Brewing tea is not less than any art, but its love has made all drinkers a maestro of the usual brewing procedure. All you have to do is boil up the water in a kettle, pour it into your favorite cup, and add the tea ingredients. But what if you intend to brew with loose tea leaves instead? That’s where tea infusers come into play.
Whether you intend to make a Yunnan Pu-erh Tea or the Japanese matcha, brewing a tea requires the right set of tools if you want your cuppa to turn out right. Tea infusers are one of such nifty tools, extremely popular for brewing loose leaf tea.
There are hundreds of infusers available, but if you want the finest, keep in mind that you will be best served by something functional rather than fancy. Ultimately, the best tea infuser depends on the material, the shape and size, and most of all, the type of tea that will be brewed in it. Our ultimate Guide to Tea Infusers covers it all.
What is a Tea Infuser?
Tea infusers are tools that are built to carry loose tea leaves for steeping and brewing. These leaf carriers are typically placed inside the cup of tea or a travel mug or sometimes directly into the teapot. Some tea mugs also come with infusers that are permanently attached to their bottoms, making these mugs an all-around loose leaf tea maker.
A tea infuser is sometimes also retailed as a tea egg, tea ball, or tea maker. These devices were not so famous before the 1900s but today are a part of almost every tea lover’s routine. Most tea infusers are made of perforated metal materials or silicone in order to induce heat resistance.
These devices usually feature a ball-shaped design bundled with a small metal chain to let the users easily pull them out from hot cups. Other varieties include infusers with long handles specially designed for larger pots and mesh-made infusers shaped like spoons.
Why Use a Tea Infuser?
Every tea enthusiast who is more than just a casual drinker will agree that loose leaf tea is far better in quality and taste than instant bags and mixtures. That’s because, unlike tea bags that often contain broken or processed leaves, a tea infuser lets you extract the real essence from real leaves.
Firstly, the tea infusers don’t carry crushed leaves; instead, the leaves within an infuser sit calmly in their non-deformed state. And secondly, the leaves aren’t jammed inside, giving them sufficient space to expand to their fullest and give out the best possible tea essence every drinker wants.
This is exactly why tea made with bags lacks bold flavors and can taste bitter or bland. Also, the bits and pieces of leaves in a teabag contain much less of the valuable antioxidants and polyphenols that make tea good for your health.
The table below differentiates tea bags and loose leaf tea to help you better understand why tea infusers are important.
Loose Leaf Tea
Tea From Tea Bags
Usually of Higher Quality However, It Depends On the Type of Leaf Used and the Brewing Style
Lower Quality However Silk Pyramid Shaped Bags Offer Great Quality
Full leaves are chock full of chemical compounds and antioxidants and thus offer a bigger punch of flavor.
They have also got wider space to expand
Insufficient Space For Leave Bits to Expand Hence Inferior Taste. Sometimes Rich Depending on the Quality of Bag
Cost-effective – One can Always Re Steep Leaves
A little pricey
Reasons to Buy
How to Use a Tea Infuser?
As said above, tea infusers are nifty tools specially designed for steeping and brewing loose leaf teas. Depending on the tea leaf you opt for, you’ll have to add anywhere from ½ teaspoon to a whole teaspoon of tea into the infuser.
Next up, you are required to either seal the infuser or drop/dip it to the bottom of your mug. Finally, pour hot water and give it some time to steep, and you’ll soon get your fresh-tasting tea ready. Cleaning a tea infuser isn’t also really hard, but it varies from material to material.
To scrub an infuser, start by scraping the damp leaves out of the unit. Next, rinse the tea infuser with cool water and also run some through the structure in order to make sure no residue is left behind. You can also use a soap and dishcloth with water to clean off any residual tea.
If there are clumped or dried-on leaves, don’t hesitate to use a small brush, like a toothbrush. However, don’t be too harsh, or you will end up scratching the inner part if the infuser is delicate. Finally, dry and store the infuser until you need it again.
Essential Things to Consider When Buying Tea Infusers
The material used in making a tea infuser can significantly impact the flavor of the resulting brew, especially if the material is porous or reactive. Ultimately, the best tea infuser material depends on the particular balance of flavor neutrality in the brew and durability of material required, given how, where, and with what tea it will be employed.
