What Is a Tea Infuser?
An infuser is a tool that allows one substance to become part of another. In this case, the infuser is the tool that allows the tea leaves to impart their flavor into the water.
An infuser is not to be confused with a diffuser. Opposite of an infuser, a diffuser starts with a concentrated flavor and spreads it out over a wide space. You might use a diffuser in your home with oils or wax to melt a concentrated substance and spread a small amount of the nice scent across a large area.
A tea infuser might be in a variety of shapes and styles. Technically even a tea bag is a tool for infusion, thought it tends to be more convenient than efficient for brewing the best flavor. A tea ball is another common type of tea infuser. This could be a ball shape or any other novelty shape (like a heart), and the enclosed shape dangles or dunks completely into the water in your mug. Sometimes pitchers have long basket infusers that sink into the center of their shape. These infusers can be used to brew tea or to infuse water with flavors of cut fruits and herbs.
For a loose leaf tea drinker, I recommend mesh "nest" style infusers that sit within a mug but give the tea leaves lots of space.
Now you know the basics, let’s explore more deeply: How does a tea infuser work?
How Does a Tea Infuser Work?
The infusion process is all about having your tea leaves make the most contact with the water. The holes of the infuser allow water in to mingle with the tea leaves. As the tea leaves soak in the water, they mix their flavor with the water, brewing tea. Then that tea escapes the infuser through the same holes it used to enter, filling your mug and allowing more water without flavor to come into contact with the tea leaves.
You want the infuser to have enough room for your tea to move and expand as it soaks in the water. If your tea leaves don’t have enough room to unfurl, they aren’t making as much surface contact with the water and are not able to provide as potent of a flavor. This is important for teas with large leaves like No Obligations Decaf, teas with compressed leaves like the Vanilla Rose tea hearts, or teas with lots of dried fruit like Pineapple Pop that expand more dramatically when wet.
If your infuser doesn’t have enough holes, it is harder for water and tea to transfer in and out of the basket. This can sometimes be a problem with built-in ceramic or glass infusers inside teapots.
If your infuser has holes that are too big, you will get tea leaves escaping the infuser and entering the brew itself. This can be especially challenging with small-leaf teas that have honeybush or rooibos, such as Easy Like a Sunday Morning. If the seam of your infuser is imperfect, leaves may also escape through gaps there as well.
The mesh in-mug infusers are a great compromise of all of these challenges. Their open design provides plenty of room for the tea to expand, and the mesh is made of many, many tiny holes that allow the transfer of tea and water but don’t allow tiny tea leaves to escape.
How Do You Use a Tea Infuser?
Now that you know all about infusion and infusers, let's get down to brewing. So, just how do you use a tea infuser?
It is only a few easy steps:
1. Select an infuser
2. Add loose leaf tea
3. Add water
4. Wait for brewing
5. Remove infuser
Find the Right Infuser For You
While the job of tea infusers is serious business, the aesthetics of tea infusers can be all beauty and style, bringing some good looks and personality to your mug or tea cupboard. Show off some classic glamor with a gemstone heart infuser. Enjoy the warm, rustic tones of a cherrywood infuser or the clean, crisp lines and vintage charm of a Victorian infuser. Bring the starry night sky to your tea party with a celestial infuser, or make your mug look like it is right out of a fairytale with a dragonfly pewter infuser.
Now that you know the answers to the questions of how does a tea infuser work and how to use a tea infuser, you have the tools and the knowledge to start infusing your best mug of loose leaf tea.