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Tea Infusers

Published November 2017

How we tested

Tea infusers are great for making a single cup of loose-leaf tea. They come in several styles: sticks, balls, and baskets made of perforated metal or wire mesh. With each, you simply insert the amount of tea you want to use into the infuser, stick the infuser into a cup, and pour hot water over it. We wanted to know which tea infuser was best, so we bought nine models, priced from roughly $6.00 to roughly $17.00, and used them to brew herbal, white, green, and black teas.

The size of the infuser proved critical. The smaller the strainer, the harder it was to brew good, full-flavored tea. Some of the ball- and stick-style infusers weren’t big enough to hold a full 2- to 3-gram serving of tea leaves, particularly with the large-leafed white tea and fine, voluminous herbal tea. Even when we did manage to fit in most of these tea leaves, the smaller strainers let us down. Tea leaves need plenty of room to circulate in order to infuse the hot water properly. When they’re crammed into a small strainer, they don’t always get full exposure to the water and thus can’t expand and unfurl. In some of the smaller infusers, the leaves toward the center were packed so tightly that they didn’t even get wet, especially when brewing for shorter periods of time. The result in all these cases: wan, weak tea.

Smaller strainers were also fussier to fill and harder to clean. Accordingly, we liked larger strainers. To measure their volumes, we lined each with plastic wrap and filled it with water; we found that we strongly preferred models that held 10 tablespoons or more. In practice, this meant that we liked basket-style infusers, which had a number of other advantages in addition to their size. They had large openings of 2 inches or more in diameter, which facilitated filling and cleaning. And they had no fussy moving parts—some of the tea balls and sticks had tricky clasps or tops that were difficult to put on. Finally, they generally had more and smaller perforations than ball- and stick-style models, allowing water to enter and exit easily while preventing all but the tiniest particles of fine herbal tea from filtering out. (It wasn’t a deal breaker to have a few leaves of tea floating at the bottom of the cup, but most tasters preferred not to encounter detritus.)

Our winning tea infuser, the Finum Brewing Basket L, is constructed of very tightly woven mesh that kept even the finest leaves out of the tea. It had the biggest capacity in our testing, equivalent to 13.5 tablespoons. And with a 2.5-inch opening, it was easy to fill and clean. As a bonus, it comes with a top that can also be used as a saucer, holding the basket and catching any drips after or between infusions.


We tested nine tea infusers of different styles, priced from roughly $6.00 to roughly $17.00, using them to make herbal, white, green, and black teas and rating them on their ease of use and their performance. All models were purchased online, and they appear in order of preference.

EASE OF USE: We evaluated the infusers on how easy they were to open, close, fill, and clean and on how easily they held different volumes and sizes of tea leaves.

PERFORMANCE: We evaluated the infusers on how well they made tea, looking for full-flavored infusions with few or no tea leaves floating in them.

The Results


Design Trifecta 360 Knife Block

Admittedly expensive, this handsome block certainly seemed to live up to its billing as “the last knife block you ever have to buy.” The heaviest model in our testing, this block was ultrastable, and its durable bamboo exterior was a breeze to clean. Well-placed medium-strength magnets made it easy to attach all our knives, and a rotating base gave us quick access to them. One tiny quibble: The blade of our 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a little.


Schmidt Brothers Downtown Block

This roomy block completely sheathed our entire winning knife set using just one of its two sides—and quite securely, thanks to long, medium-strength magnet bars. Heavy, with a grippy base, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard made this model extra-safe but also made it a little trickier to insert knives and to clean; the wood block itself showed some minor cosmetic scratching during use.


Schmidt Brothers Midtown Block

This smaller version of the Downtown Block secured all our knives nicely, though the blade of the slicing knife stuck out a bit. With a base lined with grippy material, this block was very stable. An acrylic guard afforded extra protection against contact with blades but made it a little harder to insert knives and to clean; the wood itself got a little scratched during use.

Recommended with Reservations

Swissmar Bamboo Magnetic Knife Block

This small, scratch-resistant model had a stable, rubber-lined base and could hold all our knives, though the blade of the 12-inch slicing knife stuck out a bit. But inch-long gaps between its small magnets made coverage uneven and forced us to find the magnetic hot spots in order to secure the knives. Its acrylic guard made it safer to use but harder to insert knives and to clean.

Not Recommended

Messermeister Walnut Magnet Block

This handsome block was done in by its shape—a tippy, top-heavy quarter-circle that wasn’t tall or broad enough to keep the blades of three knives from poking out. It lacked a nonslip base, and its extra-strong magnets made it unnerving to attach or remove our heavy cleaver. Finally, it got a bit scratched after extensive use.


Epicurean Standing Knife Rack 12"

This magnetic block sheathed all our knives completely, though with a bit of crowding. But it was hard to insert each knife without hitting the block’s decorative slats on way down, and because the block was light and narrow, it wobbled when bumped. Worse, we couldn’t take it apart, so splatters that hit the interior were there to stay. Additionally, the outside stained easily, and when we wiped it down, the unit smelled like wet dog.


Kapoosh Rondelle Knife Block

This model stabilized knives with a mass of stiff, spaghetti-like bristles that shed and nicked easily after extensive use, covering our knives with plastic debris. While all our knives fit securely, several of the blades stuck out, making this unit feel less safe overall. Finally, though the bristles could be removed and cleaned in the dishwasher, their nooks and crannies made this block hard to wash by hand.


Kuhn Rikon Vision Knife Block, Clear

This plastic block required us to aim each knife into the folds of an accordion-pleated insert that was removable for easy cleaning but got nicked easily with repeated use. Because we could only insert the knives vertically, longer knife blades stuck out; a cleaver was too wide to fit. The lightest model in our lineup, this block was dangerously top-heavy when loaded with knives.