Making tea without the help of tea bags can seem daunting at first but it’s super easy. There are a lot of different accouterments out there but the truth is that you don’t need much equipment at all. At its most basic level, the requirements for making tea are:
– Brewing vessel
– Hot water
– Something to hold the leaves
That’s it! The main reason that you’ll need a way to remove the leaves is to prevent bitterness. Some people like their tea on the strong so feel to use your tastes as your guide. Brewing vessels can be anything from a utilitarian mug to a fancy teapot and everything in between. As your interest in tea progresses, so will your preferred brewing methods. When I first got into tea, infuser baskets and paper filters were my mainstays but more often than not I now brew with a gaiwan. The advice that I always give is to start simple and build from there.
Teabags are often made with lower quality leaves so one of the major differences is that loose leaf can often be used to make more than one infusion. The upfront cost is more but that means your per serving cost could be lower.
Paper filters allow you to make your teabags. I still use these quite a bit when I’m traveling. Although perfectly functional, there are a few drawbacks. Larger leaved and rolled teas will not have room to expand which could negatively affect the flavor. They can also create waste because not all filters are biodegradable.
Tea balls offer a similar function to paper filters but in a reusable form. They are available in a wide range of sizes but giving your leaves enough room can also be an issue here. Loosely woven mesh is less likely to stop very small leaf particles like rooibos.
Novelty infusers can make tea time a lot of fun but again, they do tend to constrict the leaves. These are great conversation pieces for the office! Co-workers at my old job always asked what I drinking when I used that cute little duck.
Basket style infusers are my go-to when it comes to simple brewing. The wide-open design leaves plenty of room for your leaves to stretch their legs. They often come with lids that can serve as drip catchers in between infusions.
A lot of teapots come with infuser baskets. Some people prefer to let the leaves float free in the teapot. Small strainers are placed over teacups when pouring to stop leaves from getting through. The flavor will continue to get stronger so you’ll want to drink it up fairly quickly.