How do you infuse (or brew) loose leaf tea?
A lot depends on your preference; however we've listed a few ideas below for some guidance.
Of course we have to start this guide off by saying choose really good quality loose leaf tea and use good quality water - filtered if using tap water. Make sure you read the preparation guide for the tea you're about to infuse (or brew) and boil the water (and if appropriate allow to cool) to the correct temperature. The method of how you infuse your leaves is entirely up to you. There's really no right or wrong way, however there are a number of options available to suit you and of course many tea lovers use different methods depending on where or when they're drinking their tea. Below we've listed a few of the more well known methods.
Paper tea bag filters.
If you prefer the idea of using tea bags, then you could make your very own do-it-yourself tea bags, or as they are correctly known, paper tea filters. These items are ingenious, totally bio-degradable, chlorine free and are designed so your loose tea has room to move around whilst infusing. They come in various sizes to fit either a cup or large teapot, even a flask size, and are so easy to use. You simply spoon your tea into the filter bag and pop it in your cup or teapot. That's it. Once done, you simply dispose of the filter bag and leaves, or throw on your compost. No mess, no blocked sinks, they really are very impressive.
Glass infuser mugs
Glass infuser mugs are great if you're making tea for one. You simply place your loose tea in a glass infuser inside the glass mug, pour on your water then watch as your leaves unfurl and swirl in the infuser - sometimes it looks like a snow globe!! Once your tea has infused, you just remove the glass infuser and drink your tea. Of course you need to dispose of your leaves from the glass infuser and wash it (and your mug!), but the good news most reputable makes are they're dishwasher safe. That said, they are glass, so if you do drop them, like any glass, they will break!
Glass tea pots
Now here's how to impress! Glass tea pots come in various shapes and sizes some with and some without glass or stainless steel infusers. Those that don't have infusers are generally used for flowering teas, unless very small, gongfu style, when often they have a strainer in the spout to catch any loose leaves. Where the teapot has an infuser, your tea leaves are placed inside and hot or boiling water is added. If you've got guests, you'll find everyone watching the leaves unfurl and swirl...amazing to see and a great experience to share as, is of course, drinking the tea together.
Teapots with inbuilt infusers
There are some great designs of everyday ceramic, cast iron and stainless steel infuser teapots on the market. They're really simple to use and can be very decorative too depending on your preference. Simply spoon your loose tea into the mesh infuser that sits inside the teapot, pour on your water and wait for the required length of time for your tea to infuse then simply remove the basket of leaves. Now you have a delicious pot of tea ready to serve! You can discard of the leaves into your bin or onto your compost heap, but either way, it's very simple to make a great pot of tea without worrying about the mess of leaves.
Mesh ball infusers come in all shapes and sizes, from a single cup size to one that can be used in a large teapot. However, whatever size you choose, make sure you buy quality stainless steel. Some infusers are simply a mesh ball often with a chain; others, known as pincer or spring handled infusers, have long handles that when squeezed together open the attached mesh infuser ball to allow you to place or remove the tea leaves. You simply place the mesh infuser (holding the leaves) into your cup or teapot, wait the required brewing time then remove the infuser. Removing the leaves is quite easy but of course you'll need to wash the infuser itself after use. Some leaves from very fine teas such as Rooibos can sometimes escape through the seal where the mesh infusers meet, but apart from that they are a relatively cost effective and reusable way to infuse loose leaf tea.
These are a more recent invention that allow you to enjoy loose lea tea in the convenience of a teabag. Depending on the source, most pyramid infusers have a reasonable amount of leaves contained within, however, you are restricted to adjusting the strength of your tea only by per teabag. The do have more space than traditional teabags allowing the loose leaves to expand when in the water and of course can be conveniently disposed of.
There's nothing wrong with a simple tea strainer as long as you realize that any residual tea leaves left in the teapot will continue to infuse and if you're making normal camellia sinensis tea your tea will become more astringent and possibly very bitter unless you pour all the contents of the teapot out into cups when the tea is ready.
When you've got good quality loose leaf tea you'll want to keep it in good condition so it's really important to store it properly. Your tea should be stored away from light, moisture, strong odours and kept in an airtight container. Tea should not be stored in the fridge. We recommend using small tea caddies. This way, if you have a larger amount of tea, you can simply decant a smaller quantity into your tea caddy and keep the rest stored away, avoiding unnecessary contact with air, light, odours and moisture.