simple stuff: tea strainers.

February 12, 2019

Contrary to popular opinion, I don’t read tea leaves. Not real ones anyway. Indeed, I’d prefer the leaves to stay mostly out of my tea. But I recently had folks over for dinner and, as is often the case, it wasn’t until I started to steep cups of post-dinner herbal tea that it occurred to me how clumsy our tea infusing set up is. Suffice to say, had a real tea leaf reader been in the room, there would have been plenty of material to work with at the bottoms of our cups.

I’ve been on the hunt for a more perfect tea strainer ever since—and, thanks to some of you, I’ve also been reminded of what I can use that’s already right under my nose.

An ideal strainer for me, is one without too many parts and that doesn’t require fussing. Faye and Silas love making chamomile tea, but trying to stuff chamomile flowers into one of our two teaspoon infusers is tricky for small fingers (and larger ones) and more often than not we end up straining the tea through our teeth. So, my first priority is a wide-mouthed strainer for easy filling. Second priority—of equal value to the first—is a strainer that fits securely on top of wider-than-average tea cups, and that goes deep enough that the water gets easily infused. We currently have a variation of the mesh strainer with bamboo handle shown above, and while it’s terrific for a small-necked mug, it sinks directly to the bottom of all of ours. My third priority is a tea strainer that’s large enough that it can be used to brew either a single cup or a small pot full of tea. We might one day be in the market for a proper tea pot again, and I’d love to be able to put the same strainer to use for a crowd or all by my lonesome.

What I already have:

+ For big pots of tea, I should have remembered to look no further than my French press. Of course. We use it daily for coffee, and I used to fill it up with tea regularly, too. When I was given a glass tea pot with a strainer of its own a few years ago, I fell out of the habit and by the time the glass strainer met its early, toddler-precipitated end, I’d forgotten all about using the French press for tea instead. Forgotten no more. When I’ve got guests, or a hankering for a big pot of tea, I’ll be putting our French press to good use.

What I’ve been admiring:

+ Earthenware Tea Strainer: This matte, unglazed earthenware strainer is slipcast & finished by Sue Pryke for Herriot Grace. The long handles would fit over even my large tea cups and it would be amply wide enough for easy filling. Perhaps too delicate for my personal assistants (read: children), but so lovely to look at, it deserves an ogle.

+ Wheel-Thrown Tea Strainer: I love the look of this tea strainer from Sarah Van Raden of Notary Ceramics. The circular top would be wide enough to fit over my mugs and the large basket looks like it could be used for one cup or several.

+ Vintage Brass Basket Tea Strainer: Briar Winters of Marble and Milkweed often finds and re-stocks these vintage brass basket tea strainers in her shop. The long handle makes them perfect for wide tea cups and they’re sturdier and easier to fill than their mesh counterparts.

+ Schefs Premium Stainless Steel Tea Strainer: One of my sisters swears by this simple stainless strainer. It’s wide enough to fit over a variety of mugs, easy to fill, and, best of all, the handles fold down to make for simple storage. (Those are some moving parts I can get behind.)

+ Mesh Tea Strainer: I get asked so many questions about this strainer (mentioned above), that I thought I would add it here for those curious. It’s really great for mugs or pots with a small opening, but there’s not a huge amount of room for error if what you have isn’t the perfect diameter.

+ For Life Stainless Steel Tea Strainer: A favorite local café uses these strainers for their teas and I’ve often enjoyed using them there. Since so many of you reached out to say they’re your favorites, I wanted to make sure to add them to the list. The small cover is a nice addition for brewing medicinal teas and stronger infusions, but of course a small plate or bowl works in a pinch, too.

What else? Other favorites? What are you drinking lately?

This post includes affiliate links. Reading My Tea Leaves might earn a small commission on the goods purchased through those links. 

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  • Reply Sarah February 12, 2019 at 1:54 pm

    I don’t make tea terribly often, and while we do have a tea ball, I usually prefer using paper filters when I have loose-leaf tea. Single-use, but the whole thing goes right into the compost when I’m done with it, and I don’t have to clean tea leaves out of steel mesh (which annoys the hell out of me).

    • Reply Mo August 13, 2019 at 4:21 am

      The trick to cleaning tea leaves out of mesh strainers is to let them dry before you attempt it. When they are dry, you just pour them out and wash the tea strainer.

  • Reply Susan Magnolia February 12, 2019 at 2:08 pm

    We drink a lot of loose leaf tea. I use simple long handled clamp style one for peppermint tea/infusion nightly. My partner prefers a Muji glasss tea pot with a basket for his black tea. There are times when I get frustrated with the tea or rather herbal bits getting everywhere and have to resort to the mesh strainer that sits on the cup and that solves the problem.

