Here at TeaFrog world headquarters, one of the most often asked questions of new customers is “so, what do I do with this loose tea?”. Many people have at least heard of a tea ball, but the whole preparation of a cup of tea from loose leaves seems to be a bit of an intimidating mystery.
When you are brewing loose leaf tea, there are really only two was to do it. The first is straight forward – simply leave the leaves directly in the water, or place them in some sort of devise that make them easy to remove them from the water. These devices are referred to as infusers.
There are many many different kinds of infusers available. From your basic tea ball, to the BREWT infuser. Easy type of infuser has it advantages and disadvantages, however generally you will choose an infuser based on ease of use, ease of cleaning, and based on the type of tea that you drink.
The tea ball is about the most common type of infuser. Shaped like a ball, it usually opens in half. You place your leaves in one half, and latch the other half down to keep the leaves in the ball. You then place that in the water and let the tea infuse.
There are many drawbacks to the tea ball. First, it is a pain to clean, and the smaller the leaf, the more will get stuck in the mesh. Second, because you are dealing with two half’s and latching, it can be a pain to get the tea in and the latch closed without loosing some tea. The tea ball also keeps the tea compressed and does not give much room for large leaf tea to fully expand, keeping the full flavor of the tea from being released. The biggest advantage of the tea ball is that it tends to be cheap, and readily available.
There are also many different variations of the tea ball, including a tea pincer, which makes filling easier, as the half’s separate with pressure on the handle, but it still has the same drawbacks as the latching balls in that the tea does not fully expand and the mesh is not fine enough to keep the smaller leaves from your water.
Tea Bag Filters
One often overlooked method of brewing your tea is to create your own loose leaf tea bags. Using a T-Sac tea bag, you can do just that. Simply place your loose leaf tea in the provided tea bag filter, and seal it using an iron, sealer or even just a staple, and you instantly have your own tea bag!
The T-Sac filters are environmentally friendly and can be composted. They are made from a specially developed paper composite and are unbleached, which also ensures that the taste of your tea is unaffected in the brewing process. Because they are so small and convenient, it is easy to make a couple up to take with you to the office, or out for a meal at your favorite restaurant. I find that I am very disappointed when I get a tea bag of generic tea after a nice meal, so I make sure that I have my own loose leaf tea bag at the ready when we go out!
The basket infuser is a step up from the tea balls in all ways. Many teapots that you purchase now come with basket infusers included. They can be glass, ceramic or plastic, with mesh or just holes in the bottom to allow the water to hit the leaves.
The best basket infusers, such as the Finum Basket Infuser, have a very fine mesh covering the whole basket area. This allows the water to flow over the whole basket of leaf. Other designs with the holes only in the bottom of the basket tend to neglect the top leaves in the basket. You should also look for a basket infuser that will sit it a teapot and tea cup directly, and not limit yourself to only one container for brewing your tea.
The Finum Basket Infuser is a plastic infuser with a stainless steel mesh that is very fine, keeping all your leaves in the basket, even the small Rooibos leaves. It has tabs on the top of the basket to sit it in tea pots, travel mugs, cups, or any other container that you would make your tea in. It is dishwasher safe, and a snap to clean. Just tap out your leaves to the compost, and rinse the basket out. It even comes with a lid that couples as a drip tray for when you remove the basket from the container.
The last major type of infuser is a self contained pot/infuser that makes tea brewing easier than any other method we have ever seen at TeaFrog. The BREWT infuser is a high impact plastic “jug” that looks stylish and is simple for anyone to use. You simply measure your leaves into the container, and pour your water over the leaves. When your infusion time is up, place the BREWT infuser on your cup or mug, and the water comes out of the BOTTOM of the container, directly into your cup! The fine plastic mesh filter in the BREWT keeps the leaves in the container, so your drink contains only the infusion, and no floaters or silt!
This revolutionary way to prepare your tea is easy to clean, just tap out the leaves, and rinse. The mesh filter is easily removed the clean as well.
The biggest advantage that we have found in the BREWT infuser is that it makes it simple to infuse the leaves multiple times. Because you are removing the water from the leaves, rather that the usual way of removing the leaves from the water, the leaves are sitting there, ready to have more water added to re-infuse them! It is easy, clean, and a convenient way to brew your tea.
Many restaurants, tea and coffee shops use the BREWT to serve their customers, because it is so hip and stylish. Serving the tea is made simple for the staff, there is no fumbling around and it is quick and easy to prepare the BREWT for the customer. The ease of cleaning makes for a no fuss solution to serving premium gourmet loose leaf tea to customers.
Making a Decision
When it comes to making a decision, make sure that you choose based on the ease of use, and ease of cleaning, as well as durability of your infuser. If you are making more than a cup or two of tea a week, avoid the tea ball right from the start. The low price point may be attractive, but they are cheaply made and break quickly and easily with little use.
Infuser baskets and the BREWT infuser are the much better choices, as they are very durable, easy to use and clean, and not overly expensive at all. Both the Finum Basket Infuser and the BREWT infuser are available for purchase from TeaFrog.com.