This sounds like an old-peace, love and flowers mantra from the protest-laden 1970′s. No, it’s not a political statement but it is a direct attack of sorts against the old-fashioned, one-cup metal and mesh tea balls that dangle from a chain.
When we began our business 35 years ago, tea-balls were about the only thing that one could purchase to corral one’s tea leaves. Either that or it was necessary to use the British house-hold method of steeping tea by using two teapots: one pot to steep the tea ( and retain the tea leaves ) and the second one to decant the steeped tea into as soon as the tea was properly steeped.
Back then, tea-balls made sense with the way that tea was graded and cut: most tea was English-style black tea, very finely cut; noting much was available then in long-leaf black tea or full, intact green teas. These teas steeped quickly and the flavor was ‘good enough.’ The comparatively slim selection of tea available in tea shops at the time had a similar appearance and all of it fit reasonably well into a teaball. I can even remember when we received our first shipment of ’tea-balls’ that were shaped like little houses…and hearts….ye gad.
So today, in my book, tea balls are ‘dinosaurs’ of the past. They make no sense for steeping the gorgeous, whole-leaf teas that tea enthusiasts can purchase today. To be honest, the idea of someone purchasing some of our premium, hand-made artisan tea and then squishing it into bits to stuff it into a teaball distresses me. Not only is a shame to crumble-up whole-leaf tea that has made it all the way from tea factory to one’s kitchen intact, but teaballs simply cannot hold enough black, green, white, yellow or oolong tea to do the flavor of the tea any justice. They are just wrong, wrong, wrong on all counts.
So, with all of this in mind, we took the hard-line and banned tea balls in our store two years ago, much to the dismay of those who inquire.
But, in their place we have something better that even the most diehard tea-ball-users comes to love. They are single-cup tea infusers made from stainless steel or gold mesh. There are many choices in these infusers, such as different diameters, with or without lid, etc, but most of the time the best one for a customer is the one that will fit in his or her favorite tea cup or mug.
These infusers have spacious capacities so they happily steep the largest and longest tea leaves without having to damage the tea. And the tea leaves are able to hydrate to their full extent, so the flavor is infinately better than with a tea ball. The infusers are easy to clean, do not clog or have little chains to break, and, they cannot be accidently dropped down the garbage disposal, like the fate of so many tea-balls! And, they are ecological and re-useable, unlike the single-cup paper ‘tea sacs’ which are commonly used in cafes for take-out-cups of tea.