Metal is the most employed material when it comes to manufacturing tea infusers, no matter what style. This is probably due to metal’s tendency to mold into many shapes and high durability. Metal mesh is also pretty common, especially in the western markets, where it is often preferred for chopped-leaf teas.
However, this charm of metals comes with a very big drawback. Metals tend to make a big impact on highly nuanced or delicate flavors because of their reactive nature. Moreover, metals can also cause a lot of cleaning hassle and quickly take on strong teas’ flavors or get stained with tannins.
Hence it is suggested to immediately wash off their fine mesh as soon as you are done with the brewing to avoid the hassle.
Plastic and Silicone
After metal, silicone and plastic are the most common material choices made by tea infuser makers primarily for aesthetic reasons. You will come to notice silicone in many novelty-style tea models, especially the ones shaped like whimsical structures.
Also, silicone is non-stick hence allowing for a much easier cleanup procedure than metal. Though not silicone, plastic infusers can also influence the flavor neutrality of many brews. Thus keep that in mind before purchasing an infuser made of plastic and also look for reliable makers to avoid toxins like BPAs.
Ceramic diffusers aren’t as famous as metal and plastic ones, but some built-in units can be found inside clay mugs. Since they are permanently attached to the bottoms of such mugs, clay diffusers are hard to replace. They are also more fragile than other materials.
Though manufacturers usually employ a coating of glassy glaze to make sure that the clay infusers stay neutral in flavor and resistant to staining, crafting fine straining holes on ceramic is very hard. Hence infusers made of clays aren’t an ideal option for brewing small tea leaves.
To induce the best flavor neutrality, glass material is considered the best choice, and hence most infuser baskets are entirely constructed of glass. Due to the same glaze as used on ceramics, glass can resist stains, making these infusers easy to clean.
Though glass is more sensitive than ceramic, the laser-cutting technique helps craft any size slits which means glass-made infusers can carry both fine and big-sized leaves. Higher-quality glass infusers are also far more durable than ceramic.
Shape and Size
Shape and size are the other important aspects to mind when purchasing a tea infuser. The more infusing room the tea leaves get, the richer and flavorful your cup of tea can be. However, this doesn’t make the smaller ones any less useful.
Smaller infusers can be more versatile due to their portable size, meaning you can employ a small-sized unit with any type of kettle or cup you want without worrying about the size. Discussed ahead are all the different shapes and sizes of diffusers that are retailed in the market right now:
Ball infusers are models that make use of a clamp or latch mechanism to hold tea leaves while they are dropped in the making vessel. They are usually made of metal mesh and are very common in the West. Ball infusers are small and hence pretty versatile as they can fit just about any brewing vessel available.
However, the small size means that these ball-shaped infusers restrict the leaf expansion rate, influencing the flavoring outcome. Therefore keeping these restrictions in mind, ball infusers are generally best for finely chopped tea leaves or ground herbal infusions.
As discussed before, whimsically shaped infusers are slowly becoming very common in the tea realm. With some sort of latch or clamp to keep them closed, tea is swept inside fun cartoon figures or almost any other amusing shape you can imagine. Usually, these cute tea tools are made of silicone or plastic and designed to be dropped in any tea vessel during the brew.
Unlike ball infusers or whimsical units, basket-shaped tea infusers aren’t drowned to the bottom of the brewing vessel; instead, they are placed at the very top of it. Hence when buying a basket infuser, look for an option with the deepest possible hollow part to ensure maximum circulation of leaf essence.
Basket-shaped diffusers are typically made of metal mesh. Some baskets are coupled with wide wings at the top to make them sit on the very top of the brewing vessel. However, such infusers are hardly any deep for proper tea brewing; hence avoid purchasing them.
How portable you want your tea infuser to be solely depends on the way you are most accustomed to drinking your tea. Do you have time to enjoy a perfectly brewed tea while cozied up in an armchair? Or are you on a morning rush but cannot miss your favorite tea punch?
Some infusers come permanently attached inside travel-sized brewing vessels like mugs or bottles. Such models are pretty convenient for tea lovers on the go. On the other hand, typical options, like infuser teapots or drop-in tea infusers, are best used at home.