  • Reply Charlotte February 12, 2019 at 2:18 pm

    I am exclusively a tea drinker and drink multiple cups a day, so I’ve tried a number of strainers over the years. By far my favorite is the OXO Twisting Tea Ball. It is super easy to scoop tea out of tins or bags with it, and with its twisting closure, no tea falls out! The holes are also small enough that leaves don’t really get stuck in it. I find it much easier to clean than the Schefs Premium Tea Infuser, which I also have. I actually love it so much, that I bought one to keep at my parents’ house so that when I visit them I don’t have to worry about it!

  • Reply Jen February 12, 2019 at 2:37 pm

    Yay, tea! In the winter, I use a strainer very similar to the one one of your sisters swears by except it’s by Forlife, has a hook on one side to catch the edge of the cup, and a little plate to rest on/catch drips once you’re done. I love that it fits perfectly in my little 3-cup saucepan (makeshift tea kettle). In the summer, I brew iced tea in a big stock pot and hang a screw-top Swiss gold strainer from one of the handles. Works just fine to make gallons at a time. I’m loving tisanes in addition to an Irish or Canadian breakfast – peppermint, and a killer lavender sage lemonade that I’m so sad I spilled all over the floor in a ham-fisted maneuver the other night.

    • Reply Denise February 21, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      I believe I have the same one. It’s the ForLife Extra-fine Tea Infuser with Porcelain Dish Set. I drink loose leaf tea every day and this works perfectly well for me. Cleaning the loose tea out of the strainer isn’t my favorite task, but it’s probably a bit of a pain with any strainer. I manage.

  • Reply Melanie February 12, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    I usually prepare my tea by putting the leaves at the bottom of a cup and adding water, then strain it by putting an old saucer on top and pouring the tea in a new cup (just like you would use a pot lid to strain a pot of boiled pasta). This is inspired by a Chinese method of preparing tea which I picked up during my travels. There are also some vessels especially made for this. Just by doing a quick web search I stumbled across this nice looking option, although I haven’t tried them myself:

    • Reply Maria February 12, 2019 at 10:26 pm

      I’m having one of those omg-duh-how-have-I-never-thought-of-this moments. This is genius. Thank you for sharing!

  • Reply Kim B February 12, 2019 at 3:24 pm

    My husband and I drink tea every morning (not together; we’re on different schedules as I work in an office and he works in a restaurant). We have four Bodum plastic-and-mesh strainers that we rotate. I use my strainer/tea for two days in a row, although he doesn’t.

    We like having more strainers than people because that way the tea leaves dry in the strainers that have been unused for a day or two, and you can easily tump the dried tea leaves out (no efforts to get the wet tea out of there).

    You’ve put up some lovely strainers here. I love the line about the Sue Pryke ones being “perhaps too delicate” for your assistants. Tee hee!!

  • Reply linda February 12, 2019 at 4:25 pm

    i have the mesh strainer and i think i’ve only been able to use it once! it’s simple and cute but definitely not very practical considering you really do have to find the perfect circumference to use it.

  • Reply Erica February 12, 2019 at 4:30 pm

    Maybe too soon for you to use a glass tea pot again with the littles around, but I love my Hario glass pots. I have two, one for black tea and one for green/herbal teas. The strainers are flawless, not a single tea leaf left behind. Not to mention, they are aesthetically pleasing kept on our exposed shelfs. If/when you are on the market for one, I highly recommend these two:

    happy tea drinking!!

  • Reply Rebecca February 12, 2019 at 5:14 pm

    I use these and love them:

    Nice and deep. Works in a deep/large mug or a teapot. Works on all but the grainiest tea.

  • Reply A February 12, 2019 at 6:19 pm

    Please don’t buy that vintage brass one ! It hardly has space to let the tea leaves soak in the water. It looks pretty but is designed for the sake of being pretty.

    Please make sure your tea stainer comes with some sort of rest. I have given pretty ones to friends as presents and they stopped using it because they found it inconvenient to use after the charm wears off. If you work in an office, make sure you buy one that comes with a tiny steel plate to rest it upon.

    • Reply Aine Whelan February 13, 2019 at 6:13 am

      I think the issue is working on two meanings of “tea strainer” – that brass one is shallow so you put it on your cup, pour the tea from a pot, and it catches the (much smaller volume) of leaves that fall out with the tea. It’s not for putting in your cup and steeping in, but the shallowness keeps it out of your cuppa so you don’t overbrew.
      I agree about the rests though; I know a spare plate or cup would work as well, but having a dedicated item can really help use it properly!

      • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 13, 2019 at 6:42 am

        Ah, right! Leaves steeped directly in pot, poured through a strainer! The lid on that last strainer doubles as a dish!

