Question: A friend just told me that I shouldn’t be making tea on Shabbos with regular tea bags. I have always used a kli sheni. Is that not okay?
Answer: Tosafos (Shabbos 40b) writes that once water has been poured from
the kettle (kli rishon) into a kli sheni, the water begins to
slowly cool down and so cannot be considered bishul. There are some
foods, however, that are cooked so easily (kalei habishul), that one
must not add water to them even in a kli sheni.
The Mishna (Shabbos 3:5) writes that one may place spices into water in
a kli sheni, as they won’t get properly cooked. The Mishna Berura (318:39),
however, writes that tea is not included and must not be made in a kli
sheni. R’ Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (quoted in Shemiras Shabbos Kehilchasa
1:n152) explains that the spices and tea nowadays are finely ground and cook
far more easily than the coarse spices typical of the Mishnaic era.
The Mishna Berura and Aruch
Hashulchan (OC 318:28) don’t allow one to make tea in a kli shlishi (i.e.
pouring the water into a kli sheni and then into another cup) though R’
Moshe Feinstein (Igros Moshe OC 4:74 Bishul 15) allows it as he holds that a kli
shlishi cannot cook kalei habishul.
The Mishna Berura writes that it is ideal to prepare tea essence before
Shabbos while others use instant tea. One preparing such tea should still use a
kli sheni to pour into a kli shlishi (See Igros Moshe OC 4:74
Although tzoveya, dyeing, does not apply to food, it is best to place
the tea in the cup before the water so as not to colour the water in the cup
(Sha’ar Hatziyon 318:65).
Those relying on R’ Moshe must leave the teabag in their cup or remove
it with a spoon as straining the teabag would be borer (Minchas Yitzchak