9 min read

What's In a Basic Loose Tea Kit

As I have started TeaTok Tuesdays (LIVE at 8:00 PM US ET), two of the most frequent questions have been: "How do I brew loose-leaf tea?" and "What do I need to do that?"
An image representing the title of this post, generated using MidJourney.
An image representing the title of this post, generated using MidJourney.

It's been a while since I wrote a pure tea-focused post on a blog. Those who followed Tea-Guy.com know my passion for tea and enjoyment of its nuances and curiosities.

With my recent shift toward TikTok, content creation has increased questions about tea, which I have answered many times. This is encouraging because I hope to cover these topics on TikTok and the blog.

As I have started TeaTok Tuesdays (LIVE at 8:00 PM US ET), two of the most frequent questions have been: "How do I brew loose-leaf tea?" and "What do I need to do that?"

TikTok - Make Your Day

A link to my TikTok channel.

So, today's post is all about what goes into a "basic" loose-leaf tea kit. I provide a few photos, descriptions, explanations, and links to some reasonable options (I get no commissions at the time of posting).

CHECKLIST

  1. Tea scoop
  2. Infuser / Strainer
  3. Loose tea

What To Get

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These recommendations assume loose-leaf teas are our target for making tea and not something like matcha or other powdered teas.

A Good Tea Scoop

A teaspoon or scoop is important for measuring the right amount of tea. Though some die-hards will use a scale to correct the leaf by weight (where a spoon measures volume), it's good enough for most people, even avid enthusiasts.

It's also worth noting that while a kitchen teaspoon will technically do the job, its design makes it less precise. A basic teaspoon is all you need, though they come in various styles.

I will commonly use The Peaople's TEAspoon from Republic of Tea for broken leaf teas or rolled oolongs because there's little risk of damaging the leaves.

The People’s TEAspoon
Buy The People’s TEAspoon online. All Citizen’s have a right to enjoy a perfectly brewed cup of tea. This all starts with an accurate measurement. One

For larger-leaf teas with a more natural or orthodox shape, such a spoon can risk damaging the leaf. It will do the job but at some risk.

Instead, I opt for a tea "scoop". These also have variations in style and material, though I generally opt for wooden scoops with either a rounded or elongated trough. I don't empirically know that they're better at protecting the leaves, but my brain sure thinks they do.

A photo of two styles of wooden tea scoops.

An Infuser or Strainer

Like tea scoops, infusers come in a variety of styles. From tea balls to infusers embedded in a teapot or mug, these can be powerful and effective means to manage your loose tea process. Enough that I recommend them before starting your loose tea journey.

I do not recommend using tea balls and will not cover them here. They tend to restrict the leaf from opening, which is how the brew gets nuance, and they often let leaves through into the mug, defeating their purpose.

Separate Infusers

One of my favorite infusers is super flexible and just hooks on the edge of any coffee mug, allowing you to immerse the loose tea leaves with the freedom to remove them easily so you don't over-brew the tea, ruining the infusion.

Hook Handle Tea Infuser & Dish Set
SizeL 4.25″ x W 3.25″ x H 2.5″(L 10.7 cm x W 8.2 cm x H 6.3 cm) Extra fine Stainless-Steel Infuser This extra-fine stainless-steel infuser gives you a perfect even steep every time and enables you to steep fine loose-leaf teas such as Rooibos tea to large whole-leaf teas like Oolong tea. Fits in variety of teacups and

ForLife's Hook Handle Infuser is one of my long-time staples for loose tea.

Many brands make such infusers. Some straddle a mug edge to edge, though they may not work with extra-wide-mouthed or oddly shaped mugs.

Built-In Infusers

Built-in infusers are removable infusers included with mugs or teapots.

This "Mountain" mug with a built-in infuser is one of my favorite recent teaware acquisitions. The wooden handle matches my style, and the infuser is easy to clean. The lid acts as a drip plate.

“Mountain” - Handmade Embossed Ceramic Tea Mug With Wooden Handle and Removable Infuser
Designed and handmade by skilled artisans from Dehua, Fujian. The earthy tones of the ceramic combine with the wooden handle to create a natural feeling. Well-made wooden handle provide effective protection against scalding and are easy to hold. The interior layer of a well-crafted glaze doesn’t absorb tea flavors or leave stains. The removable infuser is made of ceramic and is therefore durable and wear-resistant. A lid may work as a trivet to hold an infuser. Specifications Material Natural Dehua Clay Pairs well with Green Tea White tea Oolong tea Pu-erh tea Black tea Size Volume 400ml Height 12cm, Length 13.5cm Care Instructions To clean, gently rub with mild unscented dish soap or baking soda. Do not dishwasher & microwave. Package Included: 1 x Tea Mug -TeaTsy Official Website

The Mountain mug with a built-in infuser was one of my 2023 favorites.

