Tea brewing doesn't need to be complicated, and there are plenty of easy-to-use tea accessories and infusers to make it as simple as possible. All it really takes for good tea is some tea leaves, hot water and a cup to brew in/drink from. In many parts of China, people simply add quality leaves* to a glass of hot water and drink. You can easily brew and drink tea at home with this simple, utilitarian method, or with a whole range of other simple tea equipment.
The main pieces of equipment to consider are the means for heating water, the infusion tool, the drinking vessel and the storage equipment. Beyond these tools, other accouterments are purely optional.
* Quality leaves tend to sink in the glass, making this mode of tea consumption easier (and more enjoyable) than it would otherwise be!
Tools for Warming Water
You can warm tea for water with nothing more than a watchful eye, a heat source and a simple pot or stove-top tea kettle. Some tea lovers prefer this method because it creates more of a 'ritual' to tea consumption.
Although it's more expensive, many people prefer electric kettles for their ability to heat water quickly and easily. I recommend the (expensive but top-notch) Breville Variable Temperature Kettle, the (reasonable) Adagio utiliTEA Electric Tea Kettle and the (cheaper and truly variable temperature) Programmable Digital Kettle from Imperial Tea Court.
As tempting as it may be to use a microwave to heat water for tea, I don't recommend it. It's especially difficult to bring the water to the correct temperature and there is some controversy over the final flavor of microwaved tea.
Tools for Infusing Tea
Aside from low-quality teabags and the 'just drop leaves into your cup/bowl' method, these are the five easiest ways to infuse tea.
Teapots with strainers also make brewing tea simple. Be sure to ask your tea vendor about the best teapot for you before you buy, as some teapots are best for brewing particular types of tea than others.
You can also heat water and infuse tea with one tool, thanks to (super-easy) equipment like the Breville One-Touch Tea Maker.
As long as it doesn't melt or break when filled with hot tea, any old cup will do for drinking tea. However, there are certain teacup traits that can make tea drinking more enjoyable. Personally, I find that the best teacups:
- Are white on the inside or clear (This helps you appreciate the color of the tea.)
- Are thin-walled (This feels better in the hand and against the lips.)
- Retain heat well (This keeps your tea hotter longer.)
- Are smaller than your average mug (This helps you focus on the taste of the tea rather than chugging it down before it gets cold.)
Of course, each person has his/her own preferences. Some people love tall, narrow teacups that emphasize the aroma of the tea. Some people prefer colorful teacups or mugs with sentimental value. Don't just trust my word for what makes a teacup great -- figure out what YOU enjoy in a teacup!
Tea Storage Equipment
If you're consuming your tea fairly quickly (within a few months), you may be able to store it in the packaging it came in.
However, if your tea came in less-than-functional packaging or you're planning on hanging onto it for a while, you may want to invest in tea tins or other storage equipment. This article on how to store tea includes all the basic you'll need to know for selecting tea storage equipment.
Optional Tea Accouterments
Beyond these basics, there are all kinds of optional tea accessories. Depending on your brewing style, you may want to purchase anything from a gong fu boat to a silver tea service tray. Let your personal tastes guide you to select tea accessories that suit your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences.