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Hibiscus Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe

Hibiscus is believed to cool the body, nourish tissue and help eliminate excess bodily fluid. It is tart and refreshing and adds color and flavor to a variety of fruity tisanes. It is great iced or hot, and accents fruits well.

Hibiscus Ginger Simple Syrup Recipe

from Tara O’Keefe’s recipe

2 cups water
1 cup sugar
4 Tbs dried hibiscus flowers
1 Tbs diced ginger 

Combine water, sugar, dried hibiscus, and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and allow mixture to steep for at least 20 minutes until all the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is deep magenta in color. Strain syrup through a fine mesh strainer into a stain-resistant container.  Chill in the refrigerator until cold and ready to use. To store, cover tightly in the refrigerator and use within 3 weeks. Makes 2 cups. 

What is a Cultural Arts Café?

The intricacies of culture are often so habitual and unconscious that it is easy to be completely unaware of your own cultural heritage, let alone the various, vibrant cultures around the world.

To some, it is much more shocking to realize that these vibrant cultures exist in pockets of nearby towns and cities – practically “on their own doorstep”.

Café K’Tizo’s intent as a Cultural Arts Café is to promote engagement with other cultures in order to encourage communities.

Rose Garden Tea Party

Engaging with other cultures creates opportunities to learn about other ways of thinking and behaving that might be completely unexpected.5409109_476cd4275c_o

Comparing and contrasting aspects of a different culture to your own culture will broaden your mind, and change the way that you see the world. You might be surprised at how much you can learn from a community that is a great distance away, and you might also be surprised at how many shared values and interests there are across oceans and language differences.

One aspect of culture that is near to our hearts is the art of hospitality, because it is such a big part of tea cultures from around the world. Learning about other people’s hospitality practices can give you some cool ideas on how to welcome your own guests, and can help you to solve or even avoid conflicts altogether when you find that your expectations don’t align with someone else’s expectations. Cross-cultural communication takes a certain amount of patience, understanding, and humility. A “my way or the highway” attitude won’t get you very far!

While travel is often thought of as the main way to experience a new culture, you might find that you might learn more from people that live in your same town! Think of yourself as a “Culture Tourist”, not limited to an itinerary and a return date. There will always be new things to learn and new things to share with others.

We are excited to explore different cultural arts from around the world at Café K’Tizo, focusing, of course, on the art of tea around the world, with many cultures adding their own distinctive flair.

Photography by Lindsay Clark, © THINK Global School, 2014

If you would like to share an art unique to your culture, please let us know!  Send us a note along with a brief description of a cultural art (this includes all the arts literary, musical, as well as pottery, drawing…) that you have experience or expertise to

photo credits 1, 2, 3, 4

Rooibos Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies


  • 4 heaping teaspoons Rooibos (we suggest Au CaramelChoco-Caramel Safari, or straight Rooibos)
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2-1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 3 cups butterscotch chips


  • Preheat oven to 375°. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick foil.
  • Steep tea in 1/4 cup boiling water for 7 minutes. Discard leaves; let cool and chill.
  • With an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the cooled tea and the eggs and beat until smooth.
  • In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add to sugar mixture and stir until incorporated. Use a spatula or spoon to stir in the oats and chips.
  • Drop heaping spoons of dough onto the baking sheets. Press down slightly. Bake for 15-18 minutes or until slightly browned.

~From Alice’s Tea Cup, Haley Fox & Lauren Fox

Tea: A Drink of Hospitality and Generousity

IMG_3890Historians disagree on how and when Morocco was originally introduced to tea, or athai/athay. It may have been introduced by Phoenicians in the 12th century, the Berbers who brought it with them from their native land in Asia, or by European countries such as Britain, Spain or Portugal in the 18th century.  

However it came to the the region, tea became an integral part of Moroccan cuisine and culture which has lasted to this day. To Moroccans, welcoming guests by serving athai is a signature statement of hospitality and generosity.

IMG_3980Traditional Moroccan tea is a blend of green tea and mint tea. The green tea is typically gunpowder green tea from China, and the mint tea is made from a mint plant such as peppermint or spearmint. Each region will have its own blend, which may include pine nuts, lemon verbena, or other herbs.

In Morocco, sugar is added to green tea that has already been steeped. This combination will then be brought to a boil, and  mint is added last. The amount of sugar used varies according to the region; the tea is sweeter in the northern parts of the country than in the south.


