It seems that for every variety of tea out there, there is a different way to prepare it. The basic concept is simple: heat water, steep leaves in water, separate the leaves from the water, drink. And yet, there are myriad ways to do it.
Take the basic teapot, for example, in which the leaves are free to float around – often called the Agony of the Leaves. When the tea is poured, it may be poured through a strainer to catch the leaves, or perhaps the teapot has a strainer built into the spout. Unfortunately, if the teapot is not drained at once, the leaves may overstep resulting in a bitter cuppa that no amount of milk and sugar can fix.
I grew up with infuser balls, little mesh spheres that contain the leaves within the cuppa or pot. They are small, easy to use, and often come with adorable charms on the end of the chain used to pull them out of the hot liquid. Unfortunately, they do not allow large-leafed teas such as oolong to fully expand and release their flavor. They are nice for teas that do not fully expand, such as Irish Breakfast.
While the tea ball is the most basic infuser, there are many varieties that play off of the same idea, such as tea sticks or baskets that rest in your teacup or pot. The key to choosing a good one, once again, is to make sure that the leaves have plenty of room to fully expand.
I also like gravity tea makers. These handy devices look like mugs. Simply place the proper amount of leaves inside, fill with boiling water, and steep for the desired amount of time. When placed on top of your mug or pot, they strain out of the bottom. I have been very pleased with the several brands that I have used.
If you really want to go the fancy route, there are several electric tea makers which heat water to the proper temperature, steep, and pour after the proper amount of time. Whichever way you go, enjoy your cuppa!
You can get the scoop on all things tea from Stephanie’s blog!