As the story goes, an American professor invited an English professor who was spending his sabbatical in the United States over to his home. As the afternoon progressed, the American was wise enough to realize teatime was at hand. He disappeared into his kitchen and returned with a cup of hot water, the string of a single-use tea bag dangling from the edge of the cup. The Englishman used his spoon to fish the teabag from the cup and plop it on the saucer’s edge wordlessly.
Later in the week, the English professor was at the home of the American professor. As teatime approached, the American said, “I believe it’s time for tea. Would you care for a cup?”
The Englishman replied drolly, “Yes, thank you, but without the surgical wrappings, if you don’t mind.”
Americans are so accustomed to the teabag with its dangling tea string that we assume all the great civilizations of tea drinkers—the British, the Indians, the Chinese—employ single-use tea bags when they have tea. That is not, in fact, always the case.
There is one other important teatime fact we may not be aware of as well. There is something so minimalist about drinking tea; we assume we are innocuous, innocent little carbon-neutral creatures when we have our tea. In fact, we are unbeknown polluters, and we are well-advised to stop it.
Those harmless little tea bags are, in fact, often not biodegradable. Indeed the better-selling tea bags are often the worst offenders. Also, the glue that tea companies use to seal the top of the tea bags contains polypropylene.
Are tea bags compostable? Every week we send a load of plastic-laden tea bags that are not compostable to the landfill.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. We can join some of the world’s more discerning and more environmentally friendly tea drinkers, and organic tea brands, and eschew the single-use tea bag altogether. We can accomplish this by kitting ourselves up with reusable tea bags and strainers. To speed up that process, here is our list of the twenty-two best reusable tea bags and strainers.
Quick Links to our top picks of the best reusable tea bags and strainers:
This cotton muslin bag meets GOTS standards (Global Organic Textile Standards) as a certified organic fabric. It is incredibly durable and will not rip and spill the insides no matter how hot you get the tea water. It comes in four sizes.
The only drawback to this seemingly perfect loose tea strainer is the feeling we have that we should dedicate our cotton tea bags to a single purpose. On the other hand, we can also use these reusable tea bag strainers for many different purposes that have little to do with teatime. These include straining milk and yogurt; amongst other uses, you may come across in meal and drink preparation.
This small mesh basket has a lid that maintains a warm water temperature. The basket is dishwasher safe. It’s a stainless steel micromesh through which no self-respecting tea leaves would dare escape. The filter, by the way, never gets too hot to the touch or to handle. Of course, at the same time, stands up to the high temperatures of boiling water.
The basket comes in four colors: black, green, red, and blue. The only apparent negative is the hard plastic ends of the basket. Perhaps the recognition that, even with the plastic, you’re achieving zero waste tea drinking, might be okay. At least you won’t be needing any of those plastic-laden tea bags anymore.
This choice is actually a set of six reusable BPA-free silicone tea bags. After use, you can clean the reusable tea bags using warm soapy water—or you can just put them in the dishwater. This eliminates any concern about leftover loose-leaf tea remaining in the reusable bags or the bags getting moldy. With six reusable tea bags of different colors, you can go through the week while letting the previous bags you used dry.
Related: you might also like to check out silicone options for zero-waste reusable Ziploc bags.
These handmade loose tea strainer bags by the owner of Beantown Tea and Spices have received loads of 5-star customer reviews for their Etsy shop. You likely can’t go wrong when you pick these muslin cotton tea bags with a drawstring casing. You can also grab one of their lovely tea blends to accompany your bag purchase. Two reusable tea bag sizes are available to suit a big cup or the larger one for a large teapot.
Another handmade item from a smaller Etsy seller, these cute reusable tea bags made from cotton come with colorful fabric tags. Packaged in reused or upcycled materials, the seller points out that these bags also make good for coffee alongside your preferred loose tea selection. You can choose a colorway for your cotton tea bags when you buy or wait eagerly for a lucky dip.
For starters, this tea strainer is all metal apart from its rimmed silicon lid. Should you dislike the black silicon rim, six other colors are available. It does an outstanding job of handling large and fine loose-leaf teas without allowing any particles through the mesh.
Cleaning is simply a matter of filling it with warm water and dropping it in baking soda. It’s worth noting that this infuser has received some outstanding customer reviews. With over 1400 purchaser reviews, 82% have rated it at 5-Stars.
Calary makes these drawstring reusable tea bags in cotton muslin, made of non-toxic, chemical, and fragrance-free organic unbleached natural cotton. Because the initial purchase includes 50 of the drawstring casing tea bags, you can carry with you precisely the blend of tea you would like to have at any time.
The cotton muslin is ideal for retaining even the smallest bits of tea leaves in the tea bag while allowing water to pass through the stored loose-leaf tea and circulate freely. Cleanup is a simple matter of turning the tea bag inside out, dumping the wet leaves, and washing it with mild soap.
If you’re interested in radical new tea strainer designs and keeping up with the latest thing, the Steep Stir may be for you. This product is a premium stick tea infuser and strainer. The device slides open to allow you to scoop the desired amount of loose-leaf tea leaves, then slides shut to keep the leaves from escaping into the hot water as you set the infuser into the teacup.
The all-metal design means the Steep Stir is dishwasher-safe. This strainer is easy to use and turns out to be hands-free than virtually any other infuser. Even reusable tea bags be gone.
Another unique design for metal infusers is this Oxo Brew device with a long handle and a tea ball; you simply twist it to fill it with tea leaves. Very fine loose tea leaves do sometimes escape the ball and end up in your tea. For this reason, it’s a good idea to use whole-leaf teas. This choice of tea strainer is nasty, chemical-free and dishwasher safe.
