See article text for which of these is which. (ETS images – montage by A.C. Cargill)

See article text for which of these is which. (ETS images – montage by A.C. Cargill)

Forget the teabag and steep your loose leaf tea in an infuser…or even in a strainer. Infusers are one thing. Strainers are another. But sometimes a strainer can double as an infuser. Honest! So how do you choose the one (or more) that’s right for you? Here are a few tips.

Mesh infusers

These are good for those teas where the tea leaves, herbals, and other items (flower petals, etc.) are fairly small. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Which you choose will depend on what you will use them in and your own personal preference. They are usually in two halves that are hinged together. And they often have a chain attached, while others have a handle.

Examples:

  • Heart Mesh Tea Infuser – Stainless steel. Fill with a spoonful of your favorite loose leaf, close it up, and steep just like a teabag. To clean, open it up, shake the used tea out, and rinse well. Measurements: 2.5 inches in diameter. (“A” in the image)
  • Snap Mesh Tea Ball Infuser – Stainless steel. Fill this ball with a spoonful of your favorite loose leaf, close it up, and steep just like a teabag. Dishwasher safe. Can be used with all loose leaf teas. Measurements: 6 inches L x 1.5 inches. (“B” in the image)

More solid tea balls and infusers

On these the holes are usually a bit larger and fewer in number. That means less contact of those tea leaves and herbals with the water. Unlike the mesh infusers, you will probably get a less intense steep. The larger holes also mean you need to use them with teas where the leaf pieces are larger (but not too large) and they don’t have other thing in them, such as lots of spices, that could leech through those holes. These also come in other designs, such as ones shaped like teapots.

Examples:

  • Mini Tea Ball – 1.25 inch – 18/8 stainless steel. Fill with a spoonful of your favorite loose leaf, close it up, and steep just like a teabag. Intended mostly for mug use. To clean, open it up, shake the used tea out, and rinse well. Measurements: 1.25 inches x 1.5 inches. (“C” in the image)
  • Tea Ball – 1.75 inch – 18/8 stainless steel. Fill with a spoonful of your favorite loose leaf, close it up, and steep just like a teabag. To clean, open it up, shake the used tea out, and rinse well. Measurements: 1.75 inches in diameter. (“D” in the image)
  • Snap Heart Tea Infuser – 18/8 stainless steel. Fill with 1 teaspoon of your favorite loose leaf tea, snap shut to hold your tea in place while steeping, dip into your teacup, and stir. Rinse with water and hang to dry. Dishwasher safe. Makes great tea party and bridal shower favors. (“E” in the image)
  • Teapot Tea Infuser with Caddy – Stainless steel. Teapot-shaped, comes with its own caddy. Fill halfway with your favorite loose leaf, close it up, and steep just like a teabag. The caddy acts as a drip tray. Dishwasher safe. Infuser Measurements: 1.5 inches x 1 inch, Capacity 1 teaspoon. (“F” in the image)

Mesh strainers

I’m one of those folks (and we are growing in number) who forego the teabag and steep the tea loose. So a strainer is a must, pouring from the steeping pot into the serving pot (my 2-teapot method as described here). You could also just strain into cups, especially if you are making a smaller amount, not the 6 cups (48 ounces) that we do. You can also put the dry tea leaves and herbals into the strainer and set it on the top of the cup filled with hot water and let steep that way. Here again the size of the mesh is important, with a finer mesh being needed for those teas ground to a finer dust.

Examples:

  • Mesh Tea Strainer – 18/8 stainless steel. Sits securely over your mug, allowing you to pour your hot water over it. The 1 inch deep fine mesh bowl catches even the smallest tea leaf. Dishwasher safe. Dimensions: 7.25 inches L x 2.5 inches W. Please Note: You will only receive (1) mesh tea strainer (not several as the photo shows). (“G” in the image)
  • Double Ear Conical Strainer – 18/8 stainless steel. The design allows for an even, more secure hold onto your mug. Dishwasher safe. Dimensions: 3 inches x 1.93 inches x .51 inches (“H” in the image)

Larger-holed strainers

Just as with tea balls, these strainers have larger holes and so should be used with teas and herbals that have larger pieces. These often have a matching dish for the strainer to sit in between uses.

Fortunately, the options of each are plentiful, with new ones coming out all the time.

Example:

  • English Tea Strainer – Chrome finish adds touch of elegance. Fits over the rim of your cup to catch loose leaves as you pour your tea. (“I” in the image)

Ditch the teabag

Go with an infuser or strainer. You will notice a true flavor difference that is sure to delight!

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

© Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog, 2009-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this article’s author and/or the blog’s owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Online Stores, Inc., and The English Tea Store Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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