As in many wonderful tea drinking nations and communities, tea drinking is a social rite in Morocco. The women will often prepare the water and the man of the house will serve the tea to the guests. Traditionally there will be three  servings after the leaves are awakened with a brief steep of hot water over the leaves.  The next pouring will be steeped and served as friends, family and acquaintances connect over a cup of refreshing Moroccan tea. The tea will typically be served three times.

An Algerian proverb describing the tea experience:

  • The first cup will be as gentle as life.
  • The second cup will be strong as love.
  • The third cup will be as bitter as death.


The artistic vessels typically used will be colorful glass cups with exquisite designs. Artistry is important in Morocco, which includes the presentation of food and beverages, and therefore tea.  Often the tea will be poured from a high distance allowing for foam to build on top.


My niece Jessica had the wonderful opportunity to visit Morocco. Some of the previous and following photos are from her trip, which capture some of the beauty of the land, culture and people.


The artistic and creative side of the culture comes through some of their art forms which can be found in the privacy of homes with friends or through vendors as they openly create their specialties.n162800609_30279548_4408

We at K’Tizo Tea find Moroccan tea very refreshing. Unlike in Morocco, we often combine gunpowder, peppermint and/or spearmint first, steep the tea in an infuser, and then remove the blend after about 3 minutes. Here in the US, some may then pour it over ice, because it makes a very refreshing iced tea as well.  I personally prefer my Moroccan tea unsweetened, but many prefer sweetening with honey, agave, raw sugar or stevia.


Moroccan mint tea is a favorite at farmer’s markets on a really hot day, but also is fantastic on a cold winter’s night.  Mint is considered a ‘cooling’ herb for those who like the balance of cooling and warming in their blends.  Mint is a great relaxer, aiding in a good night’s sleep as well as improving digestion.  No wonder this tea is enjoyed by many: it continues to be beneficial even after we have the pleasure of drinking it!  I guess that also helps to make this tea a great tea of hospitality!

Let us know if you enjoy Moroccan Mint, and what some of your favorite teas are to serve to guests when you are showing hospitality.


Russian Tea Culture

In honor of the 2014 Winter Olympics currently being held in the Russian city of Sochi, we thought we would explore the rich history of tea in Russia, and the aspects of Russian tea culture that are still practiced today.

A Short History

Tea was first introduced in Russia in 1638, when the Tsar Michael I was given tea as a gift from a Mongolian ruler. Starting in 1679, tea was imported from China by a caravan of camels on a regular basis, in exchange for Russian furs. The tea was expensive and therefore only accessible to the Russian elite until the Empress Catherine the Great established regular imports of tea via camel caravan in 1736.

These camel caravans inspired our Russian Caravan tea, a hearty blend made from Chinese smoked tea (Lapsang Souchang) and another black tea. Russian Caravan is best enjoyed very strong and sweet.

The price was gradually lowered to become accessible to the general population.

Tea-Party in Mytishchi near Moscow by Vasily Perov, 1862

The establishment of the Trans-Siberian Railway in the late 19th century made tea even more affordable, and increased the consumption of tea. Caravans took approximately eighteen months to arrive in Eastern Russia, but tea that traveled by train took just over one week. That’s 77 weeks faster!

The Merchant’s Wife by Boris Kustodiev, 1918


Samovars (самовар in Russian, literally meaning “self-boiler”) are heated metal containers that are used to boil water in Russia, as well as other countries in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. There is a heating element within the container, which keeps the water at a consistent temperature throughout the day. Modern samovars are heated by electricity, instead of the original coal or charcoal.

Samovar 3

View of a samovar from the top.

Samovar 2

A late 19th century samovar.

Tea in Russia is typically made by adding hot water that has been heated by a samovar to a strong tea concentrate (заварка, or zavarka in English). Tea leaves are originally brewed in a tea pot for breakfast, and the remainder is left to brew for the rest of the day. Many Russians use lemon, sugar, or jam to sweeten their tea. Instead of stirring the sugar into the tea until it is dissolved, some people will often hold a whole sugar cube in their teeth to sweeten the tea as they drink it.

Many people drink tea out of glasses that are in a metal holder (подстака́нник, or podstakannik) in order to protect their hands from the heat.