The twisting tea ball and long handle also make it simple to wash the infuser. The long handle also makes it possible for you to use the infuser to steep herbs and spices when the season calls for it.
These reusable cotton tea bags, at 3 x 5 inches, are much larger than a typical tiny tea bag, which is an indication that the originator of these reusable tea bags intended them to be multi-purpose, such as filling your bag with bouquet garni herbs, or even coffee.
That they are a larger tea bag is also an indication that they make excellent DIY reusable tea bags that will last longer than smaller tea bags, in particular one-use bags. These tea bags are pristine when first put to use.
The cotton tea bags are unbleached and have experienced no chemicals of any kind. And that’s certainly more than we can say for the traditional tea bags you’re looking to swap out.
This selection is one of the better-known designs when it comes to stainless steel tea strainers and infusers. The ball, which is two inches in diameter, is filled with loose-leaf tea. The tea ball is fastened and lowered by a chain into the cup, and then hot water is poured over it.
The ball is filled only half full of tea, giving the leaves a chance to unfold. The advantage of a device like this is a convenience for one person and a less expensive tea habit.
With a half dozen of these stainless steel, food-grade, strainers, and infusers, you have the freedom to preload the devices and keep them ready. Or store them in different locations where you’ll likely drink tea and thus save yourself from carrying an infuser with you. Each of the infusers has a chain and hook that allows you to fasten it to a teapot or teacup handle as needed.
A beautiful rose gold color, this double set of reusable tea strainers and infusers are distinguished by their ultra-mesh technology that prevents the smallest piece of loose-leaf tea from escaping into the cup or pitcher but allows the free circulation of water as the tea steeps. The set also comes in silver and gold.
Each of the sets is solid stainless steel and, therefore, virtually rustproof. Another virtue of the solid steel construction is that this set will not leach chemicals into your tea.
Just looking at the reviews of this tea infuser should give us pause since, with the better part of 8000 customer reviews, 79% of the reviewers gave the instrument 5-Stars. Free of any plastic and made of quality stainless steel, there is nothing about this tea strainer to interfere with the tea’s taste. The tea balls’ steel is food-grade 304, and the steeping mesh is extra fine.
The threaded cap prevents the lid from coming loose during transfer or steeping, preserving the tea from loose leaves escaping from the reusable tea bag balls.
This strainer, infuser system uses ultra-fine mesh to prevent tea particles from getting into the pitcher or the cup. The scoop and pincher system that these tea strainers provide is meant to allow the user to select the desired amount of loose tea and capture it firmly in the sealed tea ball.
The handle and supporting stainless steel housing fit tightly together to make sure the joints don’t arbitrarily come free and dump tea leaves. The construction is tough and designed to last and is dishwasher safe. This way, you can have your own reusable tea bags on hand whenever you might need them.
Finally, VAHDAM designed this pyramid-shaped, 304 food-grade stainless steel infuser to hold loose tea and prevent particles from escaping as they steep in hot water. The extended edges of the pyramid allow the infuser to move without disturbing the tea. This infuser is also designed to allow second steeping because sometimes one cup is just not enough.
Teatime is intentionally a time of relaxation and reflection. We can approach the serenity of these few minutes with greater peace of mind if we engage in zero-waste practices. If we want to move toward a true zero-waste lifestyle, what better place to begin than teatime?
We can all easily ditch plastic tea bags. Reusable tea bags are a great way to do just that, and each small step to a little less plastic waste helps us move towards a more sustainable lifestyle.
Brewing tea with your new reusable tea bag or strainer really couldn’t be easier. You’ll need on hand a supply of your favorite loose-leaf tea. There’s a vast range for any tea drinker to choose from across all sorts of flavors, from your standard fare to fruit blends and relaxing chamomile. When selecting your tea, look for larger leaves for enhanced flavor, and give it a smell of freshness. Tea that smells good and appeals to your senses will taste good too.
Making tea is simply a matter of spooning a teaspoon or two of loose-leaf tea into your reusable bag or strainer. For a pot, a teaspoon for each serving plus one tends to do the trick. Boiling water as usual and steeping your tea bag for 3-5 minutes will bring out the best in your tea. Of course, tea preference is a very individual thing, with some people going strong and a longer steep, whereas others might like theirs less dark and lighter on the palette. If you’re new to drinking tea this way, just try different flavors, times, and amounts to work out your individual preference.
Cleaning reusable tea bags is simple. Regardless of the material, cloth, plastic, or silicon your reusable bags are made from, after brewing tea for the perfect cup, just empty the leaves out into your compost.
You can also discard them directly into the garden outdoors, and they’ll naturally decompose over time. Once you’ve got rid of the leaves, turn the reusable tea bag inside out and give it a good rinse. Washing with a little zero-waste dish soap will help to keep your bags clean and germ-free.
You can also repair cotton tea bags easily with the help of a sewing machine or by hand to stay true to the reuse principles of zero waste.
Loose tea can leave stains after some use of your new strainer. But don’t worry; it’s super simple to have them come out new and sparkling. Simply dissolve a teaspoon of baking soda in hot water and give them a little soak. After a bit of a soak, give them a brush with your dish brush, and they’ll be good as new.
Whereas generally very safe, treat your new reusable tea bags with the same care and thoughts to hygiene, you would like any other fabric item in the kitchen. If left for a time wet fabric can harbor mold and bacteria. To avoid any issues, wash your tea bag regularly.
Ensure you use boiling water and keep an eye out for signs of nasties. And whereas all of the items we’ve listed above will last vastly longer than single-use tea bags, the cloth varieties won’t last forever. Therefore replace tea bags once past their best.