What is a tea strainer?
A tea strainer is a kind of strainer that is placed over or submerged in a tea cup or mug to catch loose tea leaves.
Tea strainers are usually crafted out of stainless steel, sterling silver, or china. On occasion tea strainers come equipped with a small saucer or tray in which the strainer can be placed in between cups of tea.
Types of Tea Strainers
Loose tea leaves are brewed in a teapot, and then before serving into the teacups, a tea strainer is placed on top of the cups, preventing the leaves from going into the cup.
There are also some smaller tea strainers which can be used in the same way as a teabag. The leaves are placed directly into the tea strainer, and then submerged in the tea cup, allowing the leaves to brew without becoming loose in the water. The tea strainer is then removed from the cup.
There is another type of tea strainer, which is called the brewing basket. This is a larger tea strainer which is typically placed in the top of a teapot. The loose tea leaves are then placed into the brewing basket, allowing the tea to brew, while also containing the leaves to the teapot.
History of the Tea Strainer
It has been suggested that the bamboo tea strainer was the first tea strainer, and then later evolved into porcelain, silicon, linen, stainless steel, and sterling silver models.
Using a tool to keep the tea leaves from running into the water emerged in the 17th Century, when Dutch merchants made tea more readily available to those outside of China. British royals increased the popularity of tea, when it became the beverage of choice. The interest in tea quickly spread to the American colonies. With increased interest came a growing demand for products that could separate loose tea leaves from water.
It was in the 19th Century that stainless steel tea strainers gained popularity. While companies like Tiffany & Co, and Gorham Manufacturing Co. made tea strainers out of sterling silver, for those that could afford it, other companies started mass-producing tea strainers out of cheaper materials such as stainless steel. It was also around this time when more unique, and unusual tea strainers made in novelty designs began to emerge.
In the early 1900s, Thomas Sullivan, a tea merchant, started shipping tea sample in small silk bags. His customers weren’t aware that they had to remove the loose tea from the bags before brewing, and so brewed the silk bags in their entirety. And so, the tea bag was invented. This inevitably meant that the tea strainer, with its longer process, and clean-up procedure, became less popular.
Having said that, many tea enthusiasts today exclusively use loose tea leaves, paired with a tea strainer, in order to drink tea. It is claimed that this method allows for a better tea drinking experience, than the modern teabag does.