Using a tea steeper is a fantastic way to reduce waste, explore the verdant world of loose leaf tea, and make your tea leaves work just a little bit harder to make you a delicious cup of tea. But what exactly is a tea steeper?
Available in many different formats, it can be overwhelming for tea newbs to work out how each one works and how to make the perfect cup of tea with them. That’s what this guide is for – teaching you what a tea steeper is and providing five cute tea steepers that you can buy online.
What is a Tea Steeper?
A tea steeper is simply a device that allows you to brew loose tea leaves. They come in all shapes and sizes, but the unifying design aspect is that they provide a removable chamber to brew tea in. You can think of a loose leaf tea steeper as a reusable teabag!
The most common type is a metal mesh or silicone tea steeper. The mesh steepers are usually ball-shaped – you open this ball, add your tea, and then dunk this into your cup. Silicone steepers tend to hang over the side, with a holey chamber to fill with tea leaves.
You also have travel tea infusers, where the chamber is part of a flask and can be left in or removed before you start drinking. The concept is the same, however: add your tea leaves, brew them, remove the infuser and go.
The main benefits of using a tea steeper are:
- Wash it and reuse it over and over,
- Brew the same tea leaves multiple times (this makes loose leaf better value for money),
- Plastic-free tea brewing (yes, some teabags contain plastic),
- More control over the amount of tea leaf you brew,
- Cute shapes and unique tea infusers to collect!
How to Use a Tea Steeper
These are some general guidelines to help you use a tea steeper. Brands offering complex or unusual tea steepers (like Adagio’s IngenuiTEA 2) typically provide instructions to help you out.
- Open your infuser – there may be a catch to unlock, a lid to remove, or simply a handle to squeeze that opens the main chamber.
- Add your loose leaf tea to the inside of the tea steeper. Use 1 or 2 teaspoons of tea per cup.
- Close the tea steeper and place it inside your cup.
- Pour water over the tea steeper and let it brew for as long as directed.
- Remove the tea steeper, letting the liquid drain out, and place it to the side to cool.
- Drink your tea!
Once the tea steeper has cooled down, open it and remove the tea leaves. These can be composted at home or disposed of with your food waste. Check if the steeper can go in the dishwasher or if it must be washed by hand.
After a while, tea can stain an infuser with daily use. This isn’t something to worry about – just choose one of my Ways to Remove Tea Stains from Steepers.
Reusable tea steeper
One of the best things about using a tea steeper is that it allows you to reuse the tea leaves. So, once a few hours have passed, you can go back to the kitchen and put the tea strainer back into your cup, pour over water, and let it brew again. You’ll usually need to brew for a few minutes longer the second time, to get a good strength from the leaves.
This tends to work best with high quality single origin teas that are made of whole leaf or large leaf pieces.
Five Favourite Steepers for Loose Tea
Here are five tea steeper products that I recommend.
1. Classic Tea Steeper
For a classic tea steeper, I recommend this Teatime Infuser by Whittard of Chelsea. It is super simple and easy to use. Take off the clip, open the ball, fill it with tea, then close and steep as directed above. The benefit of a steeper like this is that the mesh is quite fine, preventing almost all tea leaves from escaping.
I have chosen this one from Whittard because it has a tiny weighted ceramic teapot attached to the steeper – this dangles over the side to allow you to easily swish around and remove the infuser once the tea has brewed.
2. Simple Silicone Tea Infuser
I like my tea steeper cute, like this Lock Ness Monster inspired silicone tea infuser by OTOTO. Available on Amazon, it is a simple monster-shaped silicone infuser. It’s BPA-free, dishwasher safe, and a lot of fun to use. To brew tea with a silicone tea infuser, you just pull it apart, add your tea leaves, and push it back together.
The main drawback to these kinds of tea steepers is that the holes are quite large. If you are brewing a dusty tea or have lots of small broken leaves, these will easily escape the holes and end up in your cup. This also happens with fine-leaved teas, like rooibos. Nonetheless, this steeper is excellent for large leaf teas and makes a great novelty stocking stuffer.
3. Whimsical Hedgehog Tea Infuser
Another tea infuser that’s incredibly cute is this Hedgehog Tea Infuser by Genuine Fred. Unlike Baby Nessie above, this tea infuser clings to the side of your mug rather than settling at the bottom. The advantage of this is that you can drink from the other side of the cup without even removing the steeper – it should stay clinging on.
This is great for anyone who likes to leave their tea to brew while they drink. It is also good for the office, as it fits most standard mug sizes and will amuse your coworkers to no end. Alongside the hedgehog, you can find other whimsical designs on Amazon such as a sloth, koala, frog or bunny.
4. Tea Steeper and Mug Set
For the tea steeper and mug set, I recommend Whittard of Chelsea’s Pao Mug. It’s my go-to mug for everyday loose leaf tea brewing, and it comes with a glass mug, a metal infuser, and a silicone-edged lid. It is super elegant and easy to clean – no awkward parts to squeeze a sponge into.
You can read my full review of the Whittard Pao Mug but here’s the gist: it has a good 400ml capacity, provides plenty of space for your tea leaves to unfurl and release depth of flavour, and it is dishwasher safe. Buy it directly from Whittard of Chelsea.
5. Travel Tea Steeper
For the best travel tea experience, I recommend Teapro’s On-The-Go Loose Leaf Tea Infuser Bottle. It is a sleek flask that’s lined with food-grade stainless steel to keep your tea hot. The infuser is part of the bottle – all you need to do is flip it upside down so the water floods the steeper. Once it has brewed, flip it back upwards and the tea will drain into the lower compartment. Then you just unscrew the lid and take a sip. Trust me, it’s easier than it sounds!
Teapro are a great UK company, but they do also ship to most other countries in Europe and around the world. I am a huge fan of their loose leaf subscription boxes which are a wonderful way to learn about loose leaf tea as a complete beginner.
A tea steeper is a permanent, reusable teabag usually made from food-grade metal or silicone. You fill it with tea, steep it like a teabag, then wash it out and reuse it.
If you don’t have an infuser, you can brew loose leaf tea in a jug with hot water, then use a sieve, strainer or even a paper coffee filter to strain it into a mug. You can also purchase fillable paper teabags to use.
The general rule is 2g of loose leaf tea per cup, which equals to about 1 teaspoon of tea leaves. Some teas will recommend using 2 teaspoons – check the packet for instructions.
Brew for as long as you would a teabag, then take a sip and decide if it needs a minute longer. For most black teas, this is 3-5 minutes. Green and white teas are around 2 minutes, and herbal teas benefit from a longer brew of 5 minutes or more.
The finest quality loose leaf teas can often be steeped three or more times to get more flavour from them. Finely chopped tea leaves and flavoured blends are usually only good for 2 steeps, maximum. As a general rule, throw out your tea leaves every evening and start the new day with fresh ones.