If you’re doing loose tea, you’re going to want something to steep your tea in. There are a BAZILLION options for doing this. It’s fantastic, but it’s also overwhelming. Here are a few options that can help you find your favorite way to steep.
The Tea Ball (and variations thereof): This is one that most people are familiar with. The ol’ tea ball. Just put you tea inside, dunk into your mug or pot of hot water, and pull out when you’re done.
There are also a ton of cute options for this style of strainer. Check out Mr. Tea:
Bawwww. Or how about this Mana-Tea?
Flipping cute, right? There are also little tea robots, shark fins…the cuteness factor in these tea ball variations is off the charts.
One my favorite variations is this little tea ball tree. Fill the ball with tea and put it in your cup. Once it’s steeped, you can pull the plate off and the ball swings back onto the tray to drip. Neat!
Tea Ball Pros:
- Generally inexpensive (a plain tea ball will only run you a couple bucks at most kitchen or grocery stores)
- Small and portable.
- Fit in a variety of mugs, tumblers, and pots.
- Easy to clean.
Tea Ball Cons:
- They don’t allow the tea leaves to expand very much. Unless it’s a particularly big tea ball, the leaves with open with no place to go. This can affect the flavor.
- The opening in the middle of most tea leaves can let leaves slip out and roam loose in your cup.
- Holes tend to be big and release particles into your cup.
The Tea Basket – This is a simple basket, usually made of fine mesh with a metal or plastic frame. Most are designed to fit most mug and teapot mouths for versatility.
Tea Basket Pros:
- Also fairly inexpensive.
- Most come with a lid/drip saucer like the one in the picture so that you have something to set your strainer on once it’s steeped.
- Easy to clean.
- The mesh catches most of the particles and gives you a clean cup of tea.
- It’s easy to use – there are no pieces to put together or fiddle with.
- Most baskets give your tea enough room to expand as it steeps.
Tea Basket Cons:
- It may not fit extremely or narrow rims on some cups or pots.
The Teapot with Infuser: Some tea pots have little mesh, glass, or steel baskets included with them. Yay, tea pot and steeper all in one! These baskets function the same way one would if you bought it separately. Put your tea in the basket, put basket in pot, pour in water. Remove basket after the steep time is done.
Infuser Teapot Pros:
- The basket conveniently fits your teapot rim.
- Easy to clean.
- Mesh baskets usually make a pretty clear brew.
Infuser Teapot Cons:
- Metal baskets can be tricky to remove from the hot water with fingers or tongs.
- Not versatile – most baskets just fit that particular teapot.
- Basket sometimes has a shapeless bottom that doesn’t sit upright when you take it out to drip.
The Aladdin: This is a neat little device if you like to drink your tea on the go and enjoy doing multiple steeps of the same tea. You put your tea in the tea ball-like device inside, which is attached to the lid. Flip a lever and the ball drops into your hot water. Flip the lever back up, and the ball retracts into the lid, keeping your tea from oversteeping. Slick, huh?
- Convenient for on-the-go steeping and drinking.
- Spill-proof lid.
- Made of sturdy double-walled plastic so it’s klutz-proof.
- Avoids the mess of having to remove and store a tea ball.
- If the device breaks (I’m not sure of the longevity of the lever-flipping ball), you’re out of luck.
- Not as versatile as a separate tea ball or basket.
- Plastic can stain over time from tea.
The French Press: The French press is usually used for coffee, and it really works best for coffee. That’s not to say you can’t use it for tea. To use, put your tea inside, the put in the lid, which the press part is attached to. Let your leaves steep, then push the press down to stop the leaves from steeping. Pour and enjoy.
French Press Pros:
- Convenient to use.
- Allows you to see your tea steeping.
- Functions as a steeper and a tea pot.
French Press Cons:
- If you push the press down all the way, you’ll squish the leaves, which can damage the leaves and cause subsequent steeps to be bitter.
- If you use it for coffee, your tea is going to taste like coffee. It takes a very thorough scrubbing to get rid of coffee residue.
- It’s hard to clean.
The Disposable Tea Bag: If you like the comfort of dipping a tea bag in your cup, you can buy disposable paper filters that you can put your own tea in.
Tea Bag Pros:
- Can be nice if you’re transition from bagged tea to loose tea.
- No drip tray or cleanup needed – just toss the bag when you’re done.
Tea Bag Cons:
- Fillable tea bags can be difficult to seal properly.
- Creates more waste and requires replacements.
- Not conducive to re-steeps, but certainly possible.
The Breville One-Touch: This is the tea world’s answer to Mr. Coffee. The Breville One-Touch. It heats your water to the exact temperature, lowers the basket of tea into the water AND raises it when your tea is steeped.
- Fully programmable. There’s a timer button so it will start up at a certain time of day and make your tea.
- There’s a keep warm function.
- Easy to clean.
- Easy to use.
- Lasts a long time.
- Steeper and water heater in one.
- It costs an arm and a leg (Well, $250).
- Not portable.
- Requires an electrical setup.
- Did I mention it’s $250??
Well, there you have it, folks. This is not an entirely comprehensive list of steeping options but it will certainly give you a place to start your research. Find a method that works the best for you and enjoy your tea.