An elaborate podstakannik.

The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship

or, How Elizabeth’s Obsession with Tea Began

Samovar 1

Me with my family’s samovar. It isn’t currently in working condition (it was made in 1870!) but we love to have it on display at our house as a reminder of our time in the Ukraine.

My mother tells me that my first experience with tea was when I was a toddler living in the Ukraine. My parents worked with a seminary, so the whole family would often eat lunch in the dining room with the other staff and students.

In the corner of the room, there was a large samovar, ornate and beautifully styled with black with gold and red accents, which kept water hot and made the process of making tea quick and easy for students desperate for a caffeine fix. Much to my mother’s horror, I was often offered a caffeine fix as well – although it was served in a saucer so it would cool quickly and not burn my tongue. The tea was strong but sweet, the company friendly and kind.

I gradually explored and embraced the many different kinds of tea and tisanes as I grew older, from white to rooibos to herbal to green to black, and all the imaginable variations and blends. When I’m tired and cranky, I make myself a cup of tea and life seems so much more manageable. (My all-time favorite tea quote is by Bernard-Paul Heroux: “There is no problem so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea.” Indeed!) When I’m sick I turn to good old chamomile with a bit of honey. When I want a unique burst of flavor, Pangaea Joy is one of my new favorites.

To me, tea can be both comforting and exciting, familiar and exotic. Tea transcends culture and brings diverse groups of people together. Tea has been a large part of my life since my childhood in the Ukraine, and I am so grateful for those first covert sips out of a saucer, with a little help from a samovar.

Did You Know?

  • According to a 2005 study, approximately 82% of Russians consume tea on a daily basis.
  • The oldest known samovar, thought to be approximately 3,600 years old, was discovered in Azerbaijan in 1989. It would most likely have been used to heat soups or stews, as tea would not yet have been known to this area of the world.
  • Samovars come in all shapes and sizes. The body can be shaped like an urn, krater, barrel, cylinder or sphere, and the capacities range from 1 liter (1 US quart) to 400 liters (110 US gallons).
  • Samovars can be made out of iron, copper, polished brass, bronze, silver, gold, tin, or nickel. They can be plain or elaborately decorated.
  • The world’s northernmost tea plantations are in the vicinity of Sochi.


Now It’s Your Turn

What was your first experience with tea?

Leave a comment and tell us all about it!

Rooibos Chocolate Layer Cake

Rooibos Chocolate Caramel Cake

Rooibos Chocolate Caramel Cake

Are you looking for a special dessert for your valentine? Let me suggest a treat I made this Christmas, the Rooibos Chocloate Layer Cake. It looked fantastic and tasted wonderful.  I must admit it had been awhile since I had made a chocolate cake from scratch and the thought of using rooibos, a nutrient rich tisane, was appealing.  The rooibos added a “mild nutty” presence to the dessert. Almond Rooibos would also been excellent. Here is the recipe from our website along with a bit of my personal discoveries  during the experience.

1 TBS Rooibos 
1 cup boiling water
½  cup cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup Canola oil
4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
1 ½ cups sugar
1 2/3 cups plain flour
1 TBS baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 TBS Rooibos  (choco-caramel or        au caramel work well)
1 cups boiling water
1 cup sugar
3TBS butter
3 TBS cocoa powder
2 tsp cornstarch
1½ tps vanilla extract
1 can caramel (i used 1/2 cup)

~ Pre-heat the oven to 350°F.


~ Steep 1 TBS Rooibos (I used chocolate caramel safari) in a cup with infuser, @ 208ºF (just under boiling) water for at least 15 minutes, until the tea is quite strong. This will be used in the cake batter. In another infuser steep 1 TBS Rooibos  for the icing again at least for 15 minutes.  Then remove the infuser and set aside until later.

~ In a large bowl, mix together the cocoa powder, vanilla extract and vegetable oil until smooth.

~ In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and sugar until they are thick and creamy.

~ Add the egg-and-sugar mixture to the cocoa mixture, and mix well. Add the strong tea (for the cake) to this batter and stir.

~Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, add it to the batter & beat well. I did not sift the flour though, and the texture of the cake was still fantastic!

~Whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks, and fold them into the batter.  This was fun and definitely gave the cake a lighter fluffier texture.


