As you embark on your tea journey, you’ll want to learn about the best ways to brew your loose leaf tea. There are a variety of tea brewing methods and tools, and your choice might depend on your experience level and comfort, the types of tea you generally prefer to drink, the number of people you’re preparing the tea for, where you're drinking your tea (i.e. at home vs. on the go), and your taste for certain designs.
Teapots are a great way to steep loose leaf tea. They generally will come with a removable or built-in filter, so you can simply add tea leaves and water. The filter is also generally big enough to allow the leaves to expand nicely. If your teapot doesn’t have a filter, you can always put the leaves straight into the pot, and pour the tea through a strainer as you serve it to strain out the leaves. Teapots come in a range of materials, shapes, and sizes. Asian-style steeping generally uses very small teapots (3-6 oz) which are filled with a larger amount of tea leaves for multiple quick infusions (see below for more), but in the West we are familiar with larger teapots (18-32 oz) which can serve multiple people and are ideal for making a large quantity of tea at once to bring out much of the flavor in the first steep. There are pros and cons to both styles which we'll discuss in a later lesson! For now, staying on track, here are a few common types of teapots:
Has higher heat retention than other materials such as glass and porcelain. It doesn’t absorb tea flavor and therefore is suitable for all types of tea. It is recommended for fragile and delicate teas such as green or white. Here's an example of a ceramic teapot from one of our brand partners, Pinky Up. Use code SIPSBY for 20% off.
Like ceramic pots, porcelain pots do not absorb tea flavor. They are recommended for fragile and delicate teas such as green and white teas, but not recommended for teas with longer brewing time such as herbal or black teas, because porcelain doesn’t retain heat very well (unless you use a tea warmer). We really like this porcelain tea cupping set from Rishi. Use code SIPSBY for 20% off.
Unglazed clay teapots, pictured right below, are highly recommended for brewing oolong and pu’erh teas. Some famous types of clay teapots are Yixing and Jianshui. They are also known as “memory teapots” because the porous clay absorbs the tannins and tea aroma gradually over time. Because of this, it’s also important to choose only one type of tea to use for each clay pot you have (i.e. one pot for oolongs, one pot for pu-erhs). You should be careful when purchasing a clay teapot to make sure it is high quality and authentic – it should feel comfortable in your hand, and should pour water very smoothly from the spout. The lid should also fit the teapot opening as close as possible, so it doesn’t move. Here's a cool example of a clay pot from Rishi. Use code SIPSBY for 20% off.
Glass teapots, pictured middle below, are great for visual presentation of the tea infusion – especially for watching blooming tea open up, observing tea leaves as they unfurl, and watching the color of the water change. Glass teapots are neutral and suitable for all types of tea, and will not affect the taste. But, like porcelain, glass is not the most ideal for heat retention.
Cast iron teapots, pictured left below, have been made in Japan since the 17th century and are also known as Tetsubins. They were originally used to brew water for tea, but now cast iron pots are widely used to steep tea as well. It is believed that tea brewed in cast iron pots tastes better because of increased mineral content. Cast iron also absorbs heat evenly and retains heat very well. A cast iron pot is durable and can last you a lifetime, as long as you ensure it is good quality (should be hand-made in Japan) and that you take proper care of it. As a rule of thumb, you should never use soap to wash your pot, but only rinse with hot water and wipe with a clean cloth, and you should never use it as a kettle over a fire or on a stovetop. You can find some nice cast iron pots like this one from Yunomi. Use code SIPSBY for 20% off.
DISPOSABLE OR REUSABLE TEA POUCHES
This is a nice option if you are used to using tea bags, are just starting to experiment with loose leaf and don’t have proper teaware or steeping tools yet, or if you like to drink loose leaf tea on-the-go and need a convenient, travel-friendly way to steep. However, when confined to a small bag or pouch, the tea leaves don’t always have room to expand the way they should, and the flavor might not come out as well. Especially with higher quality teas, you want to allow the leaf to expand to get the most out of it. We include these in our personalized tea subscription boxes, for any loose leaf samples. If you receive loose leaf tea in your Sips by box, you'll also receive 15 disposable tea bags, in case other teaware options aren't available to you or you're just starting our with loose leaf tea. If you run out, you can find reusable or disposable tea bags online, at specialty tea stores, and often specialty grocery stores.
PERSONAL MUG AND FILTER
This is a nice option for people who generally make just one serving of tea at a time - and you can steep the tea right in your favorite mug! It's a step up from filling tea bags, because the filter usually allows the loose leaf tea more room to open up in the mug. It is also easier to travel with your own filter than it is to travel with a teapot. You can find tea infusers online, at specialty tea stores, and often at specialty grocery stores. We recommend choosing a tea infuser basket with a lid – you should always cover your cup while steeping tea so that they temperature and aromas do not escape. You can also flip the lid over to use as an infuser holder after the tea is done steeping. You can find some nice mug/filter sets like this one at the Tea Spot. Use code SIPSBY20 for 20% off.
GRAVITY INFUSER / TEA MAKER
A gravity infuser is an easy and hassle-free contraption for steeping loose tea – you simply add leaves and water, wait for it to steep, and place it over your cup or mug and the ready-to-drink tea comes right out of the bottom. It’s also great for making iced tea – you can make a more concentrated brew and pour directly over ice. You can often find gravity infusers (sometimes called other names, such as “perfect tea maker”) online or at specialty tea stores. Here's an example on Amazon.
The gaiwan is a simple tool for brewing tea that was invented during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in China and consists of a lid, cup, and saucer (“gai” means lid and “wan” means bowl in Chinese). Gaiwans are commonly made of porcelain, but may also be made out of glass, yixing clay, or jade. They are suited for a wide variety of teas and are often used in classic gongfu cha preparation, and in professional tea tasting. Try out a gaiwan if you want to get more out of your tea, and to have a more sensory and meditative experience with this elegant tool, with no strainer or filter needed. Here's a great example of a gaiwan set from Teabook. Here's an example of a gaiwan from Rishi.
Use code SIPSBY for 20% off Rishi and 12% off at Teabook.
There are so many different types of tea brewing tools and accessories out there - it can be overwhelming at first, but hopefully this guide will help give you a brief overview of what's out there. As you get into more advanced techniques such as gong fu style brewing, you may want to add additional accessories to your collection, such as a tea tray, pitcher, and even a teapet (you may have seen our little clay monkey teapet, Curious George, pop up in our Instagram story!).
Let us know what your favorite tea tools or steeping methods are in the comments, or click the button below to create a free tea profile and stay up to date on new tea lessons, learn about fun tea recipes, and gain access to special brand offers + giveaways.