you’re looking to clean it, then check here for How to Clean Your Tea Infuser But trust me when I tell you if it’s really stained, then it’s a brutish task!

Can you use a french press – cafetière?

Yes, you can use a cafetière as an infuser. Be aware though that your final action with an infuser is to take it out of the cup, mug or pot.

With a cafetière (or French Press) the loose tea will simply be pressed to the base of the cafetière where it will continue to steep into the water.

The longer the leaves are allowed to steep, the more bitter the tea will become, so you may find that the residual amount left in the cafetière after pouring will be too bitter to drink – or at least less tasty! and so you may want to avoid going back for a second cup!

Types of tea infusers

When I was searching for the best tea infuser for me, I was met with a wall of different types, shapes, materials, and styles. I didn’t know which one did what …and so I had to dig deeper to find out what to go for.

So I decided to make something of a tea infuser tea infuser guide for those looking to purchase their ideal infuser.

They vary in size – depending on whether the user wants to steep one or multiple cups or use them in a teapot. Plus although we’re being ultra fussy here, most of them will vary but will largely accomplish the same task with minor differences to the end result.

Tea filter bags

Teahow rating 1/5

filter tea bags

I felt compelled to add these Filters to the list, but they are made of Muslin. They are (I suppose) an option, but they’re not the most classy bit of kit. They’re more function over form. Convenient for when you just want to steep tea leaves – dispose of the filter – and go, or maybe if you’re traveling light.

They allow more space inside for steeping than tea bags do. Plus there’s no hardware to clean and look after.

Of course, they will cost more in the long run as you’ll need to replace them …and what happens when you run out? – dread the thought!

They can be a bit messy too and be prepared to get a hint of bad taste in your drink and of course, if you’re concerned about the environment then these are not the most obvious choice. You can get a quick price from TeaBox Here.

Tea strainer 

Teahow Rating 4/5

tea strainer

Leaves in this brew are free floating with plenty of space to move. These are simple and you can guarantee they will provide you with a very nice cup each time.

Simply lifting out the strainer will enable you to see what’s going on with the blend in the cup. Plus if you can give them a quick stir with a spoon to encourage the steeping process.

They’re fairly easy to clean and maintain and don’t take up much space. There are numerous different shapes and styles. They’re relatively inexpensive, readily available and easy enough to clean. Good for what they do and they’ve been around for centuries, for time served we’ve given them a good rating.

When purchasing, try to ensure it’s a relatively deep strainer. This is so you can ensure the leaves are immersed deeply into the cup and provide plenty of space to move around, this is the type we’ve rated below.

Tea spoon

Teahow rating 2/5

tea spoon infuser

Really easy to clean. But I’ve yet to find a spoon version that provides enough space for the leaves to really steep fully. The ones I’ve seen can be quite cramped in space.

On the upside, you can also use the spoon handle to stir the leaves whilst they’re in the cup. Which also enables you to see how the water is blending with the leaves.

Overall, unless you’re used to small cups of tea only, then I’d recommend looking at other more suitable types of infusers to steep your fave brew!

Tea ball

Teahow rating 4/5

tea ball

Personally, I’d avoid anything that involves putting a chain into your drink. Not just for annoying cleaning purposes, but unless it’s spotless you never know what little bacterial bugs might be lurking deep within the chain links.

Other than that, the sieve-like ball provides plenty of space for steeping your favourite leaves and you can see what’s going on quite well. That, naturally, depends on the size of the ball – yes they do vary. I’d recommend getting as large a ball as possible for a better steeping experience.

The issue comes when you want to remove the ball. It’s messy and wet. Plus of course, it’s hot as it’s been in the boiling water. So it’s difficult to know how to handle it. The only real solution is to put it somewhere where it can drain and cool before tackling the job of trying to open it up.

The only other issue is, if you select a type with a fine mesh, then be careful where you store it. They can get crushed or damaged alongside other implements. The last time I looked they were on TeaBox. To get the latest price you can click here for the ball infuser or click the image.

Tea egg

Teahow rating 3/5

 

tea egg

A more classy version of the tea ball. It works exactly the same, but again try to find as large a ball as possible. The more experienced tea infuser folks would be able to use these with ease. But if you’re new to infusers then you might want to rethink this option as you can’t really tell what’s going on inside the ball.

Also, again this more often than not involves dipping chains into your drink. So I’d be inclined to steer clear of it for hygiene purposes. Plus cleaning it will be a job that ends up being longer than you were hoping for!

Tea tong

Teahow rating 5/5

tea-tong

They might not be the prettiest but they work really well. You’ll generally find a few differing sizes. They generally all have a good amount of space to move the leaves around in too …but take it from us, unless your cup size is an issue then get the largest. They come in 4.5cm, 5cm and 6.5cm.

It’s easy to clean the tool itself and emptying the contents straight into the bin is relatively mess-free. They can also be handled easily to help stir your beverage as well as fully immerse your leaves.

Like the tea balls, just be careful not to pack too closely in a drawer so that it doesn’t get crushed or bent out of shape. Other than that, it’s the top choice for us for a hassle-free wonderful drink of your favourite!

I think these were still available last I checked and they were a steal of a price. So you can check the latest price for a tea tong here on TeaBox, or click the image.

Tea tube

Teahow rating 3/5

tea tube infuser

The height of sophistication? or a little pretentious? I’ll let you decide. But I must admit I was drawn to the idea of using this tool. It’s sleek, stylish and looks almost space age!

However, it’s a bit fiddly to get your leaves into without trapping them in the tube and generally making a mess whilst loading it up. Plus there just isn’t really enough space for them to swish around for the ultimate brew!

Cleaning can be hard. With some of these, the idea is you’re meant to just rinse through the tap to flush out the tube, but it sounds easier than it actually is.

They generally come in two variations, cup-sized, or pot-sized. Both will do the job but there are better options out there.

Novelty infusers

Tea infusers can come in all types of shapes and sizes, mainly for the fun and enjoyment they can bring when giving them as a gift.

In terms of effectiveness, most will do the job as well as an infuser egg or similar. They’re bought mainly for novelty value and as a unique little kitchen gadget for putting on display or just for the odd tea making session.

Cleaning is rarely fun as they tend to be odd shaped and difficult to get around. For a bit of fun then great, but for a serious cup of tea, I’d personally leave them in the display cabinet.

Mr. Tea infuser

Teahow rating 3/5

mr tea infuser
mr tea infuser

Finally, for a bit of lightheartedness, I just had to add this novelty infuser as a separate item on my list. He’s just great as a gift for that man in your life and perhaps a great way to bring him into your ‘wonderful world of tea drinking’.

It’s a modern design which incorporates the easy to clean silicon, so it won’t get hot or stained. He’s small though, 4.75” x 3.25” x 2” so don’t pick a mug too large. He’s microwave safe and dishwasher safe too so it’s an easy to clean choice.

He works great and easy for him (or her) to make that quick and convenient cuppa. You can get Mr.Tea Infuser from amazon too.

To finish off…

It all boils down to personal choice, and the price for most is pretty cheap! So I’d recommend trying a couple out till you find your favorite tea steeping friend! And don’t forget my recommended tea wares, and check out my Tea Sommelier Course

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