One of the things I love about tea is how simple it is to make a beverage that is at once soul satisfying, comforting, energizing, ritualistic, and often exciting.  The key word here, of course, is simple.  My favorite tools for making tea remain simple, light, easy to clean, and elegant.  Reduction of possible points of failure is critical.

I marvel at the fact that the simplest, most efficient, and most elegant tea-making tools are still only available through specialty tea retailers (store or online), eBay, Amazon, or other online retailers, despite the fact that it’s now fairly easy to obtain loose-leaf teas, however dubious in quality, from big box retailers and grocery store chains.

I base an object’s usefulness on the number of times it is mindlessly reached for and used.  When I consider what to stock on our shelves each year and what to recommend to our customers, I consider my daily routine of interacting with tea, the many tea tastings I’ve conducted, and my intensely busy days at the teahouse.

  1. Zojirushi Water Heater: Okay, so it’s not so light, but it is sleek, simple, and easy to clean.  I’ve had the same one (5L Micom) for over seven years, and it’s been a dream.  If you drink tea more than a couple of times a day, it’s worth the investment.  It’s also great to have hot water at your fingertips, including for cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
  2. Paper Tea Filters (Large): Yes, they can seep and drip if left in the cup a long time, and I’ve heard the objection that they inhibit the leaves from expanding fully to release flavor.  But, I’ve tried them all, and the large ones by Finum fit the bill for many different applications – tea to go, travel, tea in a hurry running to the car, tea in Grandma’s old teapot that doesn’t have a strainer, making large amounts of iced tea, and tea for events / catering.  They don’t seep if you pull them out in time, and even though expansion of the leaves isn’t ideal, with the large filters it’s not bad, based on our testing and comparisons.  These filters are also good for bouquets garni and simmering chai or mulling spices as well if you don’t want to take the time to strain your brew.
  3. Wide Mesh, Metal, or Glass Infusers / Strainers: You can turn any mug, tumbler, or teapot into a tea-making device with these, as they’re versatile, light, and easy to clean.  In fact, a cheap, long-handled metal strainer is the perfect travel companion (along with your leaves, of course), provided you have access to decent, non-coffee tainted hot water in your hotel room or at a restaurant.
  4. Gaiwan: If you love good-quality oolongs, whites, and larger-leafed green and black teas, a good gaiwan is a graceful, practical choice.  Most of the teas you’ll put in a gaiwan will likely be re-steeped, so I save the gaiwan for when I have a few hours to spend in one place with my tea drinking.  I love how the gaiwan delivers optimal aromas and flavors across multiple infusions, and you can’t beat how easy it is to clean!
  5. Chasen / Bamboo Whisk: If you’re a regular matcha drinker, a decent chasen is all you need.  Although lovely to behold and fun to use, an expensive teabowl (chawan) or a nice bamboo teaspoon (chashaku) are not essential, but it’s nearly impossible to get a good froth and a perfectly blended bowl of matcha without a chasen.  You can also use it to make matcha slurries to add to beverages and recipes.

How about you?  What are your favorite tea-making tools?

Photo “Nahaufnahme eines Kochsiebs” is copyright under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License to the photographer Marco Verch and is being posted unaltered (source)

Originally posted by Tracy Monson in October 2011