It’s hard to find loose leaf tea when you’re away from home. But you can find hot water just about anywhere, so what’s keeping you from steeping some tea on the road?
Realistically, you can use anything to steep your loose leaf tea when you’re on the road or at work. Embarrassment and inconvenience are the only things that can stop you from carrying your granny-styled tea pot into a gas station for some hot water. But a dedicated travel tea infuser might work best. They’re designed specifically to fit into cup-holders, and they tend to keep you from making a giant mess or over-steeping your tea. Some of them even double as portable coffee-makers or cold water infusers (for things like cucumber water, you know).
Of course, there’s a lot of products to choose from, and some travel tea infusers may not suit your specific needs. If you’re the kind of person that re-steeps their tea, then you’re going to need an infuser that makes re-steeping as easy and clean as possible. If you’re the kind of person that needs a large, insulted bottle for long trips, then you may want to avoid any tiny glass infusers. Lucky for you, we’ve taken the time to find and evaluate the best travel tea infusers for everybody’s needs.
Pure Zen 13oz Glass Travel Tea Infuser ($30)
The Pure Zen infuser has gained a reputation for it’s style and versatility. It’s a great little product for steeping tea or making infused drinks on the go. You can actually choose to screw the Pure Zen’s infuser basket into the top or bottom of the bottle, which gives you a lot of steeping options. The design helps you overcome the downsides to a top-only or down-only infuser.
When you’re stuck with one or the other you run into this issue: if you screw it into the top, then you’re going to end up dripping water everywhere when you try to throw away or set aside your tea leaves and f you screw it into the bottom of the glass, then your tea is just about guaranteed to over-steep. With this design, you can flip the bottle over and open either end so you can drink your tea without over-steeping and without dripping tea everywhere.
The Pure Zen infuser comes with a bamboo travel case and a soft sleeve to keep the tea infuser from burning your hand. The double-walled glass gets hot enough that you’ll probably want to use a sleeve. The sleeve also doubles as extra protection for the glass cylinder so bumps and knocks don’t damage the glass. This is a great option for people who need a versatile, safe, and stylish infuser. But if you’re clumsy or dedicated to simplicity, then you may want something different.
Vibrant 16.9oz Insulated Thermos Infuser ($25)
Another popular travel infuser is the insulated thermos infuser by Vibrant. It’ll keep your tea super hot without burning your hands, it’s lined with stainless steel, so you don’t have to worry about ingesting any weird plastics, and it can hold a whopping 16.9 oz of liquid. The Vibrant infuser comes with a steeping basket for tea and a strainer for infusing fruit. They rest beneath the cap, so they’re both easy to remove from the bottle when you’re done steeping. But it’s kind of awkward to pull a wet infuser basket out of a bottle when you’re away from home or on the road, especially if you’d like to set it aside. At least your tea won’t be over-steeped.
While the insulation is a great feature it does take up a wee bit more room and that leads to smaller steeping basket. It’s ideal to steep a large quantity of tea for as little time as possible. When you use a small quantity of tea leaves in a large container of water, your tea takes a bit longer and ends up more bitter. Since the Vibrant forces you to steep a small amount of loose leaf in 16.9 oz of water, you end up with a drink that may not taste as good as what you’re used to. Of course, the convenience and size of this mug may be worth a cup of tea that’s a hair more astringent that usual (and unlike a full size thermos or tea pot, it’ll fit in your cup holder).
Tea Forte 12oz KATI Ceramic Infuser Mug ($20)
If you’ve been in the market for an on-the-go infuser, then you’ve probably run into Tea Forte’s infuser mugs. They’re pretty straightforward mugs, and they come with a large steeping basket. They fit snugly in a cup holder, and they keep your liquid relatively warm without burning your hands.
When you steep your tea in a Tea Forte mug, you’ll notice that the infusion-basket rests under the lid. This keeps you from over-steeping the tea, as you have to remove the basket to take a drink. That’s fine if you’re in a controlled environment, like a hotel room or a gas station. But you’ll run into a problem if you’re steeping while driving or walking around. Where to put the loose tea? You’re going to get water everywhere if you try to throw it away or set it aside. It’s also difficult to save your leaves for re-steeping without making a mess, as you can imagine.
But that hassle aside, honestly, this is a great mug. It’s really affordable, it comes with a big steeping-basket, and it looks good. But you’ll have to finish steeping and taking care of your tea leaves before driving around, which might just not fit into your tea-drinking-while-commuting work flow.
Espro 12oz Travel Tea Press ($35)
The Espro travel tea press is basically a French press for tea. In fact, this travel tea infuser can double as a travel French press. (But heed my warning, it’s hard to get the taste of coffee out of a metal mug.) How do tea presses work? Well, you steep your tea for however long it needs to steep, and then you press it to the bottom of the container with a mesh. The Espro has a “chambered” mesh that isolates your tea leaves after you’re done steeping, to prevent over-steeping. That’s great, especially because you can easily re-steep your tea leaves without dripping water all over the place. Just refill and re-steep.
You can probably use the Espro travel tea press for infused water, but it may not fully press down when it’s full of fruit or cucumbers. You know, it would be difficult to drink out of this mug when the press is sticking out the top. Speaking of the press, the plunger and mesh are plastic which isn’t going to be as durable as the nearly-immortal metal parts on a traditional French press. But you can buy replacement/backup meshes, which may be nice for fans of the press-styled infuser.
ZENS Portable 7oz Teapot w/ Case ($49)
The ZENS portable teapot is the tiny champion of travel tea infusers. It’s got a strange, but effective and clean design that’s genuinely great for portability. So how does this thing work? Well, the top and bottom halves of the ZENS portable teapot are divided by a stainless strainer. You put your hot water and tea leaves in the top half of the teapot, wait for it to steep, and then you press a button on the outside of the device to strain the liquid into the bottom chamber. Viola, you’ve separated your tea from the tea leaves without creating a giant mess. This is a great option for people who like to re-steep their tea, because it’s very easy to just refill the ZENS’ top chamber with more hot water.
Of course, this is a pretty small infuser—7 oz of liquid is practically nothing, especially if you have a long commute. Also, the ZENS’ glass will get hot despite the doublewall design. It would be nice if it came with a sleeve you could hold while using it but it does come with a stylish case, to keep your infuser safe when it’s in a backpack, purse, or pocket.