Venture anywhere beyond PG tips brewed in-mug, and the world of tea can seem an esoteric one. But making loose-leaf tea needn’t be an exercise in frustration and confusion – after all, think how zen those Buddhist monks are when they do it – so long as you have a few moments to set aside and a decent tea infuser. Now, we can’t help with the first bit, but we can round up a few options to help you find the best tea infuser for the job.
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Some might look bafflingly similar, but not all tea infusers are created equal. If you’re planning on brewing a lot of rooibos or other very fine varieties, go for the finest mesh you can to ensure you don’t end up with vegetation in the bottom of your cup – unless you’re planning on telling some fortunes, in which case go right ahead. Ball or capsule infusers are among the easiest to retrieve from the cup, while silicone infusers won’t burn sensitive fingers and are simple to clean. Other than that, it’s all about each strainer’s individual charms, so keep reading to find the best one for you. If you are short on time, trust in our top pick of the moment, the Apace Loose Leaf Tea Infuser.
This set of two tea strainers, tea scoop and drip tray is one for the connoisseurs, and a great gift option for the tea lover. The inclusion of two infusers means you and a loved one can enjoy different infusions at the same time (or treat yourself to two different ones on the trot, if you fancy), and both are roomy enough to allow the leaves space to steep. Reviewers loved the fine holes which allowed flavour out but kept tiny leaves in, and the drip tray to keep everything neat, tidy and puddle-free.
Those who’ve had little success with ball tea strainers in the past might be put off by the whole ordeal, but fans of this FORLIFE tea infuser recommend giving it a shot before making up your mind. The fine mesh is a big player in this strainer’s success, meaning that rooibos, pekoe and other ultra-small varieties stay contained, and users also commented favourably on its secure screw-on lid – no unexpected in-cup explosions here! The large capacity makes this one ideal for oversized cups or pots of tea, perfect for popping out when you’ve got company.
It might seem like an oddly specific choice, seeing as it only fits the West Loop family of Contigo travel mugs, but as hundreds of happy reviewers have found this tea infuser and the aforementioned mug to be the perfect pairing for taking loose-leaf tea on the go, we couldn’t very well leave (or, indeed, leaf) it out. We can see why, too – with the tiniest etched holes to keep leaves and tea dust inside; top-rack dishwasher-safe detachable parts for easy cleaning; a portable drip cup for dealing with messy used tea leaves, and a secure fit to ensure no leaks when sprinting for the bus, it’s a perfect portable option.
We love the ritual of making tea, and it’s all the more satisfying when you have cute accessories to hand. Rather than sitting on the lip of the cup, this ball infuser is submerged into the water, meaning you can keep an eye on the colour as it brews and infuse to your favoured strength for the perfect cup of tea. All this is anchored by a chain and sweet ceramic teapot, a little like a fancier version of those tabbed teabags you wrap around the handle of your mug, which means you don’t need to burn your fingers fishing it out as with some all-metal designs – pretty and practical.
Stainless steel might be a winner for tea-making materials, but if you’re serious about getting a crystal-clear, no-silt brew, you might want to look to mesh for help. This mesh tea infuser has the very tiniest holes, making it ideal for lovers of fruity and herbal infusions which carry a whole host of mysterious botanical bits small enough to sneak through more open strainers. It’s suitable for use with cups and pots, and some reviewers even recommend it for making ground coffee in cups, ideal if you’re only after a single serving.
With kittens, squirrels, hippos and more to choose from, all critter-loving tea fans are catered for with this range of silicone tea infusers – but we have to say, for sheer joke factor, the Nessie version has to be our favourite. Her long neck and silicone body make for easy dropping in and fishing out, no splashing, swearing or burnt fingertips when the brew time’s up. A soft silicone infuser might feel less robust than steel, but it’s stainless, heat resistant and – let’s face it – really darn cute, making this infuser both practical and giftable.
More of a coffee drinker? Check out the best coffee beans for a great home brew.