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Loose leaf tea is very easy to prepare.All you need is loose leaf tea, hot water and a teapot with an infuser, or you can make it one mug at a time using a basket infuser or tea ball. Then it's as simple as heating the water and deciding which tea you want to drink.
TeaThis is very personal. Consider what flavors you like, whether you can have caffeine, and how important cost and ease of preparation are to you. In general, loose teas are inexpensive, although some can get rather pricey. Most people who are just starting out can't taste the difference between a $2.50/oz. tea and a $10.00/oz. tea, unless they are wine connoisseurs or chefs, or anyone else who has a highly developed palate. Frankly, a lot of $2.50/oz. teas are really very good, especially for every day, and for your friends who don't know the difference.
Most teas are easy to prepare, although some greens and whites need extra attention for best flavor. This is usually no problem at home, but at the office it may be more of a challenge. Don't ruin your Imperial Silver Needles at work by stuffing it too tightly into a paper filter and then microwaving it in your kitchenette. Take something inexpensive and easy to prepare.
If you can't have any caffeine at all, you must stick to herbals. Decaffeinated black and green teas still have a little bit of caffeine in them, although not much. If you can have a little caffeine, decafs are fine. Ask your doctor if regular tea is OK. It has one third the caffeine of coffee.
If you're not sure what you like, buy an ounce of several different kinds to taste. An ounce of tea will make 10-15 cups - plenty to try! If you have no idea what flavors you might like, try a couple black teas, a couple greens, maybe an oolong, and an herbal or two. (White teas require a somewhat refined sense of taste and don't often appeal to beginners.) If flavored teas specifically appeal to you, try a fruity one, a spicy one, a minty one, and a flowery one. Check out our Tea Sampler Category for more suggestions.
Infusers are more popular now than strainers. These work well for most teas, although often fluffy white and green teas require more room than the average infuser allows. Restricting tea leaves too much while they brew will decrease the quality of flavor you get, so always choose the largest infuser you can afford that will fit into your pot or cup. If you think you may be using many different pots and/or cups to make tea, and you're not sure what size would be best, a good option is a cotton infuser, which is flexible enough to fit into most openings and is inexpensive. They are not pretty, however, so this is not a good choice for tea parties.
If your cleanup facilities are limited, you might want a disposable paper infuser, which is just a paper pocket that you fill with tea leaves. These are great for travel or for the office.
If you're brewing fine-cut teas like rooibos or typical breakfast teas, you'll want to make sure you get an infuser with fine holes to catch all the leaves. Typical tea balls have holes too large for many of these teas. People generally choose a fine mesh basket, cotton, or paper.
Many pots now come with their own infusers, which saves you the trouble of finding one that fits your pot, which is especially hard to do when ordering from a distance. Our most popular infuser pots are the Bee House.
Strainers: If you are brewing large leaf green or white teas, you should probably consider a strainer instead. The benefit of strainers is that they allow you to brew your tea without any confinement of the leaves. Just put the leaves in the pot and let them swim around in all that space! You may be surprised how much room they have taken up when they are done brewing and how great the tea tastes when brewed this way. The disadvantage of a strainer is that, since many teas will get bitter with extended brewing, by the time you get to the last cup, it may be unpleasant. Only use a strainer if you know that the tea you've chosen doesn't get bitter (herbals are an obvious choice, but some green teas too), or if you will be pouring off the tea quickly, like at a tea party or for your family's dinner. See our Empress Strainer as an example.