~Pour the batter into two round, 9-inch cake tins. I actually used three round 8 inch tins because I like the height of a 3 layer cake, as well as a little extra frosting.

~Bake 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean. Again since I had 3 tins it took about 25 minutes.

~While the cake is baking, prepare the icing. In a small saucepan, heat together the sugar and butter until the sugar has dissolved.

~In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa powder and corn starch with a bit of the strong tea you have set aside and stir until it makes a paste. Add the remainder of the tea and stir well.

~Pour the cocoa-tea mixture into the saucepan and stir. Heat the icing until it thickens.  The thickness is always hard to describe, ” thick honey-like” thickness is how I would describe the thickness.

~Stir in the vanilla extract, and bring the icing to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat, and let the icing cool.

~Place the icing in the fridge to cool completely. Before serving, mix the caramel or dulce con leche into the icing. I used only 1/2 can of caramel which added plenty extra sweetness.

~ Remove the cakes from the oven and let them cool for a few minutes. Then, remove the cakes from their tins and cool them completely on a wire rack.

~Divide your icing between your cake layers and the top of the cake. The icing is quite soft, so some will drip down the sides. I found the dripping distinctive creating an artistic look.

~Decorate with cherries, chocolate curls or fresh mint leaves, or berries.

IMG_2293Enjoy! We did and we felt the rooibos flavor came through, something I look for when baking or cooking with teas or tisanes.


British Tea “The Event”


This month the K’Tizo Tea newsletter had a British focus so I thought it is time to bring some clarity to the term”Tea” as it is understood when in Britain. The term tea in Britain may refer to the leaf, the beverage or an event.  I will focus on the British understanding of the event called Tea. This month K’Tizo Tea has had an added British touch from Heather, our marketing intern who is visited the UK this month. She has sent periodic photos of her cultural adventure. Check out our Facebook photos for a beautiful rainbow shot at Oxford!

Afternoon Tea

6c5139ea9b66ead3108d97ba_194x259“Tea” as an event is accredited to Anna, Duchess of Bedford in the 19th century. Since dinner was served late she wanted to fend off that sinking hungry feeling. She began serving tea, cakes with bread and butter, eventually inviting friends and the popularity grew.  The 4pm Tea helped all to finish the day well. Light sandwiches, scones and biscuits (cookies) accompanied by a variety of black teas is a common menu for “tea”.  With the growing popularity of  tea, the 21st century has expanded the tea menu, to include  Green, Oolong, White, Pu’erh teas and Herbal & Rooibos.

High Tea

High Tea means different things to different people. I had thought for years it was a more formal tea until doing research on the topic. While the Afternoon Tea was the practice of the rich in the 19th century. Workers in the newly industrialized Britain also desired a ‘Tea’. Their tea  included a more substantial meal than just tea, finger sandwiches and cakes.
At the Table- High Tea

At the Table- High Tea

Workers needed nourishment after a day of hard labor, so their ‘tea’  was often hot and filling, plus a pot of good, strong tea to revive sagging spirits.  The term “HIGH” referred to the chairs and table the tea was served on.  Afternoon Tea was served on low parlor chairs while High Tea was served at the ‘higher” table and chairs.  This meal may also be referred to today as supper in the working class home.
imgres-3In Scotland, my father-in-law’s place of birth, the High Tea is often accompanied by meat-pies. Another name for High Tea is Meat Tea. These delicious treats provide a heartier meal. Savory pies are quite delicious and growing in popularity here in the States.

Cream Tea

There is dispute as to whether the Cream Tea originated in Devon or Cornwall both in southwestern England.  (Since 2010 there has been steps take to obtain a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in the European Union to protect the Devon Cream Tea). When we visited England in 2010, my family and I enjoyed a lovely Cream Tea in the Lake region on a patio overlooking beautiful (Lake) Windemere. (The term mere at the end indicates it is a lake). If you have the chance to visit the Lake region it is quite picturesque plus it is filled with a rich literary heritage as well as Tea Rooms!
Tea at Windemere

Cream Tea

The recipe for the Devon and Cornwall clotted cream are very similar; most would say the main distinction is order, at a Devon Cream Tea it is cream on the scone then jam; at a Cornwall  Cream Tea, the  jam is followed by cream. For those of us who appreciate culture we realize ritual and ceremony are part of what makes cultural discovery fascinating! 🙂 
Jam then the Clotted Cream

Jam then the Clotted Cream

Clotted cream then the jam

Clotted cream then the jam

A Cream Tea includes clotted cream, scones and jam served with a pot of tea.  When I went to my first Cream Tea I did not know this and wondered where were the tea cakes and sandwiches. Plus, I found the cream so rich I wondered if it was a whipped cream that should be added to the tea.  Of course the attended smiled and said as you wish! Often at a Cream tea other refreshments are typically available to order if your spirits are sagging and you need a bit more refreshment.

