Whether you choose a strainer or an infuser when preparing your tea and then what kind of strainer and infuser, will depend on how you normally enjoy taking your tea.
Strainers are ideal when serving lovely, big teapots that don’t contain their own infusers. The leaves are allowed to dance around without restriction ready to be captured in an awaiting strainer sitting patiently on a teacup and saucer. Infusers, on the other hand, keep your tea leaves contained as they neatly steep in your cup or your teapot.
Strainers can range from ornate to very simple in design. Most are made from stainless steel but very traditional strainers may be silver plated, which can tarnish. These days that silver plated look is often mimicked with a rhodium plated finish, which looks just as shiny without tarnishing.
Mesh or Holes:
What tea leaves you use may also dictate what kind of strainer is best for you. This is because strainers are usually either made of mesh or are a solid body with holes. Solid strainers do look nicer but may not necessarily be practical for catching smaller/broken leaf teas. Mesh is obviously finer and will therefore prevent fewer tea particles from landing in your cup. Holes in solid strainers tend to be quite big so these might be a better option for large leaf teas or herbal tisanes, which are less likely to slip through.
Another feature to consider is the shape of the strainer’s body in terms of depth. While some have a substantial concavity, others can be somewhat shallow, which causes leaves to slosh off the sides into your cup as they’re poured out. More often than not, these shallow strainers also have solid bodies (as opposed to mesh) thus contributing to more spillage as liquid quickly accumulates on the surface area. However, this is usually overcome by just pouring your tea a little slower so the liquid has time to filter through the holes.
Some teapots will come with their own basket infusers; however, sometimes basket infusers can be purchased separately. If purchasing a basket infuser for your teapot, just remember to measure the diameter of the opening and check whether the lid will be able to sit back on the teapot once an infuser is sitting inside (basket infusers are only available in-store at The Tea Centre – not online).
The other alternative is an enclosed infuser, which usually has a chain that can be attached to the handle of a teapot as it sits inside. Chains of these infusers are fine enough that the teapot lid is usually able to sit unencumbered by the chain. The feature to consider when buying one of these infusers is the size. It needs to be big enough to hold however many teaspoons of tea leaves your teapot requires, keeping in mind also that they will expand. Additionally, remember the diameter of the opening to your teapot to ensure that the infuser is not too wide and will actually be able to get inside.
Single serve infusers for cups/mugs are incredibly varied. Some come with a handle or a chain, some float, some are basket-like. As a result, some may be easier to rinse out than others, some may hold small tea leaves more effectively, or some might just look nicer in general.
Serious tea drinkers may prefer the deeper, basket-like mug infusers — these allow tea leaves to expand fully and move around more, are perhaps the least fuss to clean, and some styles even come with a lid to keep your tea warm as it steeps. But really, when it comes down to it, all infusers will generally get the job done.
Handy Brew Tea Maker:
The Handy Brews (also called Perfect Brew) is one of the more elaborate infusers on the market. More teapot-like or jug-shaped in appearance, the Handybrew in fact dispenses tea from its base through a patented filtration system. Not quite a teapot, but an infuser unto itself, the Handy Brew was designed to get the most out of your favourite tea leaves as well as being very easy to clean.
DIY Teabags & Tea Socks:
Teabags, filter bags, infuser bags, paper pouches, whatever you want to call them, are a great way of creating the convenience of a teabag using the quality of a loose leaf tea. Once you’re done infusing, simply dispose of them thus avoiding having to clean an infuser and because they’re biodegradable, they make an eco-friendly addition to any compost pile. The only thing to consider would be how these bags need to be sealed before use. Some are self-sealing, whilst others may require a clip to keep the bag closed.
Tea socks are a larger option more suited to teapots and are reusable as opposed to tea bags. They also make a great tool for cooking as many people also like to use them for steeping various aromatics to infuse broths and the like.