Irina said

Advice for starting with a ball infuser/cup infuser?

So, I’ve been wanting to give a cup infuser a shot, but have no idea where to start. Looking for something that’s not too complicated for a first time user, and also not too expensive. Something portable and easy to clean at work. I’ve tried ball infusers before, but thinking a cup infuser might work better? If you have any suggestions or recommendations, throw them my way. Thanks in advance!

8 Replies
Nicole said

Skip the ball infuser. So much of the time they don’t have enough room for the leaves to expand well. Here are two cup infusers:

You can get them other places and I don’t know that a lid is required. If you do a lot of herbals, get a fine mesh one or you’ll end up with chamomile and rooibos pieces in your drink. :)

Random said

I personally adore the Finum filters. They work really well and are very simple to clean. I have 2 now, one at home and one here at work.

I’ve tried others but non of the ones I’ve looked at so far are as good. One doesn’t have drain holes in the bottom so the leaves tend to sit in liquid (I brew the same leaves a couple of times) and is more difficult to clean. Others have holes which are too big and too much leaf tends to come out into the cup.

You can pick the Finum up at a lot of places. I got mine from Amazon.

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If I may be so bold… I would recommend skipping both. Teas are often much more enjoyable to drink ‘grandpa style’, which conveniently doesn’t require any tools at all – just a mug (and hot water).

If you aren’t familiar with grandpa style, this is a short video showing what it is:

But, in short, you just put the loose tea in a mug, add hot water, the tea will sink to the bottom, and then you drink the tea with the leaves at the bottom of the mug. When you are low on water, simply add more and let it re-steep.

This is what I do everyday at work, and it works really well. It is also the most common way of drinking tea in China.

Good luck!

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Gitana said

Grandpa style is great if your tea is full leaf. It’s my preferred method. But it does not work well for all teas.

If you are drinking flavored teas, or even blended teas like English Breakfast, your tea is likely broken leaf. Broken leaf teas usually do not work out very well grandpa style because the fragments are difficult to control. In that case go for an in cup infuser basket. Look for a large basket, 3" in diameter or so, to give maximum room to the tea. Even broken leaf tea needs room to expand! Check Amazon. There are a ton out there just pay attention to the size listed. Get the biggest one that will fit your cup.

This is very true. I (perhaps incorrectly) assumed that the OP was using full leaf loose teas, but it could be broken up, in which case some sort of basket or infuser would be useful.

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A French press will work about as well as most infuser devices and they’re inexpensive and easy to clean. In theory those would work a good bit better than a basket style infuser without using a lid because allowing the tea to steep uncovered for 3 or 4 minutes would also allow volatile flavor carrying compounds to evaporate off. In practice that may or may not matter so much.

People tend to reject using a French press because it can be interpreted as requiring squashing the leaves to strain the tea but it’s not that difficult to just pour off the tea by tipping it, moving the plunger back and forth a little to speed that up. It almost goes without saying that using the same French press for coffee and tea might not work well since coffee residue could be difficult to completely clean. That relates to how drip coffee makers tend to always smell a little like coffee.

It’s worth it checking into local sources for a gaiwan. Those don’t meet two of the criteria, related to being complicated and ideal for use at work, but they’re a lot easier to use than would seem at first, and it’s probably not that hard to find decent versions for $10 or less. They open up the world of Gongfu style brewing, using a higher proportion of tea, faster timing range, and higher infusion count. In theory basket style brewing should be able to accomplish the same effect, through making adjustments, but in practice it’s not practical to completely match it. To me almost any green or black teas work about as well prepared Western style (or flavored teas or blends, but I don’t drink much for those), but I like oolongs and sheng pu’er much better when brewed using the other parameters.

With a small thermos to provide multiple infusions of hot water it’s not that problematic to use a gaiwan and Gongfu brewing at work too. A few drops here and there would get away but you don’t need a tea-tray to resolve that, since a paper towel or washcloth also would. It looks like a lot more messing around to make a half dozen or dozen infusions of tea versus two or three, and it does add to time required, but it’s not as different later once it becomes familiar.

Grandpa style is also an option, as others mentioned. I don’t prefer it myself but it seems comes down to that, to preference. I use that method on road trips sometimes and for some tea types it works out well. People seem to learn to prefer to drink tea with the brew strength varying over the infusion, which that method causes. The main point of Western and Gongfu approaches is to control that, isolating a preferred infusion strength level.

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I might have also mentioned that I like a “For Life” infuser I have. It’s a basket style infuser designed with a dedicated cup and lid. The basket works well for being a fine stainless steel slit-opening style strainer versus some sort of wire mesh so it cleans easily. I looked up what those cost once and it seemed excessive for what it is though (it was a gift).

It’s further off the subject but I wrote about different types of devices for a TChing post once (cited from my own blog post version here):

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LuckyMe said

Basket infuser is the way to go for work. It’s easy to clean up and unlike a ball infuser, gives tea leaves room to expand properly. I use one with a small mug at work (200ml) which allows me to steep western style and semi-gongfu.

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