While some may prefer using an array of utensils for brewing their favorite cup, others may want to get their cup as fast as possible. And, with little or no mess. If you belong to the second group, tea infuser mug might be the best brewing utensil you will ever buy. Our guide might help you choose the best one.
What is a Tea Infuser Mug
Tea infuser mug is a tea mug that comes with a strainer and a lid, to offer easy brewing, especially in the office or places where brewing tea using a teapot and a separate strainer would be inconvenient. Except convenience and the ease of use, another good reason to use an infuser mug is re-steeping. Removable strainers allow you to brew tea either in eastern or western style, with using a multiple steeping technique if you wish.
Infuser mugs usually have a removable lid that may even serve as a coaster. As they are often more expensive than regular mugs, investing in one might require more research. Furthermore, the type of loose leaf tea you plan to drink the most should play the important role in the buying decision too. High quality loose leaf tea deserves high quality materials.
Top 5 Features
With hundreds of options on the market, it might be difficult to choose the best infuser mug for your purposes. Some might look beautiful, but they might not appropriate for all types of tea. Other might prove to be unpractical for brewing any tea. The most important features you need to look for in an infuser mug are related to strainer, materials, preserving heat, volume and durability.
Strainer is the most important part of the infuser mug. It can be made from the same or different material as the mug itself (glass, plastic, ceramics, stainless steel, etc.). In general, look for the mugs that have big removable strainers with small enough holes to hold even the tiniest leaves. For example, brewing rooibos tea will require a strainer with tiny holes, while for the brewing unbroken black tea leaves even big holes will be able to keep the leaves away from your cup.
If you don’t mind getting more than one infuser mug, you may choose the one with big strainer with bigger holes for all real tea types and one with smaller strainer with tiny holes for herbal types. Why? Because the real tea Camellia sinensis leaves need enough space to expand and release flavor and nutrients fully. But, at the same time you shouldn’t keep them in hot water too long. Bigger holes allow you to strain the leaves much faster and get the best flavor. For herbal teas, smaller strainers with tiny holes are a better option, and many herbal teas will not change flavor significantly if kept in the water for too long.
Next, you should be able to remove the strainer without getting burned or spilling the hot tea. Make sure the strainer Is not fully sunk into a mug. Some strainers might have a silicone band wrapped on the top to help you remove it easily and safely. Safety should be one of the top priorities so check if the strainer is easy to use.
Tall narrow infusers will be very difficult to clean. Choose those that will allow you to scoop out leaves easily, and that you can wash both by hand and in a dishwasher. Even though it’s always better to clean tea utensils with water only, dishwasher might be your saver when it comes to tiny leaves stuck in tiny holes, or infuser stained by black or green tea.
Some mugs may last for decades, while others might give only a few dozens of good infusions. Just like a good teapot, investing in a good infuser mug is essential for the best drinking experience. Both mug and strainer should be durable. Glass might be the top option, followed by porcelain, glazed ceramics and stainless steel. Although plastic is very durable when disposed in nature, it won’t serve you as long as other mugs or strainers will. Besides, plastic strainers will be the most difficult to clean.
3. Volume and shape
Volume of the regular infuser mug is usually around 200-300 ml. However, sometimes they can be bigger, especially travel steeping mugs and bottles. If your mug is bigger than regular, always choose the one that has a big enough strainer in case you want to use less water. If the strainer doesn’t reach close enough to the end, you will always need to make more tea than desired. Shape of the mug may be important to experience the scent. Narrow mugs retain scent much better than flatter mugs with a wide surface.
The shape of the handle is also a very important feature. As you will drink tea directly from infuser mug, make sure the handle allows an easy grip, and it’s not too thin.
Some materials are easier to clean than others. While unglazed earthenware teapots extract a slightly better flavor from some teas, they are more difficult to clean. In fact, they should be cleaned using water only, avoiding detergents that clay might easily soak up. Therefore, ungalzed ceramics is rarely a good choice for making infuser mugs. Opt for stainless steel, glass, porcelain and glazed earthenware. Check if materials are non-toxic and dishwasher safe too. Infusers might sometimes be difficult to clean, especially if you left your tea leaves inside for too long. Dishwasher may help you keep them spotlessly clean.
Double wall glass mugs may be a better choice than regular glass infusers. They can retain the heat better and will most likely prevent you from getting burned. Glass mugs are perfect for brewing green and oolong teas because they will allow you to enjoy the beauty of the leaves unfurling in hot water. Glass infusers usually have slits instead of holes. This may also be their biggest downside. Although tiny slits may hold even the tiniest leaves, you might need a few moments more to strain them and more effort to clean them.
Avoid plastic of any type, not just BPA free. Plastic will always give inferior experience and flavor. Plastic strainers inside the glass or ceramic infuser mugs are not the best option either.
What you don’t need to worry about is mug being microwave safe, unless you plan to heat the water together with tea leaves in a microwave. In that case, using tea bags would be a much better option.
5. Preserving heat
Have you noticed how all teapots always have a lid? Water temperature is essential in bringing out the best flavor and nutrients from tea leaves. Infuser mugs almost always come with a lid. Most of them will have removable lids, but sometimes it can be attached to the mug. Attached lids make drinking less easy, and even more messy. A good removable lid will not only preserve the heat, but may serve as a coaster for strainer too. Choose mugs with lids you can flip over and use for holding the strainer.
The most versatile tea infuser mug is the one made of either heat resistant glass or porcelain and will have an easily removable stainless steel infuser. You will be able to use it for almost any type of tea in the world. Second best are glass mugs with glass infusers, that offer the best visual experience, but might require a bit more time to strain and clean. Mugs with porcelain strainers will be good only for teas with medium-sized leaves that don’t need too much space to expand.
Keep in mind that some mugs may be listed as infuser mugs, even if they don’t have an infuser basket. Instead, they will usually have lids only, or even lids with hole for a spoon. Spoon might also be included in the mug set. Although they may be good for keeping the tea warm, they are not suitable for brewing loose leaf tea unless you use them together with cotton or paper tea filter.
What if you need an infuser travel mug?
Travel mugs are different from regular infuser mugs in shape, material and size. They are usually much bigger, made either from stainless steel, plastic or glass and never from porcelain or ceramics. The most important feature when choosing a travel tea tumbler should be a good heat and vacuum insulation and removable tea basket. Some may hold tea hot or cold for 12-24 hours.