Traditionally clotted cream was created by straining fresh cow’s milk, letting it stand a cool place for several hours, this allows the cream to rise to the surface. It was then heated it over hot cinders  before a slow cooling. The clots that had formed on the top were then skimmed off with a long-handled cream-skimmer, known in Devon as a raimer. Today there are ‘more modern’ ways of allowing the clots of cream to rise and then be removed from the milk.  One is referred as the “float method” and the other the “scald method”. 
Heather's Tea time In England

Heather’s Tea time In England

I trust you are now inspired to have your own tea “the event” tradition.  What better way to refresh sagging spirits then with a delicious cup of hot tea and a light refreshment. Scones with jam and cream always give that extra touch of tradition but it may have been a hard day and you need a bit more sustenance, either way do not forget how refreshing tea is and select one of your favorite K’Tizo Teas to accompany your tea event!


When One Pour Leads to Another

imagesWhat do you prefer to pour into, a porcelain tea cup or a ceramic tea mug?  Delicate porcelain tea cups bring back wonderful relational memories with laughter and tears while the larger infuser-filled tea mugs also stir comforting, contented, happy, memories of discovery & conversation.  I am pulled in two directions when deciding between which vessle will be the chosen-one for the day or the occassion. But pouring into a cup is not the only pouring that excites and gratitifies my soul.
IMG_2500First, on the topic of cup verses mug, what is the difference between porcelain, bone china, fine china or a ceramic cup? Porcelain is a subcategory of ceramic.  The process and the product, (type of clay), create the difference that results in the subcategory  called porcelain often referred to as fine china or bone china.  The production of porcelain china was initially started in the nation of China hence the colloquial term ‘china’ when referring to aporcelain plate or cup.  Porcelain starts with kaolin clay and can be fired to temp as highs as 2600º F.  The resulting delicate, often beautifully ornate, cup was highly prized in European culture so the terms fine or bone china designated porcelain cups and plates.  Eventually Europeans mastered the process too. Today china may be manufactured in a wide variety of nations but is still referred to as china after it’s nation of origin.
Some of my favorite memories of porcelain tea cups are memories of drinking tea with women who mentored me over the years.  There are 3 women, who particularly come to mind. All had three things in common; a porcelain tea-cup collection, an interest in not justIMG_2493 pouring into a cup but pouring into another person’s life and a friendship with me.  These were women who introduced me to the joy of discovering meaningful relationship while enjoying a cuppa. Dr. Jean Young continues to be in my life though at a distance.  She, Fay Smart and June Duncan my late mother-in-law were women who were hospitable and it frequently involved one of their beautiful porcelain tea cups. (FYI- Hospitality is not entertaining.  It falls between hospice and hospital in the dictionary. These woman understood how to be hospitable.)
IMG_2497I appreciated not only their beautiful collection of tea cups but their hospitality that complimented these cups. Many of their conversations were ones I still reflect on,  for the words spoken or the dilemmas that were listened had impact in shaping me. They knew how to pour encouragement and hope into the life of another.


