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When it comes to drinking tea, organic loose leaf tea is the gold standard. All loose leaf tea requires some type of brewing accessory to prepare it. With so many options available, it can be hard to decide which tea brewing accessory is right for you. This blog will clear up any confusion, as we cover the pros and cons of 13 of the most popular tea accessories.
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Stainless Steel Tea Ball
The stainless steel tea ball is the most popular tea brewing accessory for people who are just dipping their toe into the world of tea. They are constructed of fine mesh stainless steel, and they hold enough tea leaves for one cup of tea. They're cheap, and also easy to use: place a teaspoon of tea into one half of the tea ball, close the latch, and drop it into your cup.
The cons: Stainless steel tea balls are not built to last. The mesh gets dented out of shape rather quickly. The latch will eventually break. The latch doesn't provide a tight fit closure, which results in small bits of tea leaves getting into your cup. Overall: a stainless steel tea ball is a solid way to get started with loose leaf tea, but nearly everyone who starts out with this type of steeper ends up investing in something a more durable.
Scissor Style Tea Ball
Scissor style tea balls are similar to stainless steel tea ball. The steeper part is the same as the tea ball, but the rest of it has a more solid construction, being a tight spring rather than having a latch and chain. Like the stainless steel tea balls, scissor style tea balls are equally inexpensive, and are also extremely popular with new loose leaf tea drinkers.
The cons: Although the overall construction is sturdier than the tea ball, the mesh ball will eventually lose its shape, and you can expect little bits of leaves in your cup.
Bombillas are a special type of drinking straw that originated in Argentina and Paraguay for the purpose of drinking their native tea called yerba mate. Bombillas are metal tubes that are constructed with a filter at the bottom to keep the tea leaves out of the straw (and your mouth.) Although traditionally used for drinking yerba mate, bombillas can be used to drink any kind of loose leaf tea. Place the tea leaves in the cup, pour in the hot water, and drink the tea through the straw. Bombillas are quite inexpensive, and are easy to carry along in a purse or backpack.
The cons: Bombillas are typically made from metal, and will be hot in your mouth, unless you get the type that has a silicone tip like this one. Depending on the construction, the ease of cleaning the filter may vary.
Reusable Muslin Cloth Teabags
Muslin cloth teabags are a popular choice for eco-minded people on a budget. They are inexpensive, reusable, and, being made from unbleached muslin, they are eco-friendly. Muslin teabags are large enough to hold enough tea leaves for up to 6 cups of tea. These teabags can be washed by hand or cleaned in the dishwasher.
The cons: Muslin teabags are not easy to clean; little bits of tea leaves get stuck in the seams. The workaround is to let the bag air-dry, then turn it inside out, shake/brush out all the stuck leaves, then wash by hand. Another downside is that they aren’t all that sturdy. The seams will eventually weaken or tear, and the drawstring can get knotted up or come out entirely.
Drawstring Paper Filters
Drawstring paper filters are a great loose leaf tea steeping option for people who want the convenience of a teabag without sacrificing the quality of loose leaf tea. Drawstring paper filters are extremely easy to use: place the tea leaves in the bag, pull the drawstring, and pop it in your cup. What makes these tea filters so appealing is that there is zero messy cleanup afterward, just toss it in your compost bin or trashcan. They are made of chemical-free paper, and are roomy enough for up to 6 teaspoons of tea.
The cons: The paper filters are not reusable, so you will have to remember to buy another box before you run out of tea.
This sustainable stainless steel universal tea filter is designed to fit over just about any cup or mug. It's easy to use, and easy to wash. This fine precision-holed infuser keeps the tea leaves in the steeper and out of your cup. It's durable, and will hold its shape for a long time, unlike mesh tea balls, which lose their shape rather quickly. The universal filter is roomy; it gives the tea leaves plenty of room to expand and release their flavors. As a bonus, it can also double as a strainer.
The cons: Although this steeper is designed to last a long time, it costs just over $20, and many people who are new to loose leaf tea don’t want to spend that much in the beginning. The other extremely minor nit-picky drawback is that you need a plate or saucer to set it on after you’re done brewing the tea.
Ceramic Infuser Mug
Ceramic mugs with a built-in stainless steel infuser are the perfect all-in-one for daily tea drinkers. The infuser is high quality, the mugs are sturdy, and they come with a lid that keeps the aromatic vapors in your tea while it steeps rather than dissipating off into the universe. The lid doubles as a coaster to set the infuser on once your tea is done steeping.
There really aren’t any downsides, except this: these mugs hold a decent amount of tea, which will end up getting cold if you don’t drink it quickly enough. If you want every single sip of tea to be piping hot, most infuser mugs are going to be too big for you.
