Minimal mess is among the many merits of the humble teabag, but loose-leaf tea offers the scope and flexibility to tailor your brew, from the temperature of the water to the quantity of leaves, and even the blend of tea itself.
The best tea infusers will allow the flavours of the leaves to disperse through the filter, while preventing any bits from doing the same. Certain types are designed to make one cup, reducing wastage. Alternatively, a tea strainer will allow you to strain loose-leaf tea into a teapot.
We’ve put each product to the test against two types of loose-leaf tea: a rooibos blend with fine strands that can easily slip through fine filters, and a silver needle jasmine tea with larger strands – an awkward shape for smaller infusers.
Our test uses 250ml wide-brimmed tea cups, along with tall and small mugs of standard widths. The infusers and strainers are rated across criteria including their ease of use and cleaning, and the taste of the tea.
Discover our tried and tested picks of the best tea infusers and strainers for making loose-leaf tea mess-free, and for more unbiased expert buyer’s guides, visit our reviews section to find 200+ round-ups of everything from the the best coffee machines and best cafetières to the best kettles.
Best tea infusers and strainers to buy
Proto Future 7cm premium conical fine mesh tea strainer and cocktail sieve
*Best buy* Best tea strainer for versatility
- Twill fine mesh sieve
- Suitable for use with cocktails and icing sugar
- Eco-friendly coating
- Sits low in cups and mugs because of its depth
- Arrives in a plastic sleeve, which is disappointing for a brand with eco credentials
Overall rating: 4.5/5
Because of its depth, this fine mesh sieve doubles as both a strainer and infuser, and can be used for straining cocktails or dusting icing sugar.
The tool is stainless steel, with a titanium eco-friendly PVD coating. Where others with a similar-looking finish may tarnish over time, the Proto Future shouldn’t.
Everything about the build is clean and fine, and even the welding is invisible. Although it has a long handle, the sieve sits balanced across a normal mug. The handle is useful for storing, as it allows it to be hung.
It’s contemporary, stylish and most importantly, functional as both a tea infuser and strainer, even for large loose leaves, like those used for making fresh mint tea.
Nkuku brass tea strainer
Best decorative tea strainer
- Stylish antique design
- Mostly plastic-free packaging
- Brand with good sustainable credentials
- May tarnish over time
Overall rating: 4/5
Handmade from brass with a muted gold finish, Nkuku’s tea strainer has an antique quality that feels special. It’s also functional, and able to fit across both a wide tea cup and standard mug without issue. Two rounded hook arms prevent it slipping during pouring, too.
The set consists of the strainer itself and a bowl that sits beneath it to catch any mess. Both components are beautifully made, and you’d be forgiven for hanging the strainer up to display it during storage. You could even re-purpose the bowl as a candle holder for your table.
Depth-wise, it has the capacity to catch a teapot’s worth of loose-leaf tea. It’s not a fine-sieve-style strainer, so there was evidence of fine rooibos leaf in the tea cup. However, it coped well with the larger leaf tea.
Nkuku champions its sustainable credentials, and the strainer arrives well-packaged in lattice paper as padding. In fact, the packaging is entirely plastic-free, except for the little pouch the strainer comes in, which feels unnecessary. Overall, it’s easy to use and clean, and a lovely kitchen item to have to hand.
Sue Pryke Mr & Mrs collection ceramic tea strainer
- Available from: Sue Pryke (£25)
Best blowout tea strainer
- Broad handles for any width cup or mug
- Simple, elegant design
- Handmade in the UK
- Dishwasher safe
- High price point
- More breakable than metal alternatives
Overall rating: 3.5/5
This is a special tea strainer. It tows the line of being neither flashy nor dull, managing to be eye-catching despite its simplicity. It would make a great gift for anyone who appreciates understated, elegant ceramics.
Made in collaboration with her husband John (hence the name), Sue Pryke’s strainer is slipcast and pierced before the clay is fully dry, and features two smooth handles with rounded edges. The clay is polished, making for a tactile piece of kit that feels smooth in the hand.
It arrives in plastic-free packaging, which is a nice move for sustainability. Some small pieces of the fine rooibos blend do escape, but it handles the larger jasmine strands well, and is simple to clean in hot water. Other colours are available, but if you do go for the cream colour, we recommend using it with white teas only to avoid potential staining over time. Pryke recommends soaking the strainer in a gentle detergent or bicarbonate of soda to remove stubborn tannins.
Fortnum’s traditional tea strainer
Best classic strainer to give as a gift
- Heat-resistant, silicone-coated handle
- Classic design
- Special enough to make a lovely gift
- Can look tarnished if not properly cleaned
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the colour of its silicone-coated handle and engraved branding, you’re left in no doubt about where this tea strainer is from. Fortnum’s has literally stamped itself on it, and for good reason.
