Tea being strained on a green ceramic cup

What Is a Tea Strainer?

What is a tea strainer? This would be the first thing you’ll ask when steeping loose leaf tea. To help you prepare a good cup of tea, we’re going to explain what a tea strainer is, along with its types, benefits, and how to use it.

What Is a Tea Strainer?

A tea strainer is a small steeping device you place over a cup to catch loose tea leaves. Like a typical strainer, a tea strainer gets all the leaves out of the pot when pouring tea into a cup. 

When brewing tea in a teapot, you won’t be using teabags to contain the leaves. Hence, the tea leaves remain freely suspended in the water. Since you won’t be needing the leaves when you drink the tea, you should use a strainer to collect and remove the leaves.

History of Tea Strainers

Tea strainers became popular as early as the 18th century, as people looked for ways to catch tea leaves before they hit the base of cups.

The use of tea accessories dates back to when Dutch merchants made tea more easily obtainable in the Western world. As British royals increased the drink’s popularity, even spreading it to American colonies, the demand for tea accessories also grew.

However, it was in the 19th century when stainless steel tea strainers gained widespread attention. Some companies produced sterling silver strainers for well-off families, while others mass-produced stainless steel strainers for a lower price.

A tea strainer used for fruit teas

Types of Tea Strainers

Nowadays, a tea strainer comes in a variety of materials and designs. It has come a long way from traditional bamboo and linen, as strainers evolved into gold plating, porcelain, line, stainless steel, mesh, and even silicon.

You may also see antique sterling silver strainers for a more ornate touch, particularly if you love collecting tea sets. Furthermore, strainers can have either long or short handles. Some tea strainers also have a nest or infuser.

In addition to the small holes that trap the bulk of leaves, some tea strainers include fine mesh to hold smaller particles or torn leaves. This is perfect if you don’t like getting leafy residue on your cups. 

Advantages of Using a Tea Strainer

The global tea market expects growth of $318 billion by 2025. With such growth comes a potential introduction of more tea accessories.

However, a tea strainer would remain as one of the essential tools for brewing tea because of its several benefits.

  • Versatility: Unlike an infuser, a tea strainer enables you to steep loose leaf tea in any kind of brewing tool, whether a teapot or kettle.
  • Excellent filtration: Other tea infusers tend to have large holes, letting bits of loose leaves get into the water. The good thing is that most tea strainers have smaller holes, ensuring you don’t end up with a mouthful of loose leaves when drinking a cup of tea.
  • Easy to clean: It doesn’t take a lot of effort to clean tea strainers, especially stainless steel ones. You can even put them directly in a dishwasher. You won’t have to worry about stains or rust.
  • Reusable: You might only use tea sticks, filters, and tea bags once or twice. On the other hand, a tea strainer saves you money by allowing you to reuse it countless times.
  • Gorgeous designs: While aesthetics should be a bonus factor, part of the brewing experience is choosing the accessories you like. The color, material, and style of various tea strainers may add to the joy of preparing a cup of tea.

How to Use a Tea Strainer

Aside from water, tea is among the most widely consumed beverages in the world. In fact, you can find tea in nearly 80% of American households. With that said, let’s go over how you can best prepare a hot or iced tea with the help of a tea strainer.

  1. Depending on your preference, put about 1 tablespoon of loose tea leaves in the strainer.
  2. Place the tea strainer over the cup. 
  3. Pour hot water directly on top of the tea strainer.
  4. Steep for 5 to 10 minutes (or per the instructions for your chosen tea), or depending on how strong you like your tea. The longer you steep, the more flavor you will get.
  5. Let the water go through the tiny holes of the strainer. The tea strainer would prevent the leaves from entering the cup.
  6. Lift the tea strainer from the cup.
  7. Optional — Add milk, citrus fruits, or maple syrup.
  8. Drink up, and pair your tea with finger sandwiches or scones.

Another way is to brew a pot of tea in a teapot. Then, put the tea strainer on top of a cup. As you pour the tea into the cup, let the strainer filter out the leaves and residue. 

A tea strainer placed on a table with a clear glass tea pot and tea cup

Related Questions

What’s the Difference Between a Tea Strainer and Tea Infuser?

Tea strainers are usually placed over a cup, whereas infusers are typically submerged in a cup or a pot when brewing. Another difference is that strainers let leaves stay freely in the water, while infusers prevent loose leaves from floating around.

How Should I Choose a Tea Strainer?

Choose an easy-to-clean strainer since the leaves may get stuck in crevices. It’s also crucial that you consider the size of the holes, as smaller holes mean fewer leaves will flow. Finally, make sure a tea strainer has a deep indent so that the tea leaves won’t spill over quickly.

What Steeping Accessories Can I Use Aside from a Tea Strainer?

Aside from a tea strainer, you can steep leaves using infuser balls, infusing spoons, brew baskets, and tea bags. You can also use tea eggs, paper filters, cotton filters, and stick infusers.


A tea strainer aims to make your tea brewing experience simpler. Make sure to use it properly, and you can even reuse your loose tea leaves next time. We hope this can help encourage you to add a tea strainer to your collection of tea accessories!

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