The Right Tool For The Job

The Right Tool For The Job

A blue ceramic cup and saucer with a tea strainer. Black tea is being poured through the strainer into the cup.

This past week I helped shovel two driveways and two sidewalks of ice and snow, using two different snow shovels. The right tool matters!

The Tools, The Job 

An infuser which is lying halfway open, with dry tea powder falling out. The tea is green tea with cornflower petals.

We received a lot of ice and a little bit of snow this past week, along with pretty much the rest of the country. There were two driveways and two sidewalks that needed clearing from ice and snow. I had a plastic snow shovel and a small garden spade/shovel that I used to help clear my driveway and sidewalk. The snow shovel didn’t have the right cutting edge to get underneath the sheet of ice and break up the ice. I had to use a small garden spade/shovel to break up the ice, then scoop it up with the plastic snow shovel. 

I went to the other location where the driveway and sidewalk needed to be shoveled. At the community mailboxes was a “professional grade” snow shovel. It was all metal, heavy, and had a sharp edge for breaking ice and cutting through snow. I borrowed the shovel (I did put it back when I was done using it) and started shoveling the ice and snow. It was immediately apparent that this shovel worked far superior to the garden shovel for breaking the ice and scooping up the snow. I was able to get underneath the layer of ice, and lift up while breaking the sheet of ice with this professional grade snow shovel. In record time I had the sidewalk cleared. The driveway was another matter. It was a thicker layer of ice and much harder to break up. I chose to let the ice melt for a day, then I came back and partially shoveled the driveway. 

Tea Tools 

Two open tea infusers, both gold against a black background.

It is amazing how the right tool can make the job much easier to complete. I think of various paint brushes and how a “cutting in”, angled brush makes painting a wall next to a ceiling more successful. I think of a bread knife, as opposed to a regular knife, for slicing into freshly baked bread without pulverizing and flattening the bread. I think of a bulb hole digger tool to dig into the ground far enough to plant bulbs instead of using a hand trowel. The right tool can make the job quicker, and the rate of success can be higher.

There are two tools that are used in conjunction with the steeping of tea. They are very similar yet their usage is different. They can be similar in size, can be made of the same material, but the implements are applied at different stages of the steeped tea. These two different accoutrements that I am comparing are a tea infuser and a tea strainer. A tea infuser is used during the steeping of tea. A tea strainer is used after the tea is steeped.

Tea Infusers 

A set of 3 tea infusers. The infuser on the left is shaped like a Christmas tree and has small holes. The center infuser is a mesh tea ball. The infuser on the right is a green silicone infuser which is shaped like a fish.

A tea infuser can be a ball shaped or basket shaped receptacle that tea leaves are placed in, then the infuser is placed in the teapot or the tea cup. Tea infusers can be whimsical in design or utilitarian without any decoration. They can be made from metal, plastic, ceramic or even paper. A modern day convenience is to use biodegradable, fill- your- own paper tea bags that are placed directly into the teacup, tea mug, or teapot. Often tea pots come with a basket style infuser that can be removed once steeping is complete.

A caution regarding tea infusers is to refrain from over packing the infuser with tea leaves. If the tea leaves are tightly packed in the infuser while the leaves are dry; there will not be adequate room for the tea leaves to expand while the infuser is in the water. The lack of tea leaf expansion can affect the intensity of the flavor of the tea. Without proper expansion of the tea leaves, the tea in the cup could be thin and weak in flavor.

Tea Strainers 

3 tea strainers. The strainer at the top has small holes and a handle. The center strainer is mesh with a small handle on either side. The bottom strainer is ceramic and blue with small holes.

A tea strainer is implemented after the tea is steeped. When pouring tea from a teapot into a tea mug or tea cup, a strainer is placed over the cup to collect tea leaves. Once the tea is poured, the strainer is placed in a resting dish. During the Victorian Era in England (1800’s) tea was usually displayed and prepared on a tea cart or tea trolly. Tea was poured by a hostess for each afternoon tea guest, with a strainer utilized to capture errant tea leaves escaping from the teapot.

Tea Etiquette 

A white tea cup and saucer with black tea. An infuser is inside of the cup.

If there are no resting dishes for the strainer or the infuser, please do not place them on the table or countertop directly. This can ruin table linens and counters due to tea stains. If tea infusers and tea strainers are placed on the teacup saucer, tea sepiage will puddle onto the saucer. While lifting the teacup, drops of tea falling off the bottom of the cup could stain clothing or tabletop linen when the teacup is removed from the saucer. Ideally, tea infusers and tea strainers are to be placed on another saucer, a tea bag caddy, or another acquired receptacle.

Best Tools 

A mesh tea ball with a handle.

The right tool for the job is crucial in successfully carrying out the job at hand. Steeping and serving tea can come off without a hitch when using the right tools. Tea infusers and tea strainers abound in tea stores, online markets, and gift stores alike. But chances are, in the back of a kitchen drawer or cabinet, there is a forlorn tea ball infuser just waiting to be put to use.

Using my tea tools with zeal,



Johnson, Dorothea and Richardson, Bruce.Tea & Etiquette: Taking Tea For Business And Pleasure.Benjamin Press, 2009.

About The Author

A photo of Leslie on the patio wearing a pink cardiganLeslie Sundberg is a World Tea Academy Certified Tea Specialist, a World Tea Academy Apprentice Tea Sommelier, a Specialty Tea Institute Level IV trained Tea Specialist, and a Tea and Business Etiquette Specialist. On any given day, Leslie can be found teaching, speaking or sharing in the joys of a cup of tea.  No matter what Leslie is doing or where she is, one thing remains constant: 4:00 in the afternoon is tea time!

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