When it comes to the question of which tea infuser to use in order to make the best cup of tea, there are so many options to choose from. Tea ball infusers, strainers, novelty infusers, travel mugs, to glass teapots. Which do you choose?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer.
Perfect tea mugs are great for enjoying tea at home, teapots are excellent for brewing several servings of tea at once, and travel mug infusers are a must for enjoying loose leaf tea on to go.
What is easily overlooked is an infuser that can be used in a variety of different ways without needing a separate product for each purpose. Wouldn’t it be nice to use one tool to enjoy loose leaf tea at home, at work, or on the go?
A mesh tea ball can achieve just that.
What Is a Tea Ball?
If you are fairly new to the world of loose leaf tea, a tea ball is a great way to try something new without having to spend a fortune. It’s very inexpensive and incredibly easy to use. Our How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea: A Beginner’s Guide is also a great resource for brewing loose leaf.
A tea ball is a simple way to steep your loose leaf tea that requires minimal effort. Not to mention there are several other ways you can use a tea ball other than for tea. More on that below.
What It Looks Like
The tea ball is a round metal or ball shaped infuser that is covered in very fine stainless steel mesh. The mesh layout helps to keep leaves inside while allowing enough water to easily flow in and out for steeping.
In the middle is a clasp that swings outwards. This is how the ball opens and closes in order to add and remove tea.
Attached to the side is a stainless steel chain that has a hook at the end. The hook hangs onto the side of your cup, teapot, or thermos for steeping. The hook makes steeping tea easy in awkward or unusual shaped cups. I personally love drinking tea in mason jars, and for steeping in mason jars I only use a tea ball or scoop n slide infuser to do the job.
The tea ball infuser is about 2 inches wide (or 5.5 centimeters) in diameter. It is very light weight and compact and only weighs 2.6 ounces.
If you’re searching for an extra large tea ball, consider the modern day stainless steel tea infuser by Schefs.
How It Works
Using a tea ball is one of the easiest ways to brew loose leaf.
Simply flip open the latch, and fill about one half of the ball with loose leaf tea.
Firmly close the latch, and attach the hook onto your cup. Carefully drop the ball into your cup of hot water.
Safety note: I personally like to attach the tea ball to my cup first before filling with hot water. This avoids having to fumble with attaching the hook on a cup already filled with piping hot water.
Keep in mind it’s important to not overfill your tea ball with tea leaves. There will not be enough room for expansion, and if teas cannot fully expand, you won’t be able to taste the full flavour of your tea.
Once finished, remove the ball from your cup and carefully set it aside. There may still be water dripping and it may still be hot when handling.
Once cooled down, simply flip open the latch and remove the leaves. If you plan on enjoying another cup of tea, you can actually keep the same leaves inside, and just add the infuser into another cup of hot water. One of the many benefits of loose leaf tea!
Once you’re finished, the mesh tea ball can be rinsed under water. I personally do not put it in the dishwasher as a quick rinse is all it needs.
In this example I brewed a cup of Organic Japanese Sencha, a green tea by DAVIDsTEA.
I carefully filled just under one half of the infuser, which was about one teaspoon. I steeped for just under 3 minutes.
After steeping, I poured some tea into a white mug for better clarity to see how many more leaves escaped. There wasn’t that much, but a small amount was visible.
When I opened it up I could see that the leaves had unfurled to fill the entire ball. I carefully looked at the leaves and could see they all expanded very nicely.
Pros & Cons
When I made the switch from bagged tea to loose leaf tea, one of the first tea infusers I used was the tea ball. Even to this day, with all the different types of infusers I own, I still use the tea ball regularly.
While it’s quick and easy to use, it is not a perfect tool. It does have its areas where it excels in, and some areas where it does not.
- Incredibly inexpensive. It is probably the cheapest tea infuser you can buy
- Very simple to use
- Makes the process of steeping tea quick
- Can be used with different sized mugs, cups, teapots, or thermos
- Clean up is easy and fast
- Can serve other purposes other than brewing tea
- Limited room for leaf expansion. Some tea’s that have large leaves when they expand may not have enough space inside.
- For example some oolongs, black, or green teas can have very large leaves. This could be a concern if using very high quality, expensive teas
- The leaves of very fine teas may sneak through the mesh cover
- The mesh may accidently be smushed by a heavier object
The tea ball infuser is typically used to brew loose leaf tea, however it can also be used for other purposes.
When cooking, spices such as black pepper, cloves, cardamom, or any spice really, can be added inside a tea ball when making soup. This is great for when you want the flavour of the spice, but don’t actually want it inside (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally bit into black peppers when having soup). It saves from the hassle of having to fish out your spices.
A tea ball can also be used for cleaning jewelry. Earrings, rings, and other small precious metals can be placed inside, which is then lowered into cleaning solution. (Safety note: Do NOT use the same tea ball for cleaning jewelry and making tea!)
Fancy Tea Balls
If you’re looking for a tea ball infuser but the plain ones don’t really excite you, then I highly recommend you check out the Etsy listing page for tea ball infusers. Etsy literally has endless pages of different types of tea balls, such as this gorgeous Blue Turtle Pendant ball infuser. Definitely worth checking out to see what they have.
To this day I still use a tea ball in addition to other infusers I have.
It is one of the most commonly used tools to brew loose leaf tea, because it gets the job done.
Whether you are a loose leaf tea beginner or seasonal tea drinker, the classic tea ball is a tool that can be used in a variety of different ways. It’s perfect for brewing a big pot of tea or a single mug.
One of the simplest, cheapest, and most convenient ways to enjoy loose leaf tea is by using a tea ball infuser.
- Can brew single or multiple cups of tea
- Made from stainless steel
- Small, mesh holes
- Can be used in cups, mugs, travel thermos, or teapots
- Multi purpose infuser
- Measures 2.1 inches wide (5.5 cm) in diameter
- Weighs 2.6 ounces
- Quick and easy cleanup
The tea ball can be purchased at Amazon, where you’ll actually receive two tea balls!