Preparing a cup of tea is not a straightforward process, as many may think. There are a lot of factors that come into play. These factors play a vital role in determining if you brew what some people may refer to as the “perfect” cup of tea or not. One of these factors is the ability to choose the perfect tea steeper. Here we will take through the world of tea steepers and everything you need to know before choosing one.
What is Tea Steeping?
Before we dive into the main subject, you need to understand everything about tea steeping. Tea steeping is the practice of soaking solid materials (in this case tea leaves) in boiled water so that you can extract flavours from it. You can either steep in a cup, pitcher, mug or any other preferred vessel. After knowing the process, you then feel the need to ask, what is the tool used in this process? The answer to your question is the tea steeper.
By definition, a tea steeper is a device in which you put tea leaves in so that they are soaked in hot water. Tea steepers are also referred to as tea infusers or tea strainers. Tea steeper can take the form of a perforated metal container, a mesh-like structure, or even a covered spoon. In essence, every single steeper is different from the other, in terms of size, shape, design, and much more. These differences bring us to the types of steepers.
Types of Tea Steepers
Just as the name suggests, these steepers are used mainly by people in transit. In this particular case, the tea infuser sits directly into the vessel you are using on the move and your tea brews as you commute. These types of infusers also come in various types, but there are two common ones, and they include;
- Built-in Travel Infusers – these are travel infusers that are installed into the travel mugs or vessels so that the user can place the tea leaves and the brewing starts.
- Collapsible Travel Steepers – these are compact travel steepers that can easily fold into small items so that carrying them is an easy task.
Basket infusers are commonly used with kettles simply because they are large tools that can hold a lot of tea leaves which need a lot of water to be soaked properly. In most cases, basket steepers come as part of kettles. They are also other types of basket steepers used in mugs. The basket fits perfectly on the rim of pots or cups. The large size provides ample room for steeping to take place since the leaves expand with a lot of ease. Altogether, the tea produced from using the basket steeper is usually of high quality; therefore, many tea lovers use it regularly. The baskets are also easy to clean and rinse out.
Tea Ball Steeper
The tea ball steeper is one of the most common infusers when it comes to steeping. It is loved by many due to its style and unmatched functionality. Tea ball infusers usually are balls of steel mesh with a handle at the end. The mesh is where you put the tea leaves and dip into the hot water. Different ball steepers have different points of grip. Some handles are straight while others are in the form of chains. Although many people like using this type of steeper, there is one vital thing that they may not know. Tea experts advise drinkers to use tea ball steepers that have large balls at the front. The reason for this is that small tea balls restrict tea leaves from expanding; therefore, the resultant tea does not contain fully-infused flavours.
Selecting the Perfect Tea Steeper
Now that we have gone through the various types of infusers, let us show you how to choose the perfect tea steeper.
1. The Amount of Tea You Wish to Brew
Your brewing capacity significantly affects the type of steeper you will use. In case you would like to brew a lot of tea, the tea basket infuser would be your best option. As earlier stated, the tea leaves, in this case, expand with ease allowing them to soak correctly in large amounts of water. As they do so, the infusion of flavors takes place successfully. The tea kettle with a built-in infuser can also come in handy in instances like these. If you wish to make tea for two or three people, then you will have to use a tea ball steeper.
2. Ease of Use
Steeping your tea should not be a hassle, nor should it cause you stress. Before choosing a steeper, make sure you have weighed all the possible options and decided on the best option for you. One way of doing so is checking your lifestyle and how you steep tea daily. For example, if you are a person who usually brews tea for a considerable number of people, you should use a large steeper that will make your work easier and complete the job faster.
3. Taste and Preference
As a tea lover or drinker, making tea should be something you love doing from the deepest part of your heart. There are very many steppers available on the market. You have the free will to choose any of these steepers that match the desires of your heart. For example, when you are having a couple of friends over on your garden and would like to drink tea as you talk, you can opt for the fun steepers. You can also switch the tea steeper to suit your needs in the kitchen as you prepare tea on a daily basis.
4. Type of Tea
Tea steepers are commonly used to brew loose-leaf tea. What many people may not know is that loose-leaf teas differ. There are loose-leaf teas that contain relatively large leaves and others that contain smaller leaves. The caution comes into play when dealing with tiny leaves that can leach out of steepers that have large holes. When you come across such tea leaves, make sure you go for steepers that have small holes to yield the best results.
5. The Material Used To Make the Steeper
The materials used to make tea steepers differs from one steeper to another. When brewing tea, make sure you choose the best steeper based on the material used to make it. Some of the common materials used to make tea steepers are;
Bamboo is one of the most preferred material when it comes to making tea steepers. People who love Chinese tea regularly brew their tea using steepers made out of bamboo. People who use glass vessels to brew blooming teas also love using bamboos steepers.
One thing you should know about bamboo steepers is that over time, they absorb the color and flavor of teas. With that in mind, make sure that you use steepers made out of bamboo to brew only one type of tea. On the bright side, bamboo is a durable material, and steepers made out of bamboo can withstand boiling water.
Stainless steel is one of the most durable and long-lasting materials used in making tea steepers. The durability is seen in the inability of the steel infusers to rust when washed using dishwashers. Infusers made out of stainless steel can withstand multiple uses and still maintain their integrity.
The downside about such infusers is that they cannot be used when brewing all types of teas. The reason is that when used to brew some particular types of tress, they add a bit of a metallic taste to them, therefore, delivering unwanted results. Furthermore, it is not advisable to brew tea in iron cast kettles using steel infusers. The reason behind this is quite simple. Stainless steel steppers tend to scratch the surface of such pots, thereby, bringing losses.
Related Article: How to Clean a Tea Strainer?
When you want to brew your tea using fine/small tea leaves, always go for infusers made of paper. Paper infusers can withhold small tea leaves and often letting only the liquid flow through. In this particular scenario, paper infusers play a similar role to filters. The ability of these steeper to act as filters makes them a better option when making drip tea. The downside to using paper as a brewing material is that it creates a lot of mess. That is why it is necessary to use a plate which you will use to place below your entire set up. Moreover, you can only use steepers made of paper once.
Tea steeping is a common practice that some people may not know how to do correctly. There are different types of steepers, such, as the travel infusers, basket infusers, and tea ball steepers. Even though they are all used in brewing tea, different situations require the use of different steepers. That is why you need to know how to choose the perfect steeper at any time. If you follow the guidelines stated above, your decision-making process will become something easy every time you need to steep your tea.