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Last Updated on February 10, 2021 by Scott
When stripped down to its essence, the very act of making tea is extremely simple – combine hot water and tea leaves. However, getting that perfect cup after this apparently simple task may not be as easy as it sounds without the right equipment. In order to do that, it would help to learn how to use a tea infuser.
Whereas the act of making tea combines two different elements, tea leaves, and water, the final product is a liquid by itself. The flavor, essential oils, nutrients, and aroma from the tea leaves are infused into the water to create our final drink. If there are still remnants of the tea leaves at the bottom of our teacup, the experience loses something.
It happens often enough – tea remnants ending up at the bottom of our cup, spoiling that last sip. Correctly using a tea infuser can reduce or even completely stop this from happening.
What is a Tea Infuser?
In its most simple form, a tea infuser is a device that holds tea leaves together while allowing water to pass through. Tea infusers come in many different shapes including baskets, eggs, spoons, and even cartoon characters. They are primarily made from mesh or perforated metal, but can also be made from wood, silk, or silicon.
The main purpose of a tea infuser is, by steeping in hot water, to pass the flavor and essence of tea leaves into the final beverage while keeping the leaves themselves from becoming part of the tea. The infuser is most commonly removed after the initial steeping process, although some designs are able to stop steeping after a certain amount of time.
Eastern brewing methods call for tea leaves to float freely in hot water, and as such do not call for a tea infuser. Yixing pots, common brewing teapots in Eastern tea culture, have an integrated filter to help keep large leaves from pouring into teacups when the tea is served. However, the holes on these pots can be somewhat large, so they need to be used with tea leaves that have large leaves.
When using full leaf tea, it is a good idea to keep the intentions of Eastern tea brewing in mind. This method is based on large, dried tea leaves being able to expand as they absorb water and release their nutrients. If the leaves are contained too tightly without enough space to expand, they will not be able to express their entire flavor profile and health benefits.
What Do You Need to Use a Tea Infuser?
In addition to the infuser itself, the process of brewing tea needs a few different items. Generally you will want an infuser, something to heat water with, a vessel to infuse in, and of course, tea.
- Tea Infuser – Be sure to use an infuser with holes large enough/enough holes to pass water through, but not too large that the tea you are using passes through to the final cup.
- Tea Kettle – Whether a stovetop kettle or one of the more recent electric tea kettles with temperature control, a kettle to heat water to the desired temperature is a must for infusing tea.
- Teapot or Mug – This will be based on how much tea you will be steeping at once. A teapot should be used for infusing multiple cups of tea, whereas a mug (or teacup) will be for only one serving.
- Tea – The infusion process is not needed for teas that come already packaged in a teabag, so look for full leaf organic teas that will most benefit from the process. If desired, a tea bag can be cut open and poured into a tea infuser.
How to Use a Tea Infuser
- Begin heating water in a tea kettle.
- Measure out the amount of tea, based on the amount of water that will be used, and place into the tea infuser.
- If the infuser has a closing mechanism, be sure it is properly sealed.
- Place the tea infuser into the teapot or tea mug.
- When the water in the tea kettle has reached the desired temperature, pour the recommended amount of water over the tea infuser.
- Let the tea and water steep together for the recommended amount of time.
- Remove the tea infuser from the teapot or mug, serve, and enjoy!
Recommendations for Steeping in a Tea Infuser
Water ratio, temperature, and time, aside from the quality of the tea leaves themselves, are very important factors to consider when brewing tea. There are quite a few teas in the world, and each producer may give you specific instructions for brewing their tea.
If there are directions included with your tea packaging, definitely use them, but if not, we have some basic recommendations. Please test for yourself and find the best ratio and temperature for your favorite teas, these are not meant to be the final word.
Tea to Water Ratio
- 1 tablespoon of large-leaf tea per 8 ounces of water.
- 1 tablespoon of herbal tea per 1 cup of water.
Water Temperatures for Tea
The boiling point of water is 212°F or 100°C, but almost all teas are best steeped at temperatures below that. If you do not have an electric kettle with temperature control or a thermometer, the best thing to do is to take your kettle off the heat for a few minutes to reduce the temperature.
- Black Tea Temperature: 208° – Boiling
- Green Tea Temperature: 170°F – 185°F
- Oolong Tea Temperature: 180°F – 190°F
- White Tea Temperature: 170°F – 185°F
- Herbal Tea Temperature: 208° – Boiling
Steep Times for Tea
Different teas require different steep times to extract everything out of the leaves and infuse the final result with everything the tea has to offer. However, over-extraction can make for a bitter cup of tea. Steeping time will strongly affect the taste of the tea; longer steep times will create a stronger cup.
- Black Tea Steeping: 4-6 minutes
- Green Tea Steeping: 2-4 minutes
- Oolong Tea Steeping: 5-8 minutes
- White Tea Steeping: 4-6 minutes
- Herbal Tea Steeping: Approximately 5 minutes. With a large amount of different types of herbal teas, this is hard to nail down. Start with 5 minutes and judge for yourself.
Different Kinds of Tea Infusers
Basket Tea Infusers
A basket tea infuser like the Finum Mesh Brewing Basket is an excellent choice when brewing tea in a large tea cup, mug, or small teapot. Basket tea infusers rest on the edges of a mug, and with their wide amount of space allow the tea leaves to fully expand while steeping. Be sure that they are made of a material that will let enough water through.
Metal mesh basket tea infusers are great choices for all types of teas. They have a large enough area that will let loose leaf tea leaves fully expand, but the tight weave also keeps small herbal additions of mixed teas from falling into the teacup.
Punched-hole basket tea infusers are not generally recommended, as there are usually not enough holes to let water flow over the leaves naturally. Many times the holes are too large for smaller herbal mixes.
Tea Ball Infusers
The metal tea ball has been a very popular form of tea infuser since around 1900. The simple process of scooping tea into half a ball and sealing it, then dropping it into a hot cup of water, is very appealing for those who appreciate the easy tea bag. They are usually made from a metal mesh that allows water flow through the tea inside.
While very useful in the general sense, tea ball infusers are not recommended for loose leaf teas. Even though only half of the ball is filled, the tea leaves are still quite condensed and not able to expand completely. That being said, tea balls can be very effective with fruit-based herbal teas and blends that do not contain large tea leaves.
Silicone Tea Infusers
Created from heat-resistant silicone, these tea infusers can be created in almost any shape to add a whimsical moment when making a cup of tea. From animal designs to flowers and geometric shapes, silicone tea infusers are able to add a little extra something that standard metal infusers cannot.
One of the main concerns with a silicone infuser is the size and amount of holes that are on the body. When looking for tea infusers, try to approximate the amount of water flow and hole size needed for your most loved teas.
Spoon Tea Infusers
Tea ball infusers are normally closed by a screw action, but the spoon style tea infuser uses a spring lever to close itself. The manufacture, size, and shape are normally the same as a tea ball infuser, and as such have the same pros and cons.
The purpose of a tea infuser is to extract the most flavor out of tea leaves while straining them, keeping the leaves away from the bottom of your cup. Using a tea infuser can be the step that elevates a good cup to a great cup of tea.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.