Tea Tech: Fun ways to brew loose tea

Loose tea, brewed properly, makes for better flavor and enhances the overall tea enjoyment experience. An ingenious device makes it easy and fun.
Written by Denise Amrich, Contributor

Apparently lots of people like tea as much as I do, judging from the response to the other day's Tea Tech article about a favorite electric kettle.

See also: Tea Tech: The high-tech kettle that’s the best thing since boiled water

But, of course, many tea lovers object to tea that comes in those convenient little bags we're all used to. Why? Because loose tea, brewed properly, makes for better flavor and enhances the overall tea enjoyment experience.

To properly brew loose tea, the tea needs to actually be...well...loose. It should have the room to float around and expand. That's why cramming it into one of those little metal tea balls or mesh bags isn't the best way to go.

An old-school way is to use a ceramic tea pot with a strainer in the handle, add the tea, add the hot water, close the lid to steam, and pour into those tiny tea cups. An alternative to this is to use an infuser basket that can be removed so as not to overdo the brewing time and create a too-bitter infusion.

A relatively recent technological innovation that has been making my loose tea life easier, and more fun, is the IngenuiTEA teapot from Adagio Teas. I say it's relatively recent, because to my knowledge it's only been around for a couple of years, and I've been drinking a lot tastier tea since I discovered it.

Simply measure the tea into the SGS-certified BPA-free plastic teapot, and pour in up to 16 ounces of water (they also make a 32-ounce size that's perfect for making iced tea or filling a Thermos). Then, close the lid so the tea can properly steam without losing heat (another key element in proper tea brewing), and wait for the correct amount of brewing time. I'd suggest setting your kitchen timer if you want to be careful not to overbrew.

Different teas have different brewing times. For fun and usefulness, download Adagio's free tea timer. You can even customize it to add your own teas to it.

When your lovely loose leaves have had enough time to happily float around and steep to your liking, place the IngenuiTEA on top of your cup or mug. A valve at the bottom allows the tea (but none of the leaves) to flow down into the cup. For some reason that never gets old. I don't know. Maybe I'm easily entertained. I guess there are worse things you could say about a person.

The leaves go easily down the garbage disposal, and the IngenuiTea is top rack dishwasher safe. There are a bunch of videos about of the product on YouTube, both from purveyors of the device and individuals who are using it on their own. People generally seem to like it as much as I do.

A similar device, called the Teavana Perfect TeaMaker is available from Teavana. I can't vouch for it because I haven't personally tried it.

If you are anxious to try the floating loose leaf method, but don't want to order a device or wait for one to arrive, just try brewing the tea in a glass measuring cup that can handle boiling water, and pour the tea into your mug through a strainer (you may already have one around your kitchen somewhere) when it's ready. I'd recommend using one with a handle long enough to keep your hand away from the boiling water.

Presentation can also enhance your tea enjoyment experience. I particularly like using a double-wall thermal tea glass or clear mug so I can admire the clarity and color of my tea while I kick back and sip. Alternatively, an artsy earthy pottery mug can warm both hands and heart on a long winter's night (or when my husband insists on putting the air conditioning down to arctic temperatures).

How do you do your brew? Share your favorite way to brew tea in the TalkBacks below.

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