Diffusing infuser confusion

30 Mar
Dizzying, isn't it?

Dizzying, isn’t it?

Look at us, all fancy-like with our spanking new domain at snooteablog.com.

Now we can get really snooty.

See what great things are possible with technology?

Speaking of technology, humans have developed a staggering number of contraptions, devices, and gadgets that allows us to take our precious leaves from point A to point Tea. The Pinchy One: Your basic, cheapest option at a couple dollars, tops. However, you get what you pay for. You have to be careful when handling them, so that leaves don’t escape between the two halves of the infuser mid-steep. (This is more likely to happen with fine-grained teas like rooibus and lavender, so heads-up herbal lovers!) These infusers can hold up to a teaspoon’s worth of leaves, and if you recall the ratios from tea hacking, a teaspoon yields a respectable 8 ounces of tea. Now, since mugs are usually 10 or more ounces, this means that you won’t get a very strong cup. Don’t try fooling the infuser by packing it with extra tea–you’re just making it even harder for the flavor to come out, and risking getting unnecessary leaf matter into your cup. Hot water causes tea leaves to expand, so they need room to unfurl, especially long, broad specimens like Chinese greens. Otherwise their goodness and taste stays cramped up inside like a WoW addict. But if you’re just looking for a quick fix and minimal commitment, it’ll do in a pinch*.

Pros: Cheap, portable, easy to use and re-use, simple cleanup.
Cons: Limited flavor capacity, not good for large amounts of tea.

The Basket-y One: Your other cheapest, most basic option. Again, pretty fool-proof–just dump however much tea you want in there. Because it’s suspended at the top of the mug, as opposed to the lower half where all the action takes place, your tea hacking ability is going to be limited. Best to use it when you’ve got the time for a good steep. Here the leaves are still going to be crowded, but they’ll have enough wiggle room that if you add a little more tea than the recommended amount per cup, the flavor power will balance out. Since you have more room to add more tea, these are handy for larger quanti-teas** if you’re using it in a teapot. Also, since the leaves are neatly contained by gravity and the basket, there’s hardly any chance of them spilling into your tea.

Pros: Again–cheap, portable, easy to use/re-use, simple cleanup, and minimal hazard of leaf spillage.
Cons: Slightly more time and effort required than the pinchy things.

The Dangly One: In the same price range, perhaps a dollar or two more, you’ll get the best of both worlds. Just be sure to get one that’s big enough, so that the leaves will be happy to spread out to their hearts’ content, and since it hits the bottom of the mug or pot, you can readily tea-hack with it. The only thing to watch out for is that these infusers, especially the cheaper ones, like to slip open if you fiddle too much with them while steeping. But if you don’t care about a little extra fiber in your tea, then don’t bother worrying.

Pros: Great flavor payoff plus all the benefits of the previous two–cheap, portable, easy to use/re-use, simple cleanup, etc.
Cons: Possibility of it accidentally coming apart and leaf spillage.

The Techy One: Not gonna lie–once you get one of these, you won’t ever want to use the mesh gadgets again. You’re giving the leave all the space they could ever dream of, and they’ll thank you by releasing their flavor at maximum capacity with each infusion. The drawback, however, is that cleanup can be a bitch. (Again, like glitter and beach sand, those fine-grained teas get in the cracks of everything.) Also, the amount of hot water is limited to the size of the infuser, so if you want to serve a good cup’s worth of your fantastic steepage to a whole bunch of people at once, you’re out of luck and will have to re-infuse. However, since you’re using this type of doohicky, at least the re-infusion will be tasty as well.

Pros: A damn fine cup of tea.
Cons: Much pricier than the above options, tricky cleanup, massive quanti-teas not possible.

The Baggy One: Doesn’t it give you a tickly feeling inside, making your own bag of tea? Roughly the same flavor capacity as a basket, but you don’t have to worry about cleanup–just dump it when you’re done. For the convenience, however, you’re going to be spending a little more money in the long run depending on your tea-drinking frequency; every time you replenish your stock of bags, it’ll cost the same as buying another cheap infuser, and on top of this you have to buy a corresponding pack of coffee stirrers to hold the bag in place when you’re steeping it. With one of the non-disposable contraptions, it can be used until death or tetanus do you part and doesn’t require extra bells and whistles. Also, since they’re destined for the trash, disposable bags are not the most eco-friendly option. Luckily though, there are washable, reusable cloth versions that function like the dangly infuser.

Pros: Cheap, portable, convenient, no cleanup necessary.
Cons: Not quite as easy to use/reuse, will annoy environmental activists,

And then there’s the kind that are just plain fun. You probably won’t get much tea out of them as they tend to run pincher-sized, but who cares when you’ve got a shark in your mug.

Which infuser do you use?

*It’s not a Snooty Tea post without a pun.
**Pun #2. You know you love it.

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One Response to “Diffusing infuser confusion”

  1. Sai March 30, 2013 at 2:35 pm #

    I will forever swear by Adagio’s IngenuiTEA. I am also the proud owner of a rubber ducky infuser, but it crapped out on me after about two months.

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