“I never use a teapot!” Yes, it’s true. Some tea drinkers don’t steep tea in a teapot. And we’re not just talking about folks who dunk a teabag in some hot water in a mug. We’re talking about those “alternate” tea steepers. Here are five such alternatives for you to try (or maybe you already use one or more of these):
Available in ceramic, stoneware, glass, even metals, these steeping bowls with lids and little saucers have been used for centuries and are considered the traditional way to enjoy many of the finer Chinese, Taiwanese, and other oolongs, greens, whites, and even black teas. Pu-erhs are especially good when steeped in them. The idea is to fill them with dry tea leaves, add water heated to the appropriate temperature for the type of tea you are steeping, and let the steeping commence. The steep times are usually shorter when using a gaiwan (sometimes as little as a few seconds versus minutes in a teapot) and render several more infusions from the same tea leaves. They can be tricky to handle at first and take some practice to master. The bowl and lid can get quite hot. Seasoned gaiwan users, though, find the heat to be inconsequential when compared with the steeping excellence these little devices impart.
2 Steeping/Insulated Mug
This is sort of a variation on the gaiwan melded with a thermos. Steeping mugs are generally equipped with some type of infuser basket, are insulated to keep your tea warm for awhile, and have a lid of some kind (with or without an opening for drinking the tea). They can be overblown and complicated like this one or they can be simple “insulated glasses” or something in-between.
3 Glass Measuring Cup
If you can use a glass teapot to steep tea, why not a glass measuring cup? Sure it’s not as pretty, but if it’s just you and the cat enjoying a quick cuppa, who’s to know? (Bribe the cat with some tuna to keep him/her from giving away your secret.) The real practicality here is that you can heat the water in the microwave and then add the dry tea directly to it. While I wouldn’t advocate this as a habitual routine, it will certainly do in a pinch. After all, when you need a cuppa, you need a cuppa!
4 A Cup-sized Infuser
No teabag dunking going on here. An infuser that fits inside your cup will allow the tea leaves to move about freely, and you will have the neatness of being able to lift the infuser out of the cup at the right time to assure no oversteeping occurs. I have employed this method on numerous occasions and found the only drawback to be how hot the metal rim of the infuser can get. This is when having a hubby to lift the infuser out for you can come in very handy.
5 Steeping Machine
I don’t use one. I don’t know anyone who uses one. But hey, they’re out there, so I include them here. The big drawback is having to use teas in those expensive little cups, although you can now buy reusable cups to fill with the tea of your choice and use in these machines. Still, high-pressure tea? Where is the calming effect in that? Part of the whole issue of taking time to steep tea is to give you a moment to relax, step out of whatever stressful situation you are in, and take a breath or two, regaining your perspective. Living in our speedy world, though, you might find that speedy cuppa just the thing before heading out to face “them.”
I’m sure there are more out there. Let us know what you use to steep your tea!
See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.
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