DragonwellWhat’s your favorite way to infuse tea?  This question of how people infuse their tea or how they feel they need to infuse their tea is an important one to me as I search for ways to make loose-leaf tea as accessible as possible without diminishing its potential to satisfy, quench, calm, stimulate, and inspire.  For me, the ideal is putting as little as possible between those leaves and water.  Time, of course, shouldn’t be discounted, but I really believe that you can learn to intuit the timing after some instruction and practice.

This summer I’ve found that my tea-drinking habits have really changed, discovering that my infusion methods have become dependent upon what best suits my needs at a particular moment.  Getting enough fluids and quenching my thirst have become challenging during this particularly chaotic summer.  A dearth of routine and set school schedules has rendered my quiet, meditative teatime a rare, stolen pleasure.

What follows are my very personal, favorite ways of coaxing that prized liquor out of my leaves, depending on the situation:

Favorite Way 1. I need to hydrate, quickly! After a workout or a long time with no drink (often when doing restaurant work and childcare), I go for iced tea: I let two large pinches of leaves swim freely in a glass tumbler/mug for 2-4 minutes, depending on the tea.  The leaves aren’t constrained and release their gift as freely and beautifully as possible.  Practically foolproof.  Slowly pour over any strainer that suits the type of leaves you’re using into a large glass filled with ice.  Reinfuse as desired.

SenchaFavorite Way 2. I need refreshment during a long run of errands: Hot tea works great for me here, and for this I love the speed and convenience of disposable tea filters.  Pinch enough loose-leaf tea for one glass (I usually use a tall 14 oz. double-walled glass or sturdy mixing glass), place it in a tea filter, dispense water, and run to the car.  Remove the tea filter and place it in an empty cup holder until I can toss it in the compost pile.

Favorite Way 3. I’ve got 15 minutes to celebrate this perfectly unique, imperfect 15 minutes: For this occasion, I love any glass teapot with a larger glass infuser if drinking anything other than an oolong.  After watching the leaves perform their ritualistic dance imbuing the pot with color, I pull out the infuser, obviating the need to decant the tea.

Large, clunky ceramic pots, coffee presses, tea balls, and narrow (difficult to clean) universal infusers don’t work for me.  I realize that there are many gadgets on the market for fool-proofing the brewing of tea and increasing accessibility to novice drinkers.  Innovation is a great thing, particularly if it has staying power and makes economic sense.  For me, simplicity is the ideal.  After all, the essence of tea is just that: leaves and water.

So, how do you infuse your tea at home?