Growing up, my best friend Hannah's dad, Mark, became obsessed with tea. I'm not entirely sure how it started, but I do know that anyone that was invited into their house benefited hugely from the hobby. Shortly after the hellos and how-are-yous, Mark would ask what kind of tea you were in the mood for—accompanied by a long list of looseleaf options—and would quickly busy himself in the kitchen making individual cups for every person present. He'd measure out the looseleaf tea from bags or tins, boil the water to the right temperature, set a timer for steeping, and then bring us our perfectly-made rooibos or oolong or Earl Grey. It goes without saying, but it was really lovely.
When Hannah, our friend Andrea, and I went off to college, Hannah's parents gave us kits for making our own tea, with the promise of sending us new looseleaf teas every single month, corresponding to the season, and what was happening in the academic calendar. (I remember some very calming teas around exams, in particular.) But what was even better than the teas, somehow, was the handy, one-cup tea maker in our kit. It was clear plastic, with a lid on a hinge, and a removable, concave, mesh bottom. The base contained a mechanism that released the steeped tea when you placed the tea maker on a mug or a cup, but didn't leak otherwise.
All you had to do was spoon the right amount of looseleaf tea into the tea maker, add the correct amount of boiling water, let it steep for the called-for amount of time, and then place it over your favorite mug when it was ready. It was simple, easy to clean, and frankly, just looked really nice, especially if you were drinking a really gorgeous tea.
I held on to my tea maker for a full six years or so, making tea for myself—and often any number of friends that were just as charmed by the process as I was—until I finally had to toss it from wear-and-tear before my last move to a new apartment. It doesn't look like the company makes the exact tea maker I had anymore, but they make an even better, more elegant one. Now it's glass, with a domed mesh bottom, and the same clever release mechanism, and it looks beautiful.
I've been using teabags for the last year or so, ever since I had to throw out my old tea maker. There's nothing wrong with teabags, but it's a little bit like drinking drip coffee when you could have pour over. It gets the job done, but there's not the same process or precision. I'm looking forward to getting back to my old looseleaf habits, with a new and improved tea maker, finally not in a dorm room.