(Because I needed a hobby)

Tea kettles, teapots, and steeping

Posted May 27, 2013

Recently, I learned that there is a difference between a tea kettle and a tea-pot.

A tea kettle is a tool used for boiling water. It usually has a spout with a whistle on it that signals when the water is ready. It might look something like this.

A teapot is a tool used for steeping and serving tea. It also has a spout, but probably no whistle. It might look something like this.

I only started drinking non-Lipton-brand tea ("real tea") as of yesterday, so forgive me if this information was already abundantly clear. If it was, then I suggest that you stop reading, because what follows are the troubles of a tea newbie.

My frustration now is figuring out a decent system for making tea. Essentially, any method whereby boiling water is poured over tea leaves and left to steep for several minutes would suffice, but there are several methods. For my own benefit, I would like to lay out a few of those methods right now.

(All of these methods use loose tea leaves, because they are cheaper, taste better, and probably healthier for you.)

Disposable tea bags and mesh tea infusers

Loose tea leaves may be placed into a disposable mesh or paper tea filter, much like your standard "Lipton" tea bags, and boiling water poured over them in a cup or mug. This seems like a fine option for quickly making a single cup of tea with little mess involved, as the bag can easily be disposed of after brewing.

I would probably prefer this option to mesh tea ball infusers such as this one. Though the method is essentially the same, cleaning out the ball after every use feels unnecessary. On the other hand, I would only need to buy the mesh ball once, whereas I would have to constantly re-stock the disposable bags.

Brewing baskets and tea nets

Brewing baskets and "tea nets" such as this one are also decent options for quick and simple brewing. Loose tea leaves are placed into the basket or net and submerged into a cup of hot water for the proper steeping period.

The pros and cons are largely the same as for the mesh ball infusers, though there is one additional benefit to brewing baskets: It is easier to scoop loose tea leaves into an open basket than to scoop them into the mesh balls, which need to be opened and sealed prior to steeping.

On the other hand (and this goes for the mesh ball infusers as well), there is just some peculiar, irrational thing that I don't like about these bulky tools. A big metal cage or a basket and the natural quality of "tea" just don't seem to mix well. (Perhaps then, the disposable tea bags are best-suited for me.)


I will admit, this option feels the coolest. Loose tea leaves may be placed on the bottom of a teapot and boiling water poured over them. You place a lid on the teapot and let the leaves steep for the appropriate amount of time before serving the tea into individual cups or mugs. Of course, since the leaves were loose in the teapot, you need to pour the tea through a strainer first (unless you want a mouth full of leaves). Small strainers such as this one sit on top of the individual cup and catch the leaves, which may then be disposed of.

Certainly a little more work than the other options, but I am not ashamed to admit that I like the "idea" of brewing tea in this fashion. It also gives me an excuse to purchase a cool-looking teapot.

If Elizabeth drank tea, I could justify this method on the fact that it allows me to easily brew more than a single cup, but Elizabeth does not drink tea. I suppose I could still justify it on the fact that I, myself, may very well drink more than a single cup of tea. Or perhaps I may have tea-drinking company over.

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If you have read this far, thank you for indulging me. It seems after writing this entry that I am biased in favor of the disposable tea bags and teapot methods. At any rate, this is all a matter of idiosyncratic preference and probably has little to no effect on the actual taste of the tea. But that won't stop me from mulling things over.