The silicone offers both heat protection and grip, while the depth of the strainer bowl means you only need to empty it once for a teapot’s worth of leaves.
The holes are fine for handling a variety of teas. It’s simple to use, easy to clean and would make a great gift for any loose-leaf tea lover.
Best tea infusers
Whittard mug tea infuser
- Available from: Whittard (£10)
Best tea infuser for mugs
- Super-fine mesh filter
- Plastic-free delivery
- Heatproof silicone protection on handles and the lid rim
- Small slips of silicone could be easily lost or swallowed by kids
This stainless steel infuser is designed to be used in mugs, and offers plenty of room for leaves to expand – it’s a teapot-style experience, but for one. There are heatproof silicone sleeves on the handles and top of the lid, which are great additions that keep your fingers safe.
All of this can be removed for easy cleaning, but we are concerned that they could be easily lost or swallowed by kids and pets, so do be aware of this.
While the tea brews, the lid traps the steam, then doubles as a drip-catcher afterwards – just stand the infuser in it after it’s removed from your mug. One thing in particular we like about this is the super-fine filter holes, stamped in the shape of small Ws. At £10, it’s a well-priced, well-made piece of kit.
The Tea Makers of London stainless steel micro 0.6mm tea tube with built-in scoop
- Available from: The Tea Makers of London (£9.95)
Best tea infuser gadget
- Plastic-free delivery
- Built-in scoop
- Tricky to clip
- No drip pot
Overall rating: 3.5/5
This stainless steel model is good for teas that are not in strands, such as the jasmine silver needle. It has a built-in scoop measure which is useful and low-fuss, and when loaded up with tea, the infuser can also hold enough to make two mugs.
The size of each part means they fit easily, but the sealing requires a confident clip. Combined, the scoop offers two levels of filtration: coarse holes on the scoop itself, and a finely punched filter compartment.
It’s relatively tall, at a centimetre more than a standard teaspoon. The base is also slanted, so there’s a comfortable angle for it to sit flat against the bottom of a broad tea cup. It’s best used in taller mugs.
The infusion takes a little longer because of the double filtration, but if you’re not in a hurry, this isn’t a problem. It can be cleaned by rinsing thoroughly under hot water. It’s a convenient, small, and easy-to-store tea infuser that would make a great gift.
Barista and Co Brew It stick
Best tea infuser for beginners or those on the road
- Super-fine nylon mesh filter
- Convenient and nicely designed drip pot
- Lightweight and portable
- Didn’t produce the best coffee
Overall rating: 3.5/5
Designed and made in England, the Brew It stick is very user-friendly. We test it with both coffee and tea, pouring the water through its compartment and top filter before swirling the stick as suggested. The 360-degree design of the nylon mesh filter compartment means that water reaches everything inside.
It takes 4 minutes to infuse, which is more than enough time for the loose-leaf tea. The coffee, however, is light in flavour and lacking body, so you may want a more effective coffee machine. See our pick of some of the best cafetières for making French press coffee.
However, the tea is impressive, and the fine mesh gives us the cleanest cup of loose-leaf tea in the test.
Once your cup has brewed, the infuser stick stands snugly in the accompanying drip pot, which looks very contemporary, with rounded design and variety of colours. Thanks to the simple twist-and-lock system, the infuser is easy to unload and clean. If you’re looking for a lightweight infuser that’s easy to store, this is a nice option.
How we test tea infusers and strainers
We test a representative sample of widely available tea infusers, and score them against the following criteria:
Ease of filling and emptying: It can be easy to make a mess when handling loose-leaf tea, particularly finer varieties. Infusers will ideally be easy to fill and empty.
Capacity to hold loose-leaf tea: How much does it hold, and can the infuser cope with loose-leaf tea varieties of different shapes?
How easy is it for flavour to escape? If the requisite amount of leaves are too closely packed or the filtration holes are too fine, steeping time for the tea may be affected and become inconvenient.
Does the handle get hot? An essential consideration for safety, tea infusers are removed before drinking, so this needs to be safe and easy to do.
How much does it make? This is also linked to the capacity of the tea strainer. Depending on your desired use, an infuser may be able to infuse multiple cups of tea, whether in a teapot or cup.
The tea strainers are tested against a different set of criteria:
Fits across a cup well: A good tea strainer will sit safely across a variety of tea cups and mugs.
Ease of use: Does the strainer stay balanced during pouring?
Depth for catching all the tea leaves: You should be able to catch and strain large teapot’s worth of tea leaves without needing to empty it.
Performance at catching loose-leaf tea: Different strainers will deliver different results when it comes to catching tea leaves. For a cup of tea free from leaves, you’ll want a strainer with fine filter holes.
Is it easy to clean? Silver strainers are notorious for looking tarnished if not polished. Don’t let a high-maintenance strainer distract from the deliciousness of the tea.
This review was last updated in January 2021. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.