If you love loose leaf tea, it can be hard to find and figure out what tools to use when brewing your tea. For instance, if you try Googling “tea infusers,” you wind up with about 484,000 search results and a mind-boggling array of different choices. There are the more traditional tea balls and metal infusers that fit in or on top of a cup, as well as tea filters, whimsical infusers and some contraptions that fall into a category of all their own. With so many options to choose from, how to do you determine which ones to purchase? Beyond that, how do you know which ones will actually work or will hold up to daily wear and tear? Most tea infusers look attractive; some don’t perform exactly the way their manufactures claim they will. In order to figure out which infusers will give you the most value for your money, I put a few of the more popular ones to the test to see how they stack up.
Those who like the convenience of tea bags but prefer the flavor of loose leaf tea, rejoice! Unlike bagged teas bought in the store, these filters provide room for your tea to unfurl and don’t produce leftover trash: they are compostable; there is no staple, string, or tag involved. They are easy to use: just fill the pouch with a scoop or two of loose leaf tea – make sure to leave enough room to allow the tea to bloom – fold over the top so your tea doesn’t float out, and you are good to go. These bags can be tricky to fill if you don’t have a scoop that fits inside the pouch, but they will keep your tea sediment free.
Twisting Tea Ball
This twisting tea ball infuser by OXO is a little fancier than traditional tea balls when it comes to brewing your tea. The main difference is the “twisting” aspect, which allows you to easily open and close the ball, as well as scoop up your tea. The one downside is that the ball isn’t quite big enough to allow some of the fuller leafed teas to unfurl and release all of their flavor.
The La Cafetiere tea swizzle is similar to the tea ball, but is deigned in the shape of a stick rather than a ball. Like the tea ball, the tea swizzle has a scoop built into the basket where you place the tea, so you can load it up without having to handle your tea. The nice thing about this infuser is that its shape makes it easy to stir honey, milk, or sugar into your tea. Its small size also makes it more convenient for solo-sippers who would rather brew a single cup of tea than a whole pot. The drawback of this infuser’s size is that is does make it possible to overload, which can cause you to have to dig the tea leaves out of it when cleaning up. Yet, unlike many tea infusers that you put in your cup, the mesh on the swizzle is very fine, so no pieces of tea will fall into your cup.
Metal Tea Infuser
Metal tea infusers, are great for brewing just one cup of tea. Especially when they come with their own glass that they fit into, like the Bodum Yo Yo Double Wall Personal Tea Set. The metal strainers are simple to fill and pop into a cup, and the fine mesh keeps all of the tea inside the infuser. Many of these infusers also come with a lid that you can set them on when you are done steeping your tea so you don’t have mess to clean up later.
I’ve seen this Kikkerland stainless steel robot tea infuser on a number of tea blogs, so I was excited to get my hands on one and try it out. Mainly because it is so darn cute! The robot’s body opens up so you can put your tea inside his chest compartment and the arms are adjustable so he can fit in any size mug (or hang from the side of your mug when your tea is done steeping).
However, while this infuser was cute in person, when I examined it up close I noticed the metal it was made out of was thin, and the infuser was not well put together. It felt like I was going to break the infuser just by opening and closing it, and I had trouble getting it to clamp closed. The robot tea infuser seems great in theory, but leaves a little to be desired when it comes to the execution.
Leaf Tea Infuser and Saucer
Both of these infusers by Arta are designed to look like plants, which make them eye-catching even when they aren’t steeping tea in your cup. The first one is designed to look like a potted plant, with a leaf growing out of it. The second infuser is a saucer with a leafy branch and a fruit shaped pod that attaches and hangs from the plant.
To use the potted plant infuser, pull out the plant and place your loose leaf tea inside the perforated metal pot and then stick it in your cup. The stem with the plant leaf is a nice touch and makes the infuser easy to pull out of your cup, much like the tag on a tea bag. It is important that you use a deep mug when using this infuser though, since it is longer than most infusers and wouldn’t be fully immersed in a shallow cup.
For the branch infuser, fill the metal pod (which is equivalent to a tea ball) with tea and snap it on to the branch. Then flip the entire saucer upside down over your cup, so that the branch and pod hang down into the cup. Not only does this look cool (especially if you use a glass cup), but the saucer also keeps your tea warm while it steeps and serves as a place to set your tea ball when you’re done steeping your tea. However, you need to use a large cup to make sure the whole branch and pod will fit into it and will be supported by the top of the cup. In addition, the holes in both of these tea infusers are a little too big, as quite a few tea leaves and particles were able to fall out of the filter and into the cup.
At first glance, the DreamFarm Teafu looks more like a surgical instrument (forceps, anyone?) than something to be used for tea. With its spring loaded, metal clamps that each hold half a red silicon sphere that come to together to make sort of a tea ball, it’s easy to see why someone might be confused. Despite its unique appearance, this infuser does actually work pretty well, but there is a slight learning curve when it comes to using it. The first time I tried it, the two halves of the tea ball popped apart when the device was placed in a mug of hot water, dumping all the tea leaves into the cup. Not easily dissuaded, I decided to have another go with this infuser. The second time around, the two halves stayed firmly together, and the holes in the infuser were even fine enough to keep stray tea particles from leaking out, which created a great cup of tea. However, I’m not entirely sure what I did the second time to get such different results, and when I received the infuser no instructions came with it, so I was unable to determine if I was missing a step. Nevertheless, this infuser is worth learning how to master, since it does produce a great cup of tea.
Ultimately, while whimsical tea infusers are more aesthetically appealing than their traditional counterparts, the tried-and-true tea strainers still seem to produce the best results. Of course, this also depends on how precise you are when making your tea. If you don’t mind that a few stray tea particles fall into your cup – which happens with most infusers – then you might want to purchase a whimsical infuser to surprise your guests with. If, on the other hand, you really dislike any floating pieces of tea in your brew, you should probably go with an infuser that is made with very fine mesh or holes, or try one of the make-it-yourself tea bags.
Images courtesy of the author.
Thanks for this terrific assessment of tea infusers. I’m not one for gimmics however but I’m still intregued with a few you’ve mentioned. For me, the absolute easiest is a small, personal sized tea pot which is emptied entirely into a cup/mug while the remaining wet leaves sit waiting for another pour of hot water. For at work however, mugs with infuser baskets that come out and sit on lids turned into plates are optimal. I think For Life offers a colorful line.
When I first became interested in tea – this was before I really knew what I was doing, I started a collection of little tea balls. I imagined myself using a different one each day. As you can imagine, the vast majority are way too small for use. I’d sure love to know who actually mades those inadequate tea filters. Perhaps they were only ever to be used for show.
Not all bags are created equal. The Adagio ones have a weird funk to them very noticeable when brewing lighter teas.