14. Teapots and Tea Bags

A teapot is used to cook tea leaves and prepare liquid essence of tea from them. At the mouth of the teapot is a strainer that prevents the tea leaves from pouring freely into the cup. When the tea leaves sink to the bottom of the teapot and there is clear tea essence above them, one may certainly pour the clear essence into a cup. But when the tea leaves and the water are mixed, some say that one may not pour the essence through the mouth of the teapot because the strainer separates the liquid essence from the tea leaves. Others permit this. Since it is easy to add hot water (from a kli sheni) to the teapot, ensuring that a large volume of liquid is not mixed with the essence, it is preferable to do this and thus avoid risking a possible prohibition of Borer. When it is impossible to add water, be-di’avad pouring out the essence through the strainer is permitted.[16]

One may make tea by putting a tea bag into hot water (in a kli shlishi, as explained above in 10:8). However, when lifting the tea bag from the water, it is proper to take care not to hold it over the cup to allow the tea bag to drip the last few drops into it. This is because some maintain that the tea bag, which keeps the tea leaves from getting loose, is considered a utensil for straining, in which case holding it up would be considered separating the tea essence from the leaves using a utensil (see section 7). Instead, one should remove the tea bag from the cup and immediately put it in the garbage or into another cup. Some are stringent and lift the tea bag using a spoon, thus removing some tea along with the tea bag (see SSK 3:64).

[16]. Some are stringent and do not pour through the strainer at all, even if the water on top is not mixed with the tea leaves that have sunk to the bottom. This is the approach of Siddur Beit Menuĥa; Ben Ish Ĥai, Year 2, Beshalaĥ 18; Kaf Ha-ĥayim 319:113; and Shevet Ha-Levi 1:84. In contrast, some are lenient even when the tea leaves are mixed with the water. This is the approach of Yeĥaveh Da’at 2:51 and Menuĥat Ahava 2:7:43. The reason is that people are not truly bothered by tea leaves, and would be willing to drink tea with leaves mixed in, figuring that at worst their teeth will strain them out. Thus, this tea can be considered a liquid that most people can drink without straining (SA 319:10 and section 11 above). In the main text I follow the intermediate position, which is the opinion of Ĥazon Ish, OĤ §53, s.v. “min ha-amur” and Or Le-Tziyon 2:31:11. SSK 3:62 mentions the intermediate and lenient positions. R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach’s rationale for leniency is mentioned in n. 140 there: that it may be permitted to separate with a utensil for immediate consumption. Shulĥan Shlomo 319:34:2 adds that if a few tea leaves are able to pass through the strainer, then there is no concern that this case is Borer.

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Editor: Nechama Unterman