We know that it can be easy to put off trying loose leaf tea because it just seems too complicated to brew - until you discover the glorious world of tea filters, infusers, and steepers! Finding the right tea infusers that work for you and your favorite teas are a real game-changer, turning a process that can be intimidating into a welcome daily routine.
While tea filters simplify making loose leaf tea, the world of tea filters is anything but simple. With dozens of different options out there, from tea ball steepers to infuser baskets, tea strainers, and more (oh my!) it can be difficult to know exactly which type of filter you need. In this comprehensive guide, learn all about the different types of tea filters plus how to use them, so you can discover the best tea infuser for you.
Sips by is a personalized tea discovery subscription. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Members receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscription service.
Tea Mugs + Teacups
Wondering where to buy mugs? We stock a range of styles and prices of tea mugs from artisan makers and teaware brands. Upgrade your daily cup of tea with a beautiful ceramic, pottery, or stoneware mug! And if you're looking for the tools you need to brew your best, we have all of the accessories you need to make your best cup of tea, at home or at the office. Find tea supplies, tea kettles (electric and stovetop), infusers, tea spoons, premium disposable tea bags, strainers, and more tools to help you make the most of your tea. Savor the perfect cup with the help of these tea accessories.
WHAT IS A TEA INFUSER?
So what really is a tea infuser? And what’s the difference between a tea infuser, tea filter, tea steeper, or tea strainer?
Tea infusers and tea steepers are the same type of tea tool. They both come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but ultimately they are reusable metal or plastic tools with mesh or holes that hold loose tea. The holes in tea infusers and steepers should be small enough to keep loose tea from floating freely in your cup or teapot, but big enough for the tea to steep. Tea infusers may already come built-in in your teapot, tea infuser mug, or tea infusing travel mug. Plus, they can always be bought separately and used in any brewing vessel.
Tea filters essentially function in the same way as tea infusers and steepers, but these are usually fillable tea bags made from paper (stay away from plastic filters!) and are not reusable.
Tea strainers are half spheres or baskets with handles that rest at the top of your teacup or mug and catch the leaves as you pour them out of a teapot. The benefit to tea strainers is that you don’t have to constrain the tea leaves while they’re steeping as they float freely in your teapot. If you’re using large whole leaf teas or herbal tea blends with ingredients like dried flowers, this straining method allows them to expand fully while steeping inside the pot.
Tea filters, steepers, and infusers make steeping loose leaf tea a breeze and cut down on clean-up after brewing. They also help keep you from over steeping tea, which means that you may be able to try re-steeping and get the most value from your high quality loose leaf teas. Once you start using tea infusers and loose leaf tea, you won’t even miss a tea bag!
TYPES OF TEA INFUSERS
INFUSER TEAPOTS & MUGS
Infusing teapots and mugs make brewing loose leaf tea a breeze. Teapots with infusers and mugs with infusers are simple to use because they come with some type of tea filter (usually a brewing basket) already built-in to the teapot. These baskets can be easily removed after your tea is done steeping. These are convenient for easy clean-up when making loose leaf tea, simple pouring, and it helps you to not over steep your tea.
Brewing baskets are medium-sized filter options that fit inside your mug or teapot when steeping. They are usually mesh or metal with fine holes and allow your loose tea leaves a good amount of room to expand. The best features of brewing baskets is that they’re versatile (you’ll be able to use it from your favorite mug to your best teapot!) and they’re super easy to clean. After you’re done brewing, just take out the basket, dump the used leaves in your trash or compost, and give it a rinse with soap and water or place it in the top rack of your dishwasher.
Disposable paper filters are the perfect solution if you don't want to quit tea bags cold turkey. When choosing tea filters, it’s important to make sure they’re made of unbleached paper or cotton instead of plastic so they’re non-toxic. If you want the benefit of your high quality loose tea leaves but don’t want the mess, these disposable tea filters are biodegradable and come in large or small sizes for however much tea you’re craving in the moment.
Tea balls, also called tea eggs or tea spoons, are mesh spheres that open in half to fit around 1 tablespoon of loose tea, then they snap or click shut. Tea infuser balls are extremely convenient to use as they almost function as a reusable tea bag. They also come on a long stick, metal chain, or hook on to the lip of your cup for easy removal. Tea balls are the most versatile tea infusing option, even more than brewing baskets, because they'll fit in any teacup, mug, cup, or teapot imaginable. However, since they are usually on the smaller side, it’s best to only use tea balls to make a single cup of tea at a time. Also, be careful to keep tea balls in good shape as they sometimes leak small particles of tea leaves through cracks if they get misshapen.
Mesh strainers are perfect if you only want to strain your leaves after the tea is done brewing in a teapot. A tea strainer rests on your cup or can be held over it while pouring to catch all of your leaves. These are great options if you want to re-steep your leaves a few times as they can be set aside on a napkin or saucer until you’re ready for that next infusion!
There are two types of tea presses. One is like a coffee press except “tailored” for tea leaves - in a pinch we just recommend using a normal French press if you already have one. However, the other type of tea press works in reverse. You let your tea leaves steep freely in the press, then when it’s finished you place it over your mug and press down. Instead of the leaves being squished and potentially releasing bitter tannins, the tea flows straight out of the press into your mug! Tea presses are great options for making 1-2 cups of tea at a time, but the only downside to these infusers is the clean-up after brewing.
