The Lone Ranger setup is as easy as it gets. All you need is a 1) Kettle, 2) Cup, and 3) Strainer (optional). No teapot required!
I would recommend this setup to the following types of people:
- The Starving Artist/Student
- Is still broke, but wants to be slightly less broke than with The Spartan setup.
- The Casual Brewer
- Likes making tea for one on a regular basis and doesn't want to deal with extra equipment.
- The Prospective Tea-Head
- Friends think he/she is weird and routinely deny his/her offers of tea. Forced to make good tea in solitude.
- The Globetrotter
- Packs light, but wants to make his/her own tea while away from home.
- The Cube Monkey
- Wants to make tea, but doesn't want to be teased by coworkers about his copious teaware collection. Probably doesn't have space for much else anyway.
See here for the nitty gritty on kettles. For The Cube Monkey, if your office's water cooler has a hot water tap, you probably don't even need a kettle. Still, I would recommend getting one if you can manage it.
2. Cup and 3. Strainer
The easiest, and probably the most appealing to The Prospective Tea-Head, is to buy an infuser cup. These things are great! You just plop your tea into the infuser, place the infuser in the cup, and steep. When done steeping, remove the strainer and rest it on the overturned lid. Try to find one with a well-perforated infuser; infusers with few/small holes don't work as quickly or allow as much water to circulate.
Though the handle-less models look really cool (see photo), you will probably suffer buyer's remorse after using it a couple times. They just get too darn hot, particularly if you use boiling water. So, when buying an infuser cup, look for a handle, a lid that can be used as a plate for the infuser, and an infuser with more than a few holes.
[If you are comfortable with trying out a gaiwan, go for that. I'll discuss gaiwans in a future post. However, infuser cups are more approachable for those without any experience brewing gong fu style, and these first few posts are directed toward those who want to start off brewing western style.]
- Imperial Tea Court's Dragon Mug with Infuser (or something similar, ITC carries a few different ones)
- Solid design, large-ish size, and reasonably well-perforated ceramic infuser.
- Any of the infuser mugs (with handles!) here
- I've heard favorable reviews about Hankook's wares, and most of these look pretty cool.
- Hankook's Toogak Mug with Infuser
- This one is essentially "double-walled," so it should stay relatively cool (thanks to Victoria from TeaChat for pointing this out). It is the only handle-less infuser mug I feel comfortable recommending, though it is a little pricey.
- The Revolve Cup (or similar, like the Tea-zer Tumbler; thanks Joe!)
- This is a more portable version of the classic infuser mug.
Though infuser mugs are pretty cheap, there are even cheaper ways of accomplishing the same feat. I have written about glass brewing before (here and here), but this doesn't work for everybody.
Want something almost as easy as glass brewing? Repurpose that evil infuser basket from your teapot. (If you don't already have one, just google "infuser basket" and look for something similar to the one shown here. They're only a few bucks at most places.) Just plop it in a coffee mug or cup of similar size and you're good to go. In fact, this will probably work better than a real infuser mug; mesh basket strainers drain faster and allow much more water to circulate through them than ceramic infusers.
But didn't I say basket strainers were evil? Well, yes and no. Though they do not allow a large amount of leaf (say, two or three cups worth) to expand, the amount you of leaf you would use in brewing a single mug should have plenty of room. Also, if you pick a mug that is about the same size as the basket strainer, the leaves can pretty much move around the entire vessel as though there were no strainer present.
Try to avoid those little tea balls. They are convenient, yes, and better than a teabag, but not by much. There is almost zero room for your leaves to expand, which is a bad thing. Besides, they really aren't that much more convenient than a basket strainer.
Thanks for reading!
Stay tuned for the next installment, titled... The MacGyver