Documentation of tea tools such as the tea strainer appear in ancient history, the earliest models were likely made of bamboo, and later evolved into stainless steel, sterling silver, china, porcelain, silicon, and linen. During the Tang Dynasty in China, a small book called “Classic of Tea” was written describing tea utensils, and they were made to help Buddhist monks keep living things (such as small bugs) out of the drinking water.
However, using a tea tool to keep run away tea leaves out of a cup did not become a cited use of the strainer until the 17th century when Dutch merchants made tea more readily available to those outside of the Chinese dynasty. British royals then increased the popularity of tea as their preferred beverage, and it was not long before a newfound fanaticism for tea in Great Britain spread to the American colonies, as did a growing demand for products that could separate loose tea leaves from liquid with ease and flair.
Stainless steel tea strainers and tea infusers gained popularity in the late 19th century. Big name tea strainer producers, such as Tiffany and Gorham, could use fine silver to create quality, heavy, and sturdy strainers, for those who could afford it. There were many varieties of strainers at that time, but it was more likely that smaller designers who could not afford to mass-produce these quality strainers out of silver made them into unique shapes to attract consumers with lighter wallets. And borne was the tea strainer we are accustomed to today.
Most premium bags of tea we are accustomed to today are frequently packaged loose for consumption, and when they are available in bags, the leaves are often crowded and do not have enough space to expand. While pyramid tea bags have become a more recent solution to this problem, due to the additional space at the top of the bag, enjoying a variety of quality tea is easier with a tea strainer in your arsenal. Besides, with the wide variety of strainers for your cup or pot in versatile materials such as mesh, silver, or a novelty silicone cartoon shape, loose tea can still reign supreme.
Tea strainers sometimes do require more cleanup and measuring, but the experience and quality is always worth the effort. Besides, strainers also allow for mixing favorite tea blends together for an extra dose of delicious creativity!