Mugs are great for one person, but if brewing for a crew, a teapot is what you need. This teapot designed by ForLife (like the infuser above) remains an exclusive from Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco.

The Tea Lounge Teapot - Samovar Tea
The classic teapot look streamlined for the modern kitchen. We commissioned this matte black teapot to be rugged and beautiful. And it delivers a perfect pour every time. Holds 12 oz water. Dishwasher safe. Please note, this tea pot does not include an infusion basket. But when you order this product, you can add the […]
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The Tea Lounge Teapot used to ship with a ForLife basket infuser but no longer has it included. You can order one that fits perfectly for $10 to complete the setup.

Loose Tea

We might think loose tea would be the first thing on the list for building your kit. However, there are any number of quality purveyors of fine loose-leaf teas. You may even have a nice shop close to you.

Instead, it is more important to get the correct quantity of leaves and manage the loose tea leaves without getting them in your mouth as you drink.

If you're new to loose tea, I recommend seeking a local shop. They're often eager to teach and help you find just the right teas for your current taste and help you build a palate that gets excited about new things.

For those without reasonable options close to hand, here are a few major loose tea brands you can order from online (in alphabetical order)

Loose Tea | Buy Online | Free shipping over $49
Shop online for gourmet loose teas sourced directly from the artisan farmers who tender them. All types of loose leaf teas available. Free shipping !

Adagio Teas is very approachable to beginners.

Harney & Sons Fine Teas
Shop over 300 tea blends, tea gifts, treats and teaware online from Harney & Sons Tea. Tea bags and loose leaf black tea, green tea, herbal tea, white tea. Shop Now »

Harney & Sons teas are refined and great for building a palate

TeaSource | Buy Quality Tea Online
TeaSource brings you the highest quality teas and tisanes from around the world. Buy tea online or at our store in St. Anthony Village.

TeaSource has some incredible and unique tea products.

Other Important Notes

Water Temperature

For the uninitiated, water temperature is important. While you can brew green or white tea with boiling water, it will scorch the leaves and elicit the wrong palate of flavors and aromas.

While some teas desire a perfectionist targeting of a specific degree, most teas can be quite positively enjoyed with temperatures in rule-of-thumb ranges.

TEA TYPE TEMPERATURE STEEP TIME
White 160F 1 to 2 minutes
Green 150-180F 1 to 3 minutes
Yellow 170F 1 to 2 minutes
Oolong 185-195F 1 to 3 minutes
Black/Red 180-212F 2.5 to 5 minutes
Aged/Heicha 205-212F 2 to 5 minute
Herbal 212F 3 to 6 minutes
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If brewing in a style with short infusions (such as gongfu cha), infusion times may be as short as a few seconds.

"Grandpa style" suggests a forever infusion where time does not matter, and the leaves are just left in the vessel until you tire of it.

This post focuses on a minimalist take on what you need to enjoy loose tea. But the next common step is using a variable-temperature electric kettle.

While I use a Fellow Stagg EKG Pro Studio electric kettle because it offers single-degree water temperature control, many kettles support the broad temperature ranges mentioned above.

Amazon.com: INTASTING Electric Kettles, Gooseneck Electric Kettle, ±1℉ Temperature Control, Stainless Steel Inner, Quick Heating, for Pour Over Coffee, Brew Tea, Boil Hot Water, 0.9L Black: Home & Kitchen
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An affordable Gooseneck kettle similar to the Stagg EKG

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I recommend a gooseneck-style kettle for a smooth, easy pour, which helps avoid splashing and overpouring.

Steep Time

Just as important as leaf quality, quantity, or water temperature is steep time, or rather the time the leaves are immersed in hot water and permitted to imbue their blessings of flavor.

Included in the table above with water temperatures are listed general ranges for steep times at those temperatures.

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While brewing properly (time, temperature, quantity) is recommended, it may also be recommended to experiment with these aspects of your tea experience to understand better the value of getting them correct for each given tea.

Conclusion

I hope this has been a helpful post for understanding what you need for a basic loose-leaf tea kit.

With just a good scoop and an infuser, you can make good loose-leaf tea in any mug. With a couple of extra tools like a good electric kettle and a timer (you can use your phone), you can make quality tea from home with minimal fuss.