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?"
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).
- Tea scoop
- Infuser / Strainer
- Loose tea
What To Get
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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)
Other Important Notes
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.
|1 to 2 minutes
|1 to 3 minutes
|1 to 2 minutes
|1 to 3 minutes
|2.5 to 5 minutes
|2 to 5 minute
|3 to 6 minutes
"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.
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.
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.