March 01, 2013

Collection: Tea infusers and strainers (updated)

I own five several tea infusers and strainers.  What is the difference between the two?  I think of an infuser as a tool that is filled with tea, placed into a cup of hot water, and removed when the tea has steeped.  A strainer also holds tea for steeping but the device is usually fitted into a teapot such that it does not have to be removed when the tea is ready to be poured (drunk).  If a teapot is not accompanied by a strainer, one usually uses a separate shallow device to strain the leaves as one pours the tea from the pot to the cup.  Another distinction is that an infuser tends to completely encase the tea, like with the tea ball design, while a strainer is topless, like with the tea basket design.  Are the two words describing the same function or do the words distinguish between two styles?

What do you think?

Now on to my collection.  The metal tea tongs are too small; they cannot hold the typical teaspoon of leaves and do not allow the leaves to expand properly.  The metal bowl strainer, part of a small tea pot,is a better option than the spoons.  I purchased the bamboo infuser in an anti-plastic, anti-metal moment but it does not sit well in cups.  I have to hold the handle until the tea leaves are steeped.  Also, it imparts a slightly herbal note to the teas steeped in it.  My favorite of the bunch is the plastic, fine mesh basket, pictured above left.  Since the time this post was originally published, I have acquired a tea stick infuser from Asiatica in Montreal.

Yesterday, I spotted this (above) very cool metal strainer by Alan Chan at the Alessi store in Soho.  It's melodic, too.  (The tea canister has a surprise under the lid.  Stay tuned for a round-up of tea canisters.)

Image: Tea leaf and teabag strainer, James Hurlock, May 3, 2003 patent

Williams Sonoma sells a tea straining spoon for teabags here.  James Hurlock of Portland, Oregon filed a patent for a dual-purpose tea leaf and teabag strainer in May 2003.  It looks like a citrus press to me.

What is your favorite infuser or strainer?

Note: this post was originally posted on 11/30/11 and edited for clarity and updated with new content on 3/1/13.


  1. I also love the one you say is your favorite. I have another, similarly shaped all stainless mesh strainer that came with my For Life Curve teapot that I also love(have a look at that pot). I also have one that is a shorter cylinder, designed to sit on top of, and down inside of a mug. It has a silver flat wide rim, and works well, but only with some cups, and leaves me wanting more room.

  2. celticchrys, welcome to the blog!

    I drank from and liked the For Life Curve tall tea mug with strainer (see


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