BEST TEA INFUSERS, FILTERS, AND STEEPERS
We’ve got the best tea infusers for every type of steeper. Discover which tea filter, infuser, steeper, or strainer is meant for you and your cuppa!
THE BUSY STEEPER
For the tea drinker on-the-go we recommend a Glass Travel Tea Infuser Mug. This tea bottle is a game-changer for busy tea drinkers, making it easy to bring your tea along for the ride. Perfect for hot tea, the exterior wall stays cool to the touch.
SINGLE CUP SIPPER
If one cup of tea is all you need, invest in a beautiful tea infuser mug. This mug already comes with a brewing basket and a lid for optimal loose leaf steeping.
For the quick steeper who appreciates good tea and easy clean-up, we recommend single-use paper filters. Fill these tea filters with your favorite tea, then toss, replace, enjoy, repeat!
If you like luxuriously sipping a few cups of tea at a time with a good book or Netflix binge, we recommend a convenient infusing teapot.
If you like sipping your tea in style, try out our adorable gold tea infuser collection - choose a heart tea infuser, gold tea ball infuser or gold star steeper for a decorative and functional tea steeper.
HOW TO USE A TEA INFUSER
Now that you know about all the different types of tea filters, infusers, and steepers, how does a tea infuser work? Here are some teatime tips for how to use a tea infuser!
It’s important to remember that choosing a tea infuser determines how much tea you can make, but it doesn’t change how long you steep your tea. For tea balls, brewing baskets in mugs, and small paper filters you’ll want to follow this guide to know how much tea to use in your infuser when steeping one cup of tea.
For teapots with infusers, large paper filters, large brewing baskets, mesh strainers, or a tea press follow these guides to learn how much tea to use in your infuser when steeping 2-4 cups of tea.
HOW MUCH LOOSE TEA FOR SMALL 2 CUP TEAPOT (12-18 OZ)
- White: 4 tsp - 2 tbsp
- Herbal: 1 - 2 tbsp
- Pu-erh: 1 - 2 tbsp
- Oolong: 2 - 4 tsp
- Rooibos: 2 tsp - 1 tbsp
- Green: 2 tsp - 1 tbsp
- Black: 2 tsp - 1 tbsp
HOW MUCH LOOSE TEA FOR LARGE 4 CUP TEAPOT (32 oz)
- White: 2 - 3 tbsp
- Herbal: 1 - 3 tbsp
- Pu-erh: 1 - 3 tbsp
- Oolong: 1 - 2 tbsp
- Rooibos: 1 - 2 ½ tbsp
- Green: 1 - 2 ½ tsp
- Black: 1 - 2 ½ tsp
DIY TEA FILTER
If you have some delicious loose leaf tea you’ve been wanting to try but you’re missing a tea infuser, learn how to brew loose leaf tea without an infuser in a pinch!
There are two different types of DIY tea infusers you can make, depending on what you have around the house. If you have foil, you can make your own tea ball. If you have a coffee filter or cheesecloth laying around, you can make your own tea bags.
DIY TEA FILTER
Makes 1 tea infuser // Active Time: 5 minutes
What You'll Need
- Coffee filter, cheesecloth, or foil
- Toothpick or fork
- String or rubber band
DIY FOIL TEA BALL
Cut off a large piece of foil and fold in half until it resembles a square.
Poke small holes in the middle of the square with a toothpick or fork, until you have an area about the size of a few quarters.
Add your tea to the middle of your square where the holes are.
Pull up the edges of the foil and twist together tightly, keeping all the tea at the bottom of the foil with the holes.
Now you’re ready to steep your tea! Always follow the steeping instructions on your tea package first, but if you don’t have those handy follow our How to Make Loose Leaf Tea guide or watch our How to Steep Tea videos to learn how to steep every type of tea properly.
DIY TEA BAGS
If you’re using cheesecloth, cut into a 5x5 inch square. If you have a coffee filter, the size is already perfect.
Place your tea in the middle of the filter or cheesecloth, and pull up the edges together.
Secure tightly with a rubber band or piece of string. Steep away!
Now you know how to steep tea without a fancy steeper! For a similar tea hack, here’s how to measure tea without measuring spoons.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
SHOP BEST LOOSE LEAF TEA
Discover the best loose leaf teas as rated by Sips by's 600,000 tea-loving Members. Across all tea types, from black tea to green tea to herbal tea and more, these are the best loose leaf teas from different tea brands around the world. Find your favorite loose leaf tea - no matter the type or flavor of loose leaf tea you're searching for, Sips by has options you'll love. Discover your new favorite loose leaf tea, as well as disposable tea bag kits to make brewing loose leaf tea easy.
Interested in trying these teas and others? Subscribers receive 4 teas chosen just for them in every box. Learn more about our tea subscription service.
About Sips by: We’re a female-founded and led startup that makes discovering tea fun, personalized, and affordable. The Sips by Box is the only multi-brand, personalized tea subscription box. Each month, we match tea drinkers across the U.S. with delicious teas from over 150 global tea brands that we’re sure they’ll love. Based out of Austin, Texas, we are adept at savoring a hot mug even when it’s seasonally inappropriate.