The Strain Is Real
10 ways to strain loose leaf tea without a strainer or infuser.
In this article, we will explore ten easy ways to brew and strain loose leaf tea without using a strainer or an infuser.
You’ll be surprised by what everyday household objects can be used to help you make that perfect cuppa.
1. The Traditional Method
The origin of tea drinking began in Ancient China, so it’s no surprise that the traditional Chinese method of straining tea sits at the top of this list. The traditional method involves a small bowl with a lid, called a Gaiwan. The short one minute and thirty-second video below will quickly show you how a Gaiwan works.
Now, you probably don’t have a Gaiwan immediately at hand. But that’s okay because you don’t need one. You can replicate the process of brewing your loose tea in a Gaiwan by using a small bowl or wide mug and a small plate or a saucer. Easy peasy, tea-sy brew-sy.
2. The Coffee Filter Method
If you are unfortunate enough to share a house with a coffee lover (or you are, for some bizarre reason, as much a coffee lover as you are a tea lover), then it’s probably safe to assume that you have some paper coffee filters lying around somewhere. Unbleached filters are best.
Carefully rinse the paper filter in some hot (not boiling) water first in order to cleanse it of the papery taste caused by microscopic paper fibres. Coffee drinkers generally cannot taste the paper in their beverage as their drink is usually stronger. But in the average tea, you probably will taste paper if you don’t rinse it first.
Place the filter in your chosen mug and add some loose tea leaves into it. Pour hot water over the tea leaves in a circular motion and then leave it to brew to your desired strength. When your tea is ready, simply remove the filter with the leaves inside for a leaf-free cup of goodness.
Alternatively, you could brew the loose tea in a teapot and then, using an elastic band, affix the coffee filter to the spout to stop any loose tea escaping when you pour the liquid out. Using this method you can cut your filters in half for less wastage, as you won’t need the whole thing in one go.
3. The Paper Towel Method
This is similar to the coffee filter method above, for those lucky enough to not be sharing a house with a crazed coffee fanatic. All you need is a paper kitchen towel instead of a coffee filter.
Make sure you have decent quality paper towels first. If your paper towels tend to fall apart when they get wet then they probably won’t do you any good. As with the coffee filters, you’ll probably want to cleanse the paper towel to shake off those microscopic paper fibres that’ll otherwise interfere with the flavour of your tea.
Fold the paper towel in half into a rectangle. Then fold it in half again, so that you have a square. Open one corner of the square and put your loose leaf tea in it. Place in a mug and slowly pour hot water and leave to brew to your desired strength. Below is a one minute video showing this process.
4. The Sieve Method
Nearly all modern-day kitchens will have a sieve in them.
Simply add the loose leaf tea into a mug (or a teapot) and pour on hot water to brew. When the tea is ready, carefully pour the tea through a sieve into a second mug to filter out the leaves.
5. The Slotted Spoon Method
As with the sieve, most modern-day kitchens will have a slotted spoon. This is a cooking utensil which comprises of a spoon with holes in it, used to stir food while it is cooking.
As with the sieve method, brew the loose tea in one mug (or a teapot) and then transfer the liquid to a second mug, using the slotted spoon as a filter.
The success of this method depends on both the size of the tea leaves and the size of the holes in the spoon. Generally speaking, most black teas will simply fall through the holes, whereas whole leaf green teas will generally do well with this method.
6. The Fork Method
This is probably the point where some people will roll their eyes and stop reading this article. But bear with me. This method is most helpful for tea-loving campers, hikers and picnickers who forgot to pack their tea strainer.
The fork method uses the same approach as the slotted spoon method above. Brew the tea in a mug or a teapot. Then when it is ready, pour the liquid into another mug using the fork to filter and push back any tea leaves.
7. The Tea Bag Method
As a drinker of loose tea, you may or may not have some tea bag-based teas. One of the reasons some people prefer loose tea leaves as opposed to tea in tea bags is because of plastic contamination from the glue used to seal the tea bag.
It should be noted that not all tea bags are sealed with glue. Some brands use a process called heat sealing to seal them and some use string seals.
Simply slit open the tea bag where it is sealed. If the bag is sealed with glue then you may want to cut that part off entirely and discard it. Unless you feel like experimenting with alternative custom blends, dispose of the contents inside the bag as well and add in your loose leaf tea.
Fold the tea bag in half and secure it with a clean toothpick or safety pin (do not use sewing needles or staples, for safety reasons). Then brew the tea in the mug as you normally would with a tea bag.
You could consider making several of these custom-filled tea bags and sealing them by sewing them shut with natural thread, to save you having to repeat the process whenever you fancy a cup of tea or for the convenience of having the tea bags ready at work. Remember to store in a dry place, preferably in an air-tight container, and out of direct sunlight.
8. The Tin Foil Method
The tin foil method is similar to the paper towel method above. However, it may leave behind a slightly metallic taste in the tea, depending on the quality of the foil.
Cut out a piece of tin foil (let’s say roughly 25cm by 25cm). Fold it in half into a rectangle. And then fold it in half again into a square. Use a sharp instrument to make small holes into the corner of the square which is closed.
Open a pocket in the foil and place it into your mug. Add the loose tea leaves and slowly pour the hot water on top. Leave to brew to your preferred strength and remove the foil filter. Be careful as metal is a very good conductor of heat.
One of the benefits of using foil over paper for a home-made filter is that you can simply wash and reuse the foil filter later. However, there is little way to avoid a potential metallic taste, as foil cannot be pre-filtered like paper can.
9. The French Press Method
The French press, as you probably already know, is intended for brewing coffee. However, a lesser-known fact is that it can also be used to brew tea, much to the horror of coffee fiends (and probably the French). If you are a regular consumer of loose leaf tea, you could consider purchasing a cheap French coffee press and repurpose it for tea brewing. This is also an excellent way to quickly make a lot of loose leaf tea if you host guests often or run a business which serves tea. In fact, if you’ve ever stayed in a posh-ish hotel, you might have been served tea at breakfast in a French press, ready to pour out yourself.
If your French press was previously used for coffee, make sure you clean it thoroughly to avoid any traces of evil coffee contaminating your heavenly tea.
Remove the top of the French press and then spoon your loose leaf tea into the beaker or jug.
Pour in the hot water then put the top back on and ensure the plunger is right at the top.
Allow the tea to settle and brew to your desired strength. When the tea is ready, press the plunger down slowly, ensuring that no or little tea leaves are in the top of the beaker or jug.
Then simply pour the tea into a mug.
10. The Double Cup Method
For this method, you need two mugs and a cup. Add the loose tea and hot water in one mug. Allow it to brew to your desired strength.
Place the cup partially in this mug as you pour the liquid into the second mug. The cup acts as a filter or barrier preventing most of the tea leaves going into the second mug.
This method takes a bit of practice to pour the tea from one mug to another without spilling the liquid, which could potentially burn your hands slightly. So this probably isn’t the best method.
There we have it, ten alternative methods to brew loose leaf tea without a strainer or infuser. I hope that you found this article enlightening or that you at least picked up a helpful tip or two. Enjoy your cuppa!