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I have been making tea in a simple glass jug for several years, but I happened to break it. When I went shopping, I saw many teapots with integrated strainers, which look convenient.

But there was a large difference between the strainers. Some were made from a fine stainless steel mesh, like a normal strainer. Others were from plastic or glass. The ones from plastic and glass typically had only a few holes, and they were rather small ones. Several had slits instead of round holes.

Does the type of strainer matter for the quality of the tea? Do a few slits work as well as an all-mesh strainer? Does the water move in and out of the strainer enough to make good tea in a strainer with a few small holes?

Second, what about the maintenance? Are the slit strainers easier to clean than the mesh ones?

By the way, the teapots with steel mesh strainers seem to be generally more expensive. Is this because they make better tea, or is it just because metal is more expensive and/or looks better?

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I have used several types of integrated strainers and in my experience nothing is better than a wire mesh. The holes and slits in glass and plastic strainers are too small and too few to allow good water circulation, so you have to move the strainer around to get the tea to brew. Cleaning-wise, slits are the worst as their tapered ends trap leaved which can be annoying to remove. The plastic strainers are probably the easiest to clean, with wire being in the middle.

I'd personally go with the wire mesh type as it brews the best tea.

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For some teas, the strainer does matter. For a particular variety of green tea that I was considering importing years ago, the producer recommended a certain type of fine mesh strainer for best results, as apparently the leaves were just the right shape to clog up the "standard" Kyuusu-style mesh strainer. (Kyuusu is a type of Japanese teapot with the handle on the side instead of opposite the spout).

With black tea, I found that those glass teapot strainers with the little slits in them worked fine, but were a pain to clean. For Japanese green teas, though, they were a disaster, as tea leaves got stuck in them and the infusion never got very complete, and the water refused to drain in a reasonable amount of time. As a result, I refuse to buy another glass teapot with those little slits, because they were too unreliable for anything but large leaf black teas or certain "fruit teas" (as they were called in Germany).

Korean style one-person tea cups with large holes in the strainer component work reasonably well for green tea (and are designed for green tea), but often require toothpicks or bamboo skewers to clean if tea gets stuck in the holes.

My favorite teapots mostly use the Japanese-style steel mesh, though I have had good luck for certain teas with built-in clay strainer holes if they brew small quantities of tea.

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