For those looking for a good way to brew loose leaf tea, may I suggest my new favorite method: the french press. There are, of course, a seemingly endless variety of gadgets, gizmos, and novelty strainers for brewing tea out there. For the last couple years, I've used an adorable little teapot from Beehouse (which I still like), but the french press has won me over.
The genius of the french press lies in it's simplicity. It's easy to use and, more importantly, easy to clean. No digging out tea leaves from tiny crevices of mesh strainers- just a rinse, a little soap, and you're good to go. So simple.
I love watching tea steep through the clear glass of a french press. The tea leaves can really unfurl to their full capacity when not cramped in a bag or strainer. Having a clear view of your tea brewing also teaches you more about it- What is your preferred shade of tea? How dark can you brew a Darjeeling before it gets bitter? How does the color change with each subsequent steeping?
Just look at those tea leaves dancing around! It's really quite beautiful to watch. The french press I bought is this model. You can certainly find cheaper french presses around, but I decided to get a cute one so I'd be more motivated to leave it out and use it all the time (yes, I am motivated by cuteness). I think Grosche makes the most attractive french presses, and the quality seems very good. I bought the smaller size (11.8 oz), which is just enough for one big mug, or two smaller cups of tea.
For most types of tea, you can steep the same leaves multiple times, so brewing only a small amount at a time makes sense. Brew one pot, pour it into your mug, and then re-fill the press. By the time you're finished drinking your first cup, the second press will be ready for you. This gives you the most mileage out of your tea, so you can use less (and save some cash).
A word of warning for those of you that make your coffee in a french press- you need a separate one to use for tea. You can never fully clean the oils from coffee out of the press, so you'll end up with tea that tastes like crappy old coffee if you try to use one press for both.