I took these pictures a few years ago at the height of my “tea phase”. I had a few loose-leaf teas, and I was finding that tea strainers were unreliable: they leaked tea leaves, were too easy to overpack, and eventually broke after a few dozen uses. I set out to roll my own tea bags.
I started with a typical Lipton teabag, took out the staple, unfolded it, and then marked the folds.
Here’s the unfolded teabag. It’s a rectangle about 5 inches by 2 inches.
For my DIY teabags, I used coffee filter paper, and cut a 2×5 rectangle out of it. It should be possible to make two teabags out of one large-size filter. You should know that coffee filter paper is actually a bit thicker than what is used in actual teabags. But the important part is that we want water to flow freely through the paper such that only liquid tea flows out.
This is probably the best time to add tea. You can add tea to the upper half, the bottom half, or both. You probably need less than you think.
The first folds are to bring the sides into the middle lengthwise. This is roughly an even width fold although the side edges should overlap.
This step exposes one of the few flaws with DIY teabags. Real teabags have a “seam” where these sides are joined. I don’t know a good way to do this or even emulate this without losing a lot of width. If you have any leakage from your teabag, this is likely where it comes from. I find though that if you pack and fold the teabag just right, the internal pressure will keep these sides together and minimize leakage.
Once the sides are folded in, this zig-zag curve in the middle section is next. The middle sections of the fold are about a quarter inch wide. This is the “inside” of the folded teabag, although no tea is actually placed here.
Now that you’ve done the middle fold, bring the far ends together like this. This would also be a suitable time to put tea in the bag, particularly if you weren’t sure how much to put in. Keep in mind the inside seam isn’t sealed, though.
Now fold the top corners over so that the top comes close to a point (but not quite).
Now fold the point over, in the same direction as the corners. I hope you have tea in the bag by now.
Staple the top of the teabag. It doesn’t matter much which way. If you want to have a string attached to your teabag (useful for pulling it out of the cup) then place the end on top of the folded point BEFORE stapling and staple them together. This seems insecure, but this is exactly how most regular teabags add strings and tags (and why they often come off). If you want a tag, too, just staple the other end of the string to it. This is how Lipton does it, anyway.
Here is a completed DIY teabag with tea inside (Peet’s Lapsang Souchong, btw). Note that the bag appears puffy from the tea. Hopefully this presses the insides together and resists tea leakage.
The DIY teabag in a cup of hot water starting to steep.
Nearly done steeping. Notice there are maybe 3-4 tiny tea leaves leaked out — much better than the average tea strainer IMO. The tea is nice and dark.
The teabag after steeping and removed. See how the bag is now teastained. Note also how the wet tea expanded and pressed together in the inside. This is why we can get by without a seam and have very little tea leakage. (But if anyone knows a suitable and easy way to add the seam, I’d like to know.)
No longer any need for unreliable and difficult-to-wash tea strainers when you want to enjoy loose leaf tea — just whip yourself up a DIY teabag from a coffee filter.