The other day, a friend wanted to share with me a delicious loose tea he’d bought in Chinatown recently, but neither of us had a tea infuser handy. Tea infusers (like the one in the picture) are those little mesh balls that open up so you can put the tea leaves inside. Then you put the whole thing down in your hot water like you would a tea bag, and let it brew. (Tea infusers are often called tea strainers, which isn’t exactly correct, but just so you know what I’m talking about.)
So what do you do when someone’s tempting you with the yummiest tea he’s ever tried, claiming it’s even better than the $1500/pound tea he sampled at the tea bar in San Francisco, and you don’t have a strainer? Here’s what you do:
- Cut a piece of tin foil about one foot square.
- Fold it twice (to one-quarter the original size).
- Pour your tea leaves into the center of the tin foil
- Bring the corners of the tin foil together above the leaves, then twist and fold them. You’ll end up with what looks like a tin foil ball on the end of a tin foil stick, with the leaves inside the “ball” and the stick as a makeshift handle.
- When you’re ready to brew, poke about 10-12 holes in the tin foil “ball” with a toothpick, fork tine or something similar.
It’s just that simple. Here’s what the finished product looks like from the front, so you can see the poked holes well:
And here’s what it looks like from the side, so you can get a good view of the “stick”:
Now you’re ready to brew the tea just like you would with a tea infuser:
- Put the tin foil ball into your mug.
- Pour boiling water over it, letting the water soak through the strainer as much as possible.
- Let it brew for the correct amount of time for the tea you’re making. The packaging should give you some idea. Generally, loose teas take less time to brew than teas in a bag.
Remember, the tin foil infuser can get pretty hot to the touch by the time it’s done brewing. I didn’t feel it came close to burning my fingers or anything, but with hot things, it never hurts to be careul.
And yes, if you’re wondering, the tea my friend shared with me was amazing. It was a lychee black tea, and we used a special brewing method for it: put the makeshift infuser in a mug, pour in enough hot water to cover the tin foil ball, leave it for maybe five seconds, then pour that out. Then we poured the full amount of water into the mug and let the tea brew for about twenty seconds. With this particular tea, you can do this five more times with the same teaspoon of tea to make five cups before it will lose its flavor. This made for a golden, slightly floral, slightly sweet tea that didn’t need anything added to it – it reminded me of really good oolong tea, only better. Seriously, it was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted.