How to drink loose leaf tea (without a strainer) January 20 2015

posted by Nick Schäferhoff

The logistics of enjoying loose-leaf tea are a bit more elaborate. This is because of - you know - the tea.

First of all you can (and should) brew loose tea leaves more than once (as opposed to tea bags) so you don't want to throw them away after one infusion.

Secondly it is the nature of loose-leaf tea that there will often be bits of leaves in the finished beverage. In fact the most popular way to make tea in China is to put the leaves directly into a cup and just pour water on them.

If you are confused at how you can possibly enjoy the beverage without having to chew yourself through it, fear not: Here's how to drink loose leaf tea and still keep your teeth clean.

The cheater's way: Use tea equipment

Especially in the western world, many people will opt for placing the leaves inside some sort of receptacle so they can be removed from the water after infusion.

This is a legitimate and convenient way to enjoy your beverage and preserve the loose tea for later. Whether you use a tea brewing cup, an infuser or a good old-fashioned strainer is up to you.

If you want to get a little more authentic, you might want to opt for a tea bottle. This is a long, tube-shaped vessel with a lid and a mesh filter at the top.

The tea can be placed directly inside the bottle which is then filled with water. The filter will keep any leaves from entering your mouth while sipping.

You will see many Chinese taxi drivers carrying around one of those bottles all day and topping them up with hot water on occasion.


The Chinese way: Blow on it

However, I am a big fan of placing tea leaves directly into a glass for infusion. I find this the most enjoyable way, as it allows you to watch the tea “dance” while it slowly unfolds and starts dropping to the bottom of the cup.

The problem is that bits will float on the surface, making it hard to drink.

After a Chinese friend observed me struggling with this for a while (to his never ending amusement), he let me in on how to drink the beverage without looking like you just ate spinach like a five-year-old.

The trick is to gently blow on the surface of the drink so that the solid pieces move to the other side of the cup and then slowly sip it from the clear side (you are allowed to make a slurping sound). Simple but effective.

Though this might sound like a hassle, after a while it just becomes part of the tea ritual. It actually think it makes the whole thing a tad more meditative because it forces you to slow down and be aware of what you are doing. Try it out! I'm sure you will agree.