Today, I encourage others to pour not just tea, an herbal infusion or coffee into a cup for personal enjoyment but to share it with another. Discover how to pour into another and allow others to pour into your life.  This is how meaningful community develops which is more precious than the finest piece of porcelain.
A second type of cup the ceramic mug, is often for those who IMG_0558prefer  a more durable mug with a larger capacity.  The thicker ceramic retains heat longer hence the capacity is often greater. Infusers with lids frequently accompany them to help properly steep tea. The infusers add a bit of adventure to the experience. These mugs are great for tailoring the cup of tea to ones exact preference. I appreciate a stronger steep then my husband, and our ‘boarding sons from China’ prefer an even longer steep at a higher temp then I.  Having personal mugs with infusers allows us to have it our way, while we each share about our day after dinner.
Again pouring goes beyond the cup and into the lives of those around you.  I appreciate our meaningful discussions as we get to know each other one sip at a time. Yes another type of pouring is happening. I encourage everyone to discover how one pour can lead to another. Share your tea experience with others.
(This long spout tea kettle was an amazing gift this Christmas from one of our ‘boarding sons’ who is from Chengdu China where this unique tea kettle is instrumental in an artistic tea ceremony.  I love the long spout for it reminds me that pouring into others can be far-reaching.)
PrintLastly, a question for those who will be coming out to Café K’Tizo, what type of cup do you enjoy? We will encouarge you to have your beverage in our café, spend time with us,  get to know us and we you.  We are considering tea mugs, lovely tea pots, glass cups and/or a personal carafe.  Hopefully we will continue to discover how one “pour” can lead to another.
        Café K’Tizo hopes to create an atmosphere where healthy “pouring” occurs.
What is your favorite tea cup?  Have you known the privilege of being poured into or pouring into another?  We hope to plan wonderful events that will encourage that type of community-building in our café.  
                                            Coming Spring of 2014!

Explore and Stay Warm

I warned you that I love to travel…so here’s to another stamp in my passport! I’m leaving soon for the UK…primarily exploring the great city of London but making an appearance in a few neighboring places and even making it to Scotland for a few days too. I will do my best to capture some of the moments and will be posting on our Instagram for all of you lovely folks to see…so if you aren’t following us yet, today is a great day to start!

I’ll be escaping sub-zero degree weather and instead enjoying-not-quite-so-chilly-but-often-rainy days as I discover new places—making my world simultaneously bigger and smaller all at once. I stand confident that I will come back from this journey with new ideas and inspiration…a huge reason why I believe that the exploration of cultures and places is so important.

Don’t wait to go somewhere to do this. Read, study, ask good questions. The world is right in front of you. Explore it today in whatever way you can.

Oh, and drink lots of tea while you do! Let’s both fight off the chill with a warm cup of tea this month!

Cheers to explorations and staying warm—see you across the pond!


Choose to Infuse!