  • Reply Genevieve February 12, 2019 at 6:50 pm

    I have a different FORLIFE strainer–the one with the dish rather than a lid. I never need a lid, but I always need a dish to set my strainer in! The simple little dish is one of the things I love about it!

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 13, 2019 at 6:42 am

      Terrific! This lid doubles as a dish!

  • Reply Cindy February 12, 2019 at 7:24 pm

    While this doesn’t check the local/small business boxes, we LOVE our stainless steel tea strainers from Ikea. They fit over all our mugs, are so much less fiddly than tea balls, are easy to empty into the compost bucket, and wash up beautifully. They are also wonderfully inexpensive (a tradeoff, but we do try to buy exclusively fair trade tea).

  • Reply Delphine February 12, 2019 at 8:56 pm will fit a larger mug (had the same issue as you with my bamboo-handled one!)
    Also, finally splurged and got some black organic tea from Nepal from a local shop, very similar to Darjeeling but better!

  • Reply Leslie February 12, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    I have this brass one and love it:’s beautiful. It’s similar to but much larger and deeper than the one you show in the post.

  • Reply Becca February 12, 2019 at 10:33 pm

    This is the post I have been waiting for! Thank you thank you

  • Reply Jay February 13, 2019 at 8:46 am

    Love this post (and tea). I drink Prana Chai masala blend and their starter pack comes with a stainless steel teapot and strainer. I use the teapot on the stove to heat almond milk with the tea leaves, and then pour the tea through the strainer into a mug. Works really well!

  • Reply Jessica February 13, 2019 at 10:32 am

    Ok, if you’re using the coffee French Press to make tea, doesn’t your tea end up tasting like coffee? I have this issue when I go out to eat and get tea…if the mug has been used for coffee a lot, my hot water or tea ends up taking like really bland, bad coffee.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE February 13, 2019 at 11:55 am

      I don’t remember that being a problem, though I can imagine that if you’re not scrupulous about cleaning your French press, you could certainly get a coffee aftertaste.

  • Reply M February 13, 2019 at 10:49 am

    Not the prettiest thing in the world but this teapot works perfectly for lose leaf teas and it couldn’t be easier. I use it every day at least once.
    Because the tea drains out the bottom valve, absolutely no tea leaves get through. Kids LOVE using it too–you place it on top of a mug and watching the tea drain from the teapot down into the mug is like magic.

  • Reply Phoebe February 13, 2019 at 11:22 am

    We love loose leaf tea and we have been SO happy with these strainers:
    We’ve never found a mug that it doesn’t fit, and we love that each one comes with a coaster that you can set the strainer on after steeping your tea. No mess!

  • Reply Stéphanie February 13, 2019 at 1:03 pm

    I use a big teapot even when it’s just me drinking tea, and then wrap ovengloves and a tea towel around it to keep it warm. This way I’m boiling the kettle less often during the day (I work from home) and saving energy too. For a tea strainer I use a simple mesh strainer but it’s not wide enough to balance on my mugs, so I have to hold it by the rim. I keep thinking I should get something better, but then always come back to ‘well, my current method is good enough’ as I hate shopping! I’ve seen a nice, wide, deep strainer in Muji though, so perhaps I’ll look into that!

  • Reply Sarah February 15, 2019 at 11:52 am

    Anyone have recommendation for a good tea kettle?

  • Reply Megan February 16, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I like to steep my tea in a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup, then pour through a small sieve like the one below into a mug. So easy, and it cuts down on single purpose kitchen items (the strainer is useful for all kinds of things, not just tea making). The Pyrex and strainer are also much easier to clean than any of the tea pots or tea specific strainers I’ve tried in the past!

  • Reply Denise February 21, 2019 at 4:11 pm

    PS My favorite tea lately has been hojicha.

  • Reply Mo August 13, 2019 at 4:46 am

    Lovely collection even though I don’t need any tea strainers at this point (I mostly use a few old Bodum plastic tea strainers that came with their glass mugs about 15 years ago, and they are still going strong and serve their purpose, as well as an assortment of ball strainers and an antique type strainer for when I serve loose leaf tea from a pot). As someone else pointed out, there are two types of tea strainers in this post: The large ones that you use to steep tea in a mug or pot and then remove, and the shallow ones (like the antique or the porcelain ones) that you use to sift out any stray leaves when you pour tea from the tea pot into the cup.

    AS a bonus, I’m linking to a video on the Victorian way to make a cup of tea, you can see how to use the shallow (antique) tea strainer at around 1 minute:

    Also, a pro tip: let the tea leaves dry before you try to clean the strainers. It will make cleaning a piece of cake. Promise!
    (You can also save time by pouring out the majority of the tea leaves while they are still wet, and then let the rest dry before you clean the strainer.)

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