I’m full of infusiasm for tea, and there’s more than a few reasons why. For one, if you want to keep your teatime neat while still enjoying fine loose leaf teas, an infuser is your best friend. For another, as a tea lover who prefers to let those lovely tea leaves float free in the teapot or cup, I recognize that sometimes it’s just not practical, and again an infuser is the answer.
For the purposes of this article, I am talking about basket-shaped infusers. They are that happy medium between “floatin’ free” tea leaves and “smothered in a bag” teas (usually containing tea dust). And they make those teas that consist of wonderful tea leaves (large pieces) trapped in a nylon sachet totally pointless. (I just cut open the sachet and dump the pieces in the infuser.)
Basket-shaped infusers (sometimes called “strainers”) have a lot of advantages over other infusing devices, such as tea “sticks,” tea balls, and infuser spoons. This type of Infuser is mostly larger. They don’t, therefore, cramp you tea style. They’re a great way to get the most of your tea dollars without the mess of loose tea in the teapot.
Fortunately, these infusers are plentiful and come in a variety of shapes and sizes (the bigger, the better). Their popularity among tea lovers who want something more than “office tea” on the job is quite understandable.
Some infusers are made of stainless steel, and others of nylon. Some are clear plastic, while still others are ceramic. Some are even glass. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
The ceramic and glass infusers, usually included with a teapot or mug, can be used with full leaf or large piece teas. However, they are breakable, and teas made of fannings or dust will flow through the holes and end up in your cup. Some of the plastic ones have larger holes like this, too. Further, they often don’t allow enough interaction between the tea and the water to give you a full infusion of the tea.
Finer mesh strainers are needed for teas made of tiny tea leaf pieces. Stainless steel infusers not only have this fine mesh but stand up to high temps, can be put in the dishwasher, and are less likely to absorb tea tastes. Most nylon strainers do, too. Plastic and nylon strainers become stained by the tea, and you can only unstain them with bleach (be sure to rinse very well so that you get off all the bleach). Better yet, have a bevy of infusers on hand.
Just as having a bevy of teapots (one for each type of tea as a bare minimum) to keep the taste of one tea from overwhelming the taste of another, a bevy of tea infusers and strainers is a great idea. This isn’t just because of the tea staining, but also so that you can dedicate them to various tea types. Remember that some spices and flavorings added to teas are very strong and enduring. Cinnamon is a prime example. Once your nylon or plastic infuser has been used to steep a tea with cinnamon in it, you could have cinnamon tea thereafter when using that infuser.
If you’re using your infuser in a cup, mug, or glass teapot, get ready to enjoy the show. You can watch the action as your tea leaves open in response to the hot touch of the water on them, giving you a visual experience to make your tea enjoyment complete. An infuser large enough to fill the cup or mug is a good idea, since it will give your tea leaves plenty of stretching room, resulting in a more intense and flavorful infusion.
I hope this has given the tea lover in you good guidance on how to enjoy loose teas in your place of work. You don’t have to settle for “office tea” ever again, thanks to basket-shaped infusers. Yay!
For more tips on preparing a delicious cup of tea, visit A.C.’s marvelous blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill!