My passion for a relaxing English tea has spilled over into a love of all things tea related.
My mom had a couple of beautiful silver tea and coffee sets. I believe I have a silver coffee set as well. They are absolutely gorgeous. But a tea set is not all you need for a proper tea. In addition, you need a sugar spoon or sugar tongs, a waste bowl for the leaves, and a tea strainer for removing the tea leaves.
Tea strainers comes in so many shapes and sizes. Some are perfunctory while other are small works of art. Chrome, sterling, silver-plate, china, porcelain, aluminum, silicone, and steel are some of the materials in which strainers are offered. Of course, my favorite are the antique strainers made of sterling silver.
Strainers may be in the form of a teapot or cup infuser, a insert placed in the teapot spout, a hand-help pierced spoon for use over the cup, or a bowl placed over the cup. Each of these efficiently do the job of keeping most tea leaves out of the drinking cup.
Infusers may be figural, such as a cute little teapot in which one places the tea leaves for brewing. My teapot comes with a matching sterling plate for resting the infuser once removed. These were made in all sorts of shapes, with the most common being balls, teapots and acorns.
Another kind of infuser that I like is more like a spoon with a latching or spring loaded lid. These can be placed directly in a cup of hot water for brewing. I have a couple of old aluminum versions that were my mom’s, but they also come in sterling silver. Oxo makes a nice version where one half the circular tea holder opens by twisting the handle.
The spout insert style of strainers were made with what looked like a hairpin which is inserted into the spout of the teapot. Dangling from the pin is a pretty silver-plated or sterling basket which catches the leaves as the tea is poured. There are some beautiful figural ones shaped as a wooden wash tub or whisky barrel. Others are covered in heavy floral reliefs. Some are plain or plain with small details on the rim. It is important to make sure the pin will hold the basket and leaves. If it were to release, you or your guest might find yourselves splattered in hot water and tea leaves. Also, it is important to keep your eye on the leaves so that the basket doesn’t become clogged causing water and leaves to spill over the edge.
Spoons pierced for straining leaves from the tea are held over the bowl of the teacup while tea is passed through the spoon. These may have silver-plated or sterling handles, or wooden handles are also common. Modern variations are made of steel or aluminum.
The tea strainers I see most often while having tea in London are the type that rest on the rim of the cup. A small bowl shaped, pierced strainer with two handles, hold the bowl over the cup. Once the tea is poured through the bowl, the strainer is removed from the cup and placed in a resting bowl to catch drips.
Some modern teapots come with a strainer insert that is placed in the top of the pot under the lid. It allows the leaves to steep in the hot water. Before serving, the strainer is removed from the pot. I have one of these pots which was a gift from a friend. I use it often because it is so practical and convenient!
When I am having a single cup of tea, I tend to use a stainless steel mesh strainer with a spring loaded handle. The mesh ball is placed in my mug (which holds more tea than a dainty teacup!), and hot water poured over and left to stand for the desired length of time. The clean-up is minimal. I also use this device when making tea with a bag. I clip the bag in the edge of the ball. It submerges the bag, which steeps better than if it lies on top of the water.
However, I feel that to FULLY enjoy the tea experience, there is nothing better than a teapot and all the tea accoutrements! And, of course, tea sandwiches, scones and petit fours must be involved!
If you do not own any tea strainers (or inherit several as I did!), they are readily available on eBay, Amazon, and local gift shops at all sorts of price points.