Top 5 Tea Infusers
Infuser Shape and Size
Overall Value For Money
16oz, Bold Colored Tea Mug With Extra Fine Filter and Heat Insulated Overall Body– Good Value For Money
Is a Little Bit Pricey – An Additional Couple of Dollar Can Get You a Cup+Infuser Pack
Pack of 2 High-Quality Tea Infusers With an Additional Saucer – Great Value For Money
Pack of 2 Ball-Shaped Infuser in a Highly Affordable Price Tag – Excellent Value For Money
Decent Value For Money
Available in six attractive colors, this BTaT tea mug has everything that can earn it a place in your daily routine. The mug comes with a perforated stainless steel basket that sits on top with the help of its round-shaped flange to ensure that your tea is full of flavor with no debris like herbs or leaves.
This mug also features a handy lid that not only keeps the brew warm but also doubles as a tray for the infuser basket after brewing.
- 16oz Large Capacity Tea Mug
- Extra Fine, Easy to Clean Mesh Metal Infuser
- The Set Comes In A Gorgeous Gift Box
- Heat Resistant Lid Serves as a Saucer
- Metal Infuser Is Not Suitable for Brewing Delicate Taste Teas
With this BPA-free Silicone-made Infuser hanging from the top of your everyday tea mug, you're guaranteed to start your day with a smile. This MANATEA Tea Infuser from Fred fits almost any sized mug/cup, is easy to clean, and is dishwasher-safe.
MANATEA comes packed in a colorful box perfect for gifting! Moreover, the whimsically shaped infuser features a charming animal design, making the pack an even more cute present for your tea lover friend.
- Easy to Use Novelty Shape
- BPA Free Silicone is Easy to Clean
- Can Be Given as Present
- Wide Holes Not Suitable For Small Leaf Tea
One of the highly-rated tea infusers in the market right now, House Again's Extra Fine Metal Mesh Tea Ball Infuser has a helpful 4.7-inch chain that can reach the bottom of any vessel no matter how big it is. The chain also features an end hook that hangs onto the vessel rim to prevent you from hurting your hands.
The superfine mesh boundary makes sure that not even the finest particle escapes into your tea without affecting the diffusion of flavor. Furthermore, this packet of two super durable mesh steel tea infusers is also bundled with a saucer to help you minimize every day after brew hassle.
- Very Fine Mesh Holes Restrains Even The Tiniest Particle
- Efficient Threaded Design
- Affordable Three in One Pack
- Metal Material Effects Delicate Tasting Teas
If you are unhappy with your previous ball tea infuser and search for the best one, the Fu Store's Tea Ball will prove a good replacement. Because there are two high-grade stainless steel infusers in the pack, this option is a perfect choice if you intend to brew tea for a group of drinkers.
As far as easiness is concerned, brewing will become a breeze with this pack of two. Users simply need to fill half of these infuser balls with loose leaf, hang it on their vessel, add hot water and wait for the magic to happen. Just pull the ball out once your herbs have fully steeped.
- Stainless steel mesh doesn’t trap leaf residue
- It comes with a hook and chain for the convenience
- Very Durable Metal Body
- Needs Frequent Maintenance
You might have seen typical tea balls with hanging chains, but this model comes with handles to give users the ability to stir. These handles also offer added control of the infuser and are less likely to make a mess. The product features sturdy metallic built with non-slip plastic attached to the elegant-looking black handles.
- Quality materials
- Unique opening mechanism
- Black handle induces an overall attractive look
- Holes too large for some teas
Like other tea brewing accessories, tea infusers are not only meant to prepare the best-tasting tea but also add to the overall presentation. Hosting a tea party at your place becomes much more elegant when you have gorgeous-looking brewing tools.
However, that does not mean you end up prioritizing fancy looks over quality. Having a high-quality tea infuser can make or break the entire tea-making procedure. Having said that, we hope that this guide has helped you understand why quality over looks is important and how to find the best quality option.
However, if you are still confused about what to pick from the ton of available options and if every infuser mentioned above also looks incomparable, we recommend going with the Fu Store 2pcs Stainless Steel Mesh Tea Ball Set. It’s incredibly affordable yet super sturdy and fits perfectly with all sizes of vessels.