Brewing Tea: Mason Jar Style
Tea, it turns out, is pretty important stuff in an herb-aware household. Hot water infusions of herbs provide not only comfort beverages (peppermint and ginger... mmm...), but are the first line of remedies for the sniffles, grumps, and health bumps of everyday life. For a long time, we used a Teavana Perfect Tea Maker. It was convenient. It was nice-looking. And... it was plastic.
Pairing hard plastic repeatedly with boiling water wasn't exactly in keeping with our plastics-free kitchen aspirations. It was time to graduate to a new tea arrangement.
We wanted to keep the self-straining ease of use and size of the Teavana brewer, but eliminate the plastics, and we soon realized that this was going to be harder than we'd thought. I'm not a fan of tea balls -- so finicky -- or any of the other usual solutions. French presses are supposed to work well, but they also have a tendency to break if you pour too-hot water into them.
Here's what we came up with:
1) The container. A quart mason jar made sense for this, since we already had plenty of them in our kitchen and they hold just the right about of water for us -- two generous mugfuls. You'd want to use a real canning jar for this, not the pretend ones they sell spaghetti sauce in. The pretend ones aren't tempered glass, and can shatter spectacularly if you pour boiling water into them.
2) The strainer. After scratching my head for a while, I found the perfect strainer solution at Yemoos Nourishing Cultures on Etsy. Essentially, it's a hard-cap Mason jar lid with the flat top removed, and replaced with a fine stainless steel mesh.
This isn't the only item we found at Yemoos that we're really liking. Their reusable muslin jar covers and cloth strainers get two thumbs up as well. But it's the strainer lid, with its thousand-and-one uses and metal mesh (there are others out there, but they're either not stainless steel, or not nearly fine enough mesh for tea) that has really settled into our kitchen to stay. It's also great for straining infused oils, for growing your own sprouts using the jar method.
3) The handle. Glass jars filled with boiling water are hot -- and while a kitchen towel does fine in a pinch, we wanted something a little less precarious. Enter Vermont Wood and Iron, with their forged iron handles that fit perfectly on a wide-mouth quart canning jar, and are removable so that you can wash or switch out the jar as needed. Perfect.
4) The cover. You're going to want to cover most herbal teas as they steep. Otherwise, the flavor and health qualities in any volatile oils in the herbs will vanish with the steam. Nothing fancy for this one -- just a saucer turned upside down.
The result? Tea perfection. Honestly, we didn't expect any change in taste at all, but now having experienced it the cleaner, crisper taste of tea brewed in glass, we're cringing a bit at the idea of what plasticy chemicals have been flavoring our tea all this time.
So, how about you folks -- what's your tea brewing set-up?
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