Are you making a new year’s resolution to improve your eating habits?  Why not consider adding loose leaf tea or tisane (herbal) beverages to your daily diet?  Loose-leaf tea & tisane popularity is growing, in part because it tastes great and in part because it is healthier! Some people want to start but think it is too complicated to infuse loose leaf tea.  I hope this little talk resolves the confusion and reveals that it is easy & fun to infuse. And perhaps you too will choose to infuse.
Questions you will want to address when considering the best infuser for your life-style include:
  1. Will the type of tea you enjoy fully expand in the infuser?
  2. Will the tea or tisane leak out of the infuser?
  3. Is it easy to use, clean, and store?
  4. Will you want the infuser to be mobile?
  5. Cost of the infuser, can range from $3-$20, tea pots & cups with infusers begin in the mid $20’s.
  6. Would you consider eco friendly DIY bags (filters)?
  7. What type of volume do you expect to prepare on a regular basis?
A priority in selecting an infuser is be sure the tea or tisane can fully expand in the infuser; one of the main reasons loose leaf is chosen is the superior flavor & added nutrients that are extracted from the whole leaf. Another significant consideration is will the fine mesh contain all the tea & herbs? As always stay within your budget.  Life-style factors include: are you highly mobile, will you carry it in a backpack or in the car, do you want some thing just easy in the morning, or do you prefer something for your desk, classroom or office, do you often prepare for more then 1 person at a time?  I usually ask people interested in purchasing their first infuser to picture the primary location they want to have their tea. I am confident over time that picture will expand but begin with a narrow focus.
                                                                             TEA BALLS
Tea Balls
Will the infuser allow your leaves to expand, is one of the most important questions to address!  Tea balls are good for BOP, (broken orange pekoe) or a ctc (crush torn and curled) but an oolong, many of the green, white and full leaf blacks cannot fully expand in a tea ball.  Yet, the price point is excellent and they are high mobile.  So if choosing a tea ball be sure the tea itself will match well. Tea balls often do not have a fine mesh and sometimes the herbs or rooibos will slip into the beverage or broth.  In that case the leaves etc are edible, :). But if you really do not want any of the product in the broth then strain after preparing of choose a different type of infuser.
                                                             INFUSING BASKETS 
Brew Basket Infuser
Infusers that fit into a variety of cups or teapots often work very well as an initial tool. These type of infusers have a top keeping the temperature warmer which doubles as drip pan once the steeping is completed.  The price point is usually reasonable and they are mobile.  Often people find them easier to clean then a tea ball and the mesh is usually fine enough to keep the tea & herbs in the infuser. If preparing for 2 plus cups be sure to have an infuser that is 3 inches for the added quantity.
                                                                           TEA MAKERS
Tea Maker
Tea Maker
Tea Makers that infuse 16 oz or more are often desirable for household with multiple tea drinkers or people on the go. One type of tea maker dispenses from the bottom. With this type of vessel, after the infusion is complete, place the tea maker over the cup of choice and the tea will dispense directly into the cup. This type is easy to clean, has fine mesh holding in the herbs, rooibos, botanical and tea leaves plus it is easy to make iced tea as well.  If desiring iced tea, double concentrate, steep then place over a glass with ice in it.  The price is mid-range.  It is fantastic for the breakfast rush, afternoon cuppa or the evening relaxing tea time, but not considered mobile.
Tea Press
Tea Press
                                                     TEA PRESSES
Another tea maker would be the tea press.  Here you can usually make 1-4 cups at a time, depending on the size purchased.  It is easy to clean, and mid-range price point.  Be sure to get a press that does not crush leaves, you never want to squeeze your leaves at the end of an infusion for a bitter flavor may result. Also be sure the press filter fits snuggly around the base so the leaves do not travel into the tea ‘broth’. This is typically used for a set location, not considered a mobile infuser.
                                       TEA POTS & CUPS with INFUSERS
IMG_1808Tea pots and tea cups with infusers work 
IMG_0558very well! If using tea blends that have fine particles be sure the infuser has fine mesh.  Often the infuser can be used in more than just the original vessel.  So even though the price point may be a bit higher, the product is more versatile. An added bonus is when the infuser is included with the cup or teapot there is a lid that functions to keep the temperature hot while steeping, then the lid doubles as a drip pan once the infuser is removed. Using a teapot is one of my favorite ways to prepare tea for it typically means I am sharing the event with others.  Plus tea-pots are absolutely adorable!
                                                            TEA TRAVELERS
For those who are on the go traveling tea mugs or metro mugs are fantastic.  An infuser will be included and can be cleaned off and returned to the mug so you will have an infuser available to you once you arrive at you destination. Metro-mugs are versatile, practical and mid-price range.
wTravel Fmly B
I have highlighted a few great starter infusers that work well for highly active life-styles.  There are many more infusing tools that accompany tea plus enhance the romance of the tea event.  Cermonial tea events include a variety of vessels that add culture, art, ceremony and personality to the art of tea making which I hope to continue to write about in later blogs. Plus there are more infusers that are just plain old fun and functional.
                                                       CREATIVE & FUN INFUSERS
Tea Nests
Tea Nests
                                             TEA POUCHES/FILTERS 
Lastly, the question of DIY tea bags.  Tea filters (bags) are available in bio-degradable compostable unbleached bags that allow for fuller expansion and better extraction.  These type of bags add about 6 cents to each use.  They are highly mobile, easy to clean-up & great for leaf expansion.   I really appreciate them when traveling. They are easy to bring on a plane or to a hotel. Many people choose to use them as their preferred method of infusing.  The down side is you do need a saucer avaible when withdrawing them from the cup but they can easily be used for a re-steep.
If looking for a great starter, have a limited budget and want something that is easy to transport, I highly recommend an infuser basket that can double in both cup a cup or pot and has plenty of room for the leaf to expand, such as the large floating infuser.  If wanting something simple and easy for the home or office a tea-maker that dispenses from the bottom seems to be a great place for tea enthuisasts to begin. If wanting a great commuter tea mug, my new favorite is the metro-mug which keeps the tea hot for hours, (if it takes that long). If giving as a gift the tea-cup or tea-pot is always a special treat! If giving loose leaf to a friend who does not own an infuser, then a starter pack of diy tea filters (bags) is very convenient. I hope you choose to infuse in 2014!
May Your Year be infused with Joy, Happiness and a “whole lot of tea!”
Have a Happy & Blessed New Year!