When drinking high quality tea you can work around not having a temperature controlled kettle, fancy tea gadgets or bulky teapots but a good quality infusion vessel is essential. At less than $20 it’s a wise investment that will greatly enhance your drinking experience.
Unless you’re okay with filtering tea leaves through your teeth and drinking your tea quickly enough so that the leaves don’t over steep and become bitter, a tea infusion basket is your new best friend.
A tea infuser basket is a must-have tool for tea drinkers. They are inexpensive, totally foolproof to use, and simple to clean. It gives you a sense of control over the strength and flavour of your tea without the need to make a full pot.
The essential thing to remember is that you want something functional rather than fancy. There are hundreds of options available, but if you want the very best, here’s what you need to keep in mind.
Sure they might give you a laugh and look cute, but they aren’t primarily designed with tea in mind. In most cases these quirky infusers don’t have a chamber large enough to let the tea leaves expand and roll which impacts the flavour of the tea. You won’t be getting the maximum taste from the leaves.
Ball style infusers
Similar to novelty infusers. The chambers are too small for high quality leaves to expand and release. If you are infusing a lower quality tea with very small leaf size this may do the job. But, the problem with most ball infusers is that the holes are quite large which means if you are using a lower quality tea more suited to the chamber size, the fine particles will escape through the holes and end up in your cup. You will need to filter them as you sip, and if the volume of escaped leaves is high, they can sit in your liquor and continue steeping lending an undesirable bitter quality to the flavour.
Silicones and plastics
While these materials are generally perfectly safe they can sometimes impact flavour if you have a very astute palate. Manufacturers of heatproof plastic infusers say the plastic doesn't change anything, but it’s the imperceptible differences you’ll pick up, like when you drink from fine china verses a plastic cup or eat from a plastic takeaway container rather than a ceramic bowl. When it comes to emptying and cleaning these types of infusers you’ll also find it more difficult to remove the leaves from the small holes as compared to a stainless steel or mesh solution.
A basket style infuser is ideal because it gives your leaves the most amount of wriggle room. Higher quality tea is generally larger in leaf size and once you’ve added water to the dry leaf you can expect leaves to expand to between two to five times their dry size. The more room they have to unfurl and expand the better. A basket will give the leaves the necessary breathing space to allow water to properly circulate around them.
Basket diameter and heatproof wings
Infusion baskets are design to slip right into your tea cup or mug. When choosing your infuser make sure you check the average diameter of the cups or mugs you’ll most likely use. You should also check the depth to ensure you select a basket with a good fit. It’s also a good idea to take a look at the basket’s wings – or the outer edge that allows it to sit over the top of your cup rather than sink right into it. Infusion baskets with two wing tabs generally work best making the basket easy to remove. Try to make sure the tabs have some sort of heat protector material. If they are just stainless steel, they will get very hot during the infusion process making it difficult to remove the basket from your cup while it’s hot.
Extra fine stainless steel
You can’t go past stainless steel for your infuser basket. You want something that will last, won’t corrode and won’t bend out of shape. It also helps with cleaning. To give you best flexibility look for a basket that has an extra fine steel weave. It will limit any sediment in your glass and stray leaves won’t become stuck in the sides. The weave should be included on the bottom and around the outside of the basket. Most stainless steel baskets will also allow for dishwasher friendly cleaning.
Check that your infuser basket comes with a lid. A simple but brilliant feature that is designed to act as a tray to hold the basket and ensure your surface remains drip free when you remove leaves. This is particularly handy in the office or when you aren’t close by to a kitchen. If you’re using high quality leaf, you’ll be able to reinfuse the wet leaves multiple times, so leaving the basket to sit in the drip tray until you’re ready for your next cup is convenient and ensures no residual water remains on the leaves to over-steep them.
Find out more about our Cup Above Tea tea-master-recommended infuser basket here.
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