5 Creative, Flavorful Hacks For Your Tea Infuser

Feb 12 2017 - 5:00am

If you're an avid tea drinker, then you've probably fully embraced the sometimes unwieldy loose-leaf variety. True tea connoisseurs arm themselves with the trusty tea infuser, a handy little tool invented for the sole purpose of steeping your tea while keeping the loose leaves out of your cup. What you might not know about this seemingly single-purpose tool is that it can be used in a variety of ways that extend far beyond your afternoon tea sessions.

Resembling a mesh ball on a chain — or sometimes on tongs — the tea infuser works like a mesh-lined cage that traps the tea leaves as it gets dunked into a cup or pot of hot water. But tea is just one of the many things you can put into the mesh contraption. In fact, a tea infuser can be used to infuse so many flavors into so many different substances, it should really just be called an infuser. Here are five flavorful hacks you can pull off with a tea infuser.

Flavor Stock or Sauce With Herbs

Adding herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano to stocks and sauces is crucial for giving depth of flavor, but it can be a pain to fish out the loose leaves when you're finished cooking. We've probably all been guilty of leaving them in because we didn't want to bother extracting all the bits. Instead of forcing yourself to pick rosemary leaves off your tongue, just put your herbs into a tea infuser before adding them to your pot. The herbs will infuse flavor into the stock or sauce, and you'll be able to easily remove them without leaving a single trace behind.

Make Your Own Infused Water

Herbs aren't just for hot soup and pasta sauce. Fresh herbs can be used to add vibrant flavor to ice-cold water for a refreshing alternative to juice and soda. Some popular herbs to infuse water with include basil, mint, rosemary, and cilantro. These often pair incredibly well with fruits and vegetables like strawberry, cucumber, watermelon, and lime.

But if you're making a big pitcher of infused water and you'd rather not have loose mint leaves floating around in your glass, pack a tea infuser with the fresh herbs and dunk it in the water along with the fruit or vegetable slices to infuse. When the flavors are seeped in, just remove the infuser. The fruit or vegetable slices can stay in the pitcher since they're so big and much easier to drink around.

Here are more infused-water flavor combinations [1] and infused-water tips [2].

Make Your Own Infused Alcohol

Similar to water, alcohol is a great blank canvas for adding flavor, and it's even more versatile than H2O. Spirits like vodka, gin, tequila, rum, and whiskey are great bases for both sweet and savory applications. Honestly, because it's alcohol, you really can't go wrong. The sky's the limit. Infuse vodka or gin with olives or olive tapenade for an assertively salty flavor that's perfect for dirty martinis. Infuse rum with crushed-up ginger candy to form a base for a dark and stormy cocktail [3]. Try chili paste in tequila for a spicy kick. Or if you really want to test your creativity, infuse whiskey with bacon jam. Bacon-flavored whiskey [4] is a thing now, after all, so stay ahead of the trend.

What do all of these infused alcohol ideas have in common? Cleaning out flavoring agents like olive tapenade or bacon jam is downright daunting, but not if you put them in a tea infuser. Just dunk the mesh ball filled with your flavoring agent of choice into a mason jar filled with your favorite spirit, and you're on your way to infusing your own alcohol. Check out this roundup of homemade infused alcohols [5] for more ideas.

Infuse Lavender Into Anything

Lavender is one of the most exquisite smells on earth, and it's a welcome presence in everything from perfumes to jelly. Like some herbs, however, the leaves are small. You have to dry them first before infusing, making them easier to break and splinter and harder to fish out of whatever it is you're infusing. But if you load up a tea infuser with dried lavender leaves, then you can get that wonderful lavender scent and flavor without the particles.

Here are some easy-to-follow DIY [6] guides for making lavender oil [7], lavender honey [8], and lemon-lavender jelly [9]. Just substitute whatever sieve contraption the recipe calls for with a tea infuser.

Make Rose Water

If you've always considered rose water to be one of those fancy, exotic ingredients that you can only buy at the gourmet market, think again. It's shockingly easy to make, but like lavender, the rose buds have to be dried. If you're making rose water to cook with, choose edible dried rose buds to work with so the perfumey flavor won't be overpowering.

Measure 1/4 cup rose buds, add them to a tea infuser, plop it into 1 1/2 cups cold water in a sauce pot, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the color of the rose buds fade. Turn off heat, but keep it covered and let it cool completely. Take the infuser out and pour the liquid into a mason jar or bottle of your choice, and you're good to go! Your rose water will last about a week unrefrigerated and several weeks refrigerated.

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