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Usability of Steeping Baskets

I just started using a cast iron tetsubin teapot. It includes one of those mesh steel baskets that’s supposed to hold the leaves while steeping. What I’m finding is there just doesn’t seem to be enough circulation of the water around the leaves to get the desired strength. I either land up with a weak pot or I have to use a lot more tea to compensate which I find wasteful. Any suggestions?

16 Replies
Daniil said

What I usually do (I have a glass pot) is put leaves freely into the pot and then when it’s steeped I just use a small filter I use for my gaiwan set sharing pitcher to make sure leaves or small tea particles don’t end up in my cup. If you are worried about oversteeping while you pour you could always understeep to account for extra time pouring.

Of course this kind of method is harder to do with certain teas that have smaller leaves, but it works wonders for me for greens, oolongs, pu-erh and blacks (sorted by convenience).

As far as washing the leaves goes (if you do it with your tea, I always do it with pu-erhs only, the rest depends on the mood) I always do it in the infuser and then just get the leaves from the infuser again straight into the pot with like a tea spoon. With compressed pu-erh it’s not even necessary as it doesn’t have enough time to unfurl during the washing.

But as far as the difference between in the infuser and straight in the pot steeping goes, I can’t say it’s huge, possibly not even noticeable. Strength – definitely, flavour – doubtingly. My glass pot came with plastic infuser so sometimes I do feel like my tea tastes like plastic but I think it’s just in my head. I would have the same kind of freak out with your steel mesh infuser thinking my tea is metal haha.

I just find it much prettier to infuse straight in the pot, I feel like leaves tend to breathe better and nothing more gorgeous than seeing full leaves of oolong or green tea in the pot. Usual two teaspoons of tie guan yin, milk or high mountain oolong end up filling the pot perfectly when the leaves wake up.

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Cofftea said

I agree. Baskets don’t seem to give much more room than tea bags IMO.

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Both Teavana and Adagio have these steeper mugs that filter through the bottom.There’s tons of room for leaf expansion, easy clean-up, and it’s cool to watch it filter through the bottom and fill your tea cup!

Cofftea said

Are you talking about the IngenuiTEA (Adagio’s version)? I definitely wouldn’t call it a mug, but I LOVE mine. Hate that it’s plastic though. Still haven’t found a glass version.

Yes! They’re so convenient!

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kuanyin said

Well, you can brew free in the pot and then strain through the basket in a cup. Or strain into another teapot and transfer back to keep the iron pot warmth. Kind of involved, but a possibility. I usually use mine with a basket to brew my morning black tea, most of which is not large leafed. And I usually get a second brew out it that way. Not sure if the second would work as well, if I was getting more strength from the first batch.

It depends on what tea, oolongs I absolutely want to unfurl and steep unhindered. I have a couple of yixing for dark and greener oolongs. Then I don’t brew as much at a time so I’m getting my 3 steeps out of it.

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MaddHatter said

I bought a Tuffy Steeper today (because I am a huge fan of anything colapsable), this fabulous little silicone basket will be my best friend when camping this summer… that aside…

While I was purusing the internet in search of how to use baskets, I came across a video on chow.com about “how to properly steep teas” it was mentioned that the basket should be slowly moved to adgitate the leaves, I did not do this for my first steep, but for the second and third I did and I noticed the leaves open quite a bit.

I must say this little guy is far superior to my mesh tea balls, IMHO.

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brandy3392 said

I seemed to have the same problem when I first started using a teapot with an infuser basket. It seems to help if I swish and twirl the basket around a bit while it is steeping (sort of like the motion a washing machine makes).

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ashmanra said

Paul, I had no problem with m infused baskets before, but I use Beehouse pots and usually black tea. The first time I used my new tetsubin with an oolong, I saw exactly what you meant! The leaves had unfurled so much that they were sticking up mostly out of the water. The tea tasted great, though, so I guess enough of the flavor made it out of the leaves! And the pot kept the tea wonderfully warm for a long time. I think I might steep my oolongs in a different pot and decant into the tetsubin and put it on the warmer.

Just a thought, it may be that too much leaf is being used. Multiple infusions are expected with oolong teas, so you should be able to get more extraction of flavor from the leaves over additional steepings.

Use the pot as it traditionally would have been used. Without the basket. Then infuse as much tea as you are going to drink in each pouring. The oolong leaves are so large you should not have to use a strainer when pouring. Pour off all the tea juice and infuse again when you are ready for another cup. And again. I think of a tetsubin as primarily an oolong teapot.

ashmanra, your problem is probably not that you are using too many leaves but as Kate mentioned oolong leaves tend to be larger and leafier than other teas, and due to the small baskets that most tetsubin’s have their is simply not enough room for them to fully unfurl. As most everyone has mentioned due to the shallow, wide nature of many popular tetsubin’s there is simply not enough room in the brewing baskets for the tea to brew correctly and evenly.

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Does anyone know of a basket you can get with more “floor” space? This way the tea can spread out more like just throwing it in the base of the pot? I have a small tetsubin and I would love to have a soft basket I can place through the top of the pot and let it unfurl. Does such an animal exist? Should I invent one?

Missy said

Try a tea sock or a coffee sock. If you have a small tea pot perhaps the sock will be large enough to allow for full leaf unfurling. I know you can get them in different sizes. Lupicia has 2 socks and there are several on Amazon. Good luck.

Thank you so much Missy! I will take a look!

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What you can do – and this isn’t the most elegant of methods, but it works … you can put the leaves loose into the tetsubin, and then use the infuser basket as sort of a strainer as you’re pouring into the cup. The big problem with that is that the tea doesn’t stop steeping, so later cups can end up bitter.

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Right. That is precisely what I don’t want to happen. Surely there is a product to fit this conundrum.

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