As easy as it is to simply put a tea bag into a mug and pour boiling water on top, brewing loose leaf tea is worth the extra effort for its vibrant flavor and aroma. When brewing loose leaf tea, the tea leaves absorb the water and expand as they infuse, which lets the water extract all of the minerals, vitamins and flavors from the tea leaves as it runs through them. To enjoy a flavorful cup of tea full of health benefits, use a loose leaf tea infuser.
A tea infuser, also called a tea maker or tea ball infuser, is made to hold loose, dried tea leaves as they steep in hot water, either in a mug or teapot. These useful gadgets are ideal for tea lovers, as they provide the perfect way to make loose leaf tea without a hassle. You can make herbal teas like rooibos, chamomile or peppermint, or go for a caffeinated type of tea like green tea, black tea, chai or oolong.
How Do You Infuse Loose Leaf Tea?
1. Heat Water
To infuse loose leaf tea, start by heating the water. Boil it in a tea kettle, electric kettle or stovetop pot, rather than using the microwave. Make sure not to re-boil your water, since this leads to stale-tasting tea. It's important to use the correct water temperature for your tea, since different teas need different temperatures for optimal taste. This chart at Tea Leaves shows how to brew each kind of tea.
2. Fill Infuser With Tea
As the water boils, add your loose tea leaves into the infuser. Choose your favorite tea, or try a new one! Use 1 tsp of tea leaves for every 1 cup of water, and put the tea leaves directly into the brewing basket.
3. Steep Tea and Remove Infuser
Once the hot water has reached the desired temperature, pour water over the infuser basket. Use the steeping chart in step 1 to make sure you're steeping for the optimal flavor, using the correct temperature and amount of time. Once your tea is ready, take out the infuser and enjoy on its own or with honey or milk. Enjoy your freshly brewed loose leaf tea!
Caring for a Loose Leaf Tea Infuser
Now that you know how to use a loose tea infuser, it's important to know how to care for one. Loose leaf tea infusers, or tea strainers, can become discolored or get clogged from the tea leaves when not cleaned often enough.
The clogged leaves keep liquid from seeping through the mesh when you next brew tea, making the process of brewing tea time-consuming and frustrating. As for the discoloration, this is indicative that the protective coating on the infuser is coming off, which can be potentially hazardous. To avoid clogging and discoloration, make sure to clean your tea infuser every few times that you make tea. Here are the best methods to keep your infuser as good as new.
1. Baking Soda
To use the baking soda method, mix 1 tsp of baking soda into a cup of hot water. Soak your tea strainer in this for 3-4 hours. After it's done soaking, rinse for a few minutes thoroughly, and wash with dishwashing liquid to ensure that no trace of baking soda remains.
2. White Vinegar
White vinegar is often used for cleaning, and it makes a great solution for a dirty tea infuser. To use white vinegar, fill a bowl with vinegar and water, using a 1:1 ratio. Soak your tea strainer in the bowl for 3 to 4 hours, longer if you have stubborn stains. Then, rinse and thoroughly wash with dishwashing liquid.
We don't recommend using bleach unless you've tried baking soda and vinegar, since bleach is very strong and can be toxic if not thoroughly removed. To use bleach, add 1/4 cup of bleach to a cup of water and mix. Soak your tea strainer for about 20 minutes. Then, take it out and rinse thoroughly under running water. Wash with dishwashing liquid and ensure that all bleach is removed.
If you soak your loose leaf tea infuser and you find that there are still tea leaves clogging the mesh holes, you may need to scrub your tea infuser to get rid of them. For this method, you'll start by holding your infuser over a gas flame for about 3 minutes, watching all stained areas to make sure that they become black. Wear an oven mitt to make sure not to burn your hand.
Then, let your infuser cool. It will look black and charred, but don't worry, this will all come off when you start scrubbing. Use one of the solutions mentioned above and soak the infuser. While it soaks, scrub the mesh as hard as you can with a toothbrush, continually dipping in the solution. This process should eventually cause all the stuck particles to come off. When you're done scrubbing, thoroughly rinse your tea infuser. It should be good as new!
What is the best tea infuser?
If you're ready to own your own tea infuser for the most flavorful, vitamin-rich tea, here are 5 of the best tea infusers on the market.
1. VAHDAM Square Stainless Steel Tea Infuser
This $6.99 stainless steel mesh tea infuser is ideal for brewing loose leaf tea. It's easy to use, allowing you to simply open the top and put the tea leaves in. The closely knit stainless steel mesh allows the flavorful tea to come out without letting any leaves escape. Reuse this high quality tea infuser with the used tea leaves to steep a second cup of tea if you like!
2. Yoassi Large Stainless Steel Tea Infuser
The Yoassi Stainless Steel Tea Infuser is another excellent option, shaped with two handles to rest on the edge of a cup, mug or teapot. The extra fine mesh holes will keep fine-leaved tea secure as water seeps out. This $11.99 dishwasher safe infuser has a larger capacity than other classic options, so it's perfect if you want to brew a large amount of tea for a group or to sip on throughout the day.
3. Mora Ceramics Tea Cup with Loose Leaf Infuser, Spoon and Lid
If you're in need of a tea mug along with a tea infuser, this $19.99 set is the way to go. This ceramic tea cup has a lid to keep your tea hot, which also functions as a coaster to hold the infuser when you're done steeping your tea. The titanium-coated herbal tea strainer fits perfectly with the cup or any other mug or teapot for freshly brewed tea.
4. OTOTO Baby Nessie Loose Leaf Tea Infuser
You can drink high-quality, vitamin-rich loose leaf tea while also using an adorable dinosaur tea infuser! This $16.75 "brew-tea-ful" silicone tea infuser has a steeping spoon, which is Nessie's neck. Simply pour hot water over Nessie and allow your loose leaf tea to steep.
5. Hiware Glass Teapot with Removable Infuser
If you need a teapot along with a tea infuser, this $22.99 teapot and infuser set is ideal. The removable stainless steel mesh infuser can be used in the teapot or with a mug or cup. The teapot is heat resistant and can be placed in the microwave oven or on a stove top, along with being dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
If you're new to the world of loose leaf tea and are still figuring out which kinds you like, here's a loose leaf tea sampler with 10 different popular teas to try out. Enjoy your foray into loose leaf tea!