Have you ever considered starting to drink loose-leaf tea instead of bagged, yet didn’t feel up to getting all those fancy accessories you see online – or just not knowing exactly what it is, where to get it and how to make it? If yes to any of those questions, you’ve come to the right place!
Although this post is only going to be discussing the use of loose-leaf tea strainers and which ones I have found to work the best for myself, you can head here for my post on Tea Bags vs Loose-Leaf Tea. Future posts will explain how to prepare loose-leaf tea and where to find more accessories.
What is Loose-Leaf Tea?
Bagged tea is much easier to find in stores and far more popular in Western countries, especilly South Africa. Loose-leaf tea has a plathora of health benefits over the bagged though! Instead of consisting of dust left over from production, loose-leaf teas are actual tea leaves or buds from herbal plants which have been dried and packaged.
If you’re not sure if you want to start drinking loose-leaf teas nor know exactly why they’re considered much better than bagged, you can read my post explaining the difference over here: Tea Bags vs Loose-Leaf Tea.
Strainers – With Loose-Leaf, You Need This
Since there is no tea bag to hold the tea leaves in, you need a strainer (also called an infuser) to do this. Tea strainers are most commonly steel, but some are silicone or a hard plastic. There are so many varieties – some super cute and in animal shapes, others highly practical and minimalistic.
I generally go for the strainers which clean out the easiest since this becomes quite a nuisance.
Types of Strainers – There’s a Hoard of Them
From a meshed ball of steel to a plastic water drop with holes, you can find the most ingenious and adorable infusers for your brew. The most basic categories can be described as baskets, balls and novelty in the sense that almost any shape of infuser can be created. Here are a few examples:
Described as a “brewing basket” on their website, Art of Tea offers this strainer with a stainless steel mesh and a heat tolerable frame for under $10. The lid on the strainer even doubles as a dripping tray! This is super since I always get drops of tea all over my desk when I make loose-leaf tea and forgot to get a saucer to put the strainer on. It’s also dishwasher safe. (Click here to visit their site)
This strainer is without a doubt adorable. With the silicone rubber pants of the man being able to slip off you can out your tea leaves in there and smile while drinking your cup. It isn’t mentioned whether the strainer is dishwasher safe, but you can check the product out over here on Secrets of Tea’s website under their “Gifts” menu.
They have a few other strainers too! I especially like how modern this one looks. It’s made from stainless steel and is dishwasher safe. Another cool aspect is that this pen-like strainer can be clicked to open a compartment for the tea leaves to be inserted!
A more conventional shaped tea infuser, yet updated in material: this cute infuser is based on the spoon type of infuser shape but is made from silicone which is easier to clean. It also comes in white and pink and has a nice silicone cushion for your hands where you squeeze the infuser to open the ball.
Click here to view this product on Kusmi Tea’s website.
A total classic: the stainless teel mesh ball strainer. This type of strainer has been used for loose-leaf tea for years now and is definitely a classic and has been proven over and over to work well. It’s dishwasher safe and can add a tad of elegance to any cup.
I had one of these strainers for years now myself and still use it from time to time. It’s perfect for a single cup of tea and works well. After years of use, the little clasp used to keep the two half-spheres of the strainer together has loosened a bit, allowing small pieces of tea leaves to fall through. Otherwise, it’s great! Click here to go to The Tea Box’s home page. They sell one of these under their “Teaware” menu.
Which Strainers Works Best?
With such a vast variety of tea strainers out there, it’s difficult knowing which one to choose. As I mentioned earlier, I find that the easier a strainer is to clean, the better. Silicone infusers are quite easy to clean if it’s hard silicone, such as the spoon infuser above. Ones with small spaces such as the man one can get annoying when leaves get stuck in those spaces.
Another thing to look out for when choosing a tea strainer is how big the area is for the tea leaves to expand. The more room there is for leaves to expand, the richer flavour you will get and the more nutrients will be present. You should remember to not over fill your strainer since the dry leaves are almost half the size than when you pour water over them.
There are loads of other tea strainers out there which I haven’t mentioned in the examples above – there are simply too many! You can see others on the websites linked to them.
Final Notes and My Strainers at Home
I honestly have way too many strainers…I just love them! There are hundreds of cute novelty ones and also others with different sizes which I use to make a teapot full and smaller ones for a single cup.
I mostly use my spoon-like infuser. The one I have at home doesn’t have a silicone cushion like the one from Kusmi Tea, but rather is made only from stainless steel and has so far given me no major problems.
I hope you found this post helpful, and as always, happy steeping