Tea strainers can be traced back to the Chinese who developed bamboo strainers to remove wet tea leaves from a clay pot, in the 10th century BC. But it wasn’t until the 17th century that tea made its way from China into the drawing rooms of the British gentry. With its entry into British culture came the invention of the first modern tea strainers. Prof. Ashoka tells us about it, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
Tea strainers or infusers are used to catch loose tea leaves while pouring out tea. Their history can be traced back to the Chinese who developed bamboo strainers to remove wet tea leaves from a clay pot, in the 10th century BC. But it wasn’t until the 17th century that tea made its way from China into the drawing rooms of the British gentry. With its entry into British culture came the invention of the first modern tea strainers. These were made of sterling silver (an alloy containing 92.5 percent silver and 7.5 percent copper by mass), and mostly used by the English upper classes.
It was not until the early 20th century that tea became a popular beverage in the UK and tea strainers began to be mass-produced. By then the British were making different types of strainers—some large enough to fit a teapot, others small enough to fit into standardised teacups.
There are several types of strainers available today, although they are all being threatened by the ubiquitous tea bag.
A pyramid strainer, which as the name suggests is pyramidal in shape, is made of mesh. Tea leaves are inserted inside the pyramid and then steeped in boiling water. The bottom of the pyramid opens so that the used leaves can be removed easily.
Tea Balls are spherical in shape and work on the same principle as pyramid tea strainers. The difference is that they open up in the centre. They are available in different materials like metal, mesh, and stainless steel.
Spoon strainers look like a covered spoon made of metal with small holes peppering it. These are usually smaller than the Tea Ball and pyramid strainers and are not really meant for brewing a strong cup of tea.
Tea tongs have long handles that open the strainer on the opposite end when squeezed. Nylon strainers sit on top of a teacup instead of being immersed inside. Tea is steeped in boiling water and then poured into a cup through the strainer, which stops the leaves from falling into the cup.
Tea-stick strainers are shaped like metal pens with holes in them. They must be submerged into a hot cup of water, with the tea leaves placed inside.
Last but not least is the novelty strainer, which works like any other strainer but is available in a variety of sizes and shapes like teddy bears, dinosaurs, and hearts.
Serialised from the book, Popular Triumphs of Human Innovation in Everyday Life by Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
©Prof. Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad
Photos from the Internet
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Ashoka Jahnavi Prasad is a physician /psychiatrist holding doctorates in pharmacology, history and philosophy plus a higher doctorate. He is also a qualified barrister and geneticist. He is a regular columnist in several newspapers, has published over 100 books and has been described by the Cambridge News as the ‘most educationally qualified in the world’.