Tea infusers come in many shapes and sizes, from filtering bags pre-filled with tea, to infuser baskets that fit in the top of a pot or cup, to teapots with filter holes pierced directly at the base of the spout. All of these specialized tools can simplify the brewing process by helping to remove the leaves from the water when the tea is ready to drink.
It is absolutely possible, however, to brew loose tea leaves without any specialized equipment! Here are two different methods, using the simplest tools, to brew any type of loose leaf tea.
Of course, high quality tea leaves will be the easiest to work with. Whole leaves will sink to the bottom of any brewing vessel as they rehydrate, and teas that have grown slowly can steep for long periods in hot water without becoming bitter. Young spring buds, such as those found in the highest quality green teas, are even tender and sweet enough to eat.
For this method, simply drop a small serving of whole tea leaves into a bowl or mug, and top with water at a sippable temperature. Lightly oxidized leaves like green or white teas will taste best when brewed at a relatively cool water temperature, while dark teas will require more heat for a full-bodied brew.
A tall, narrow mug will retain heat longer, and might be best for a lower-temperature infusion, while a wide mouthed bowl will release heat more quickly from the larger water surface, and will help keep a high-temperature brew from becoming bitter before it cools enough to drink.
Watch Alice demonstrate this method of brewing in traditional tea bowls:
Straining the Pour
Even middling grades of loose leaves, which may release bitterness more quickly or be more difficult to separate from the water, can be brewed without any special tools, simply by pouring the tea through any available strainer. This is a common technique even among collectors of specialized teaware when brewing teas that might contain fine leaf particles.
Though this is easiest to do with a spouted vessel (like a teapot or small pitcher), any brewing vessel and strainer will do, even a mug and kitchen strainer. Brew the leaves in one mug, then pour the liquid through the strainer into a second mug for drinking. Be ready for spills if your brewing vessel is not designed for pouring!
If there are no strainers to be found, a small plate or other flat dish can also function as a lid to hold back the leaves and strain the liquid, as if straining pasta. In fact, our Competition Set is just a small version of this basic setup, with a small notch in the rim of the cup to allow for the brew to pour. Even a to-go cup with a small opening for sipping can function as a passable strainer in a pinch.
Watch Alice demonstrate this technique with our Competition Set:
As you can see, brewing with minimal equipment is not as hard as it might seem, especially with high quality tea. Whether you’re trying a new brew or simply find yourself without your usual gear, these methods will make sure you don’t need to go without.
Do you have a favorite simplified method of brewing? Let us know if you’ve tried our suggestions or have one of your own in the comments below!
Sign up for our newsletter to get blog updates in your inbox!