Insulated Bamboo Travel Tumbler
If you want to make sure to have your tea wherever you are, these travel tumblers are a great choice for you. The interior is made from insulated stainless steel, so it’s going to keep your tea wicked hot or ice cold for up to 24 hours. The lid seals well, so you won’t have to worry about tea leaking all over the stuff in your bag. These insulated bamboo tumblers come with a snug-fitting removable steeping basket.
The cons: It’s not dishwasher safe. The interior is deep, so you will need a bottle brush to clean it. If the bamboo exterior repeatedly gets wet, it can buckle or peel. And lastly, it really does keep your tea smokin’ hot, which can lead to an unpleasant scalding surprise in your mouth.
Many people didn't know this, but, yes, you can use a French press for tea as well as coffee. French presses are elegant, and are beautiful as well as functional. They’re also easy to use: the tea leaves go into the glass beaker, followed by hot water. Leave the plunger up while the tea steeps, then press the plunger down once the tea is fully brewed. This drives the tea leaves to the bottom and separates them from the tea. If you're already using a French press for your coffee, get a separate one to use for tea.
The cons: Cleaning the plunger is quite important, as tea leaves tend to get stuck between the three layers if you don’t loosen it or take it apart each time to clean it. The trouble many people run into is that they forget how to put it back together again. My own hack for cleaning the plunger is that I don’t take it apart all the way; I simply loosen the parts and run them under water until all the tea leaves are washed out. The other downside of making French press tea is that even after plunging down the leaves, any tea remaining in the press will continue to brew. For many herbal teas, this isn’t a problem, but for black, green, oolong, or white tea, it will get bitter.
Porcelain teapots are sturdy, versatile, hold heat well, and are easy to clean. Your grandmother probably had a ceramic teapot. Old school porcelain or ceramic pots often had no strainer or infuser; the tea leaves simply floated loose in the pot. Many modern porcelain teapots come with a fitted fine mesh tea infuser, keeping the leaves out of your cup.
The cons: although porcelain teapots look like they would be perfect for setting on the stove to heat your water, they are not intended for stovetop use. You need to heat the water in a kettle or saucepan first. Serious tea drinkers know that you need to warm your kettle first before brewing tea in it, or the heat from the water will go into the pot, and your tea will be cooler than is ideal for a proper brew. Pre-heating the pot is easy, however: simply pour a little boiling water into the pot and swish it around to warm it. Discard the pre-heat water, and now you’re all set to brew your tea.
Glass Kettle/Pot Combo
These glass kettle/pot combos are great for the minimalist who appreciates the fact that you can heat your water and steep your tea all in one vessel. These kettles are made from heat tempered borosilicate glass, and are suitable for use on both gas and electric burners. To use, heat the water to the desired temperature, remove from the burner, and pop in the stainless steel tea steeper. If your tea grows cold, simply warm it back up on the stove.
The cons: It’s glass. Glass can break. It also doesn’t travel well.
Cast Iron Teapot
Cast iron teapots are made to last forever. They keep your tea hot for a good while, and are pleasing to the senses. There is something timeless about drinking tea brewed in a cast iron pot. This type of tea ware can get passed down through the generations. You will occasionally have to replace the mesh infuser, but a well-cared-for pot will last for many years.
The cons: Like other cast iron kitchen tools, a cast iron teapot requires some care. Along with regular cleaning, these pots should be oiled occasionally to prevent rusting. Similar to the ceramic teapot, you must warm your cast iron pot before using it, or you will end up with lukewarm tea. These teapots get hot, and can burn your hand and your table, so handle with care and always set the pot on a trivet, and not directly on the table. Although they are metal, they are not intended for stovetop use. And lastly, they're heavy, so don’t accidentally drop it on your foot.
The Breville Tea Maker
The Breville tea maker is for people who are in a long term committed relationship with their tea. The Breville is for people who are willing and able to make a solid investment into a tea maker that will make a perfect cup of tea every time. Different types of teas require different water temperatures and steeping times, and with the Breville tea maker, all these settings are pre-programmed right into it. Green tea, herbal tea, black tea, it doesn’t matter; with a single touch of a button, you decide which type of tea to brew, and how strong you want it. It will also keep your tea warm for 60 minutes. Like a coffee maker, you can program this tea maker to brew your tea automatically in the morning.
The cons: This baby ain’t cheap. With taxes, you're going to invest close to $300. But if you're serious about drinking great tea, this automatic tea maker will be worth its weight in gold. I have never met anyone who regretted their purchase of a Breville tea maker.
So there you have it: 13 different ways to brew your loose leaf tea!