Often I am asked about the best way to steep tea. And what’s best depends on what type of tea you are drinking, what kind of equipment you own (or are willing to buy) and what fits most into your lifestyle.
TEA BAGS: The easiest and most popular tea delivery method.
Pros: Produces a clean brew – no leaves. Very portable – can be brought with you anywhere.
Cons: The contents tend to be dust & fannings. Leaves so pulverized you can’t identify what you’re drinking. This effects taste and quality.
Extra Idea for Tea Bags: Use different teabags in the same tea pot to create a new “blend”
TEA BALLS: Wire mesh allows for an upgrade to common steeping.
Pros: Brew your favorite loose tea with ease. Generally has more room than tea bags to let the leaves unfurl.
Cons: Smaller leaves may escape if the clasp is not tight enough. Also, anything under 2 ½ to 3” is too small for even a single mug because size really does matter here and you want the biggest tea balls you find so that the leaves have room to steep. Even the biggest tea ball isn’t big enough for a 4-cup tea pot.
FILLABLE TEA BAGS: A unique tea bag alternative.
Pros: These open-ended, permeable sacs that are designed for loose tea, only without the metal (if this is an issue for you). Great for the office.
Cons: Watch for dripping, as fillable sacs wick water from the mug to the top of the fillable bag, getting tea water all over your desk!
BREW BASKET: My favorite method for tea pot or single cup sipping!
Pros: Finally a method that is easy, allows for proper unfurling of the leaves, easy to clean.
Cons: I have no negative feedback on this one….
OPEN STEEP: FOR HERBALS ONLY
Throw the herbs in the water and bring to a boil. Let sit as long as desired. They pour the infusion through a strainer, thus removing the leaves before you drink them.
This method is for herbal infusions only – as a longer steep produces a stronger tasting brew but does not ruin the taste. Herbal infusions are very forgiving in this way. I prefer drinking my herbs with the longest steep time possible. I feel this is a very creative approach to brewing!
FRENCH PRESS: Move over coffee – time for tea!
Pros: What a fun and creative open steep idea that comes with its own built-in straining method. A classy way to present tea to a table full of guests.
Cons: You must have a separate press for your tea, or else you will taste the bitter undertones of coffee. Unless dispensed from the press immediately, over-steeping can occur. Better for herbals, but experiment freely!
GONG FU/TESTUBIN: The more traditional Asian style of tea steeping.
Pro: A wonderfully expressive way to enjoy the true beauty of a tea. This is a ceremony, a ritual. Lots of tea, less water, shorter (and multiple) steeps. Multiple infusions allow for the true taste of the tea to be enjoyed.
Con: Must own special tea accessories and pots. Requires more careful prep and timing. Not for the tea drinker on the go. (but so worth it!)
As I instruct anyone who asks me, go and experiment. Being able to use any number of methods gives you the flexibility based on type of tea, number of people sitting together and the amount of time you have to enjoy your favorite cuppa!
See Madam Pott’s blog, Mad Pots of Tea.
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