Is there anything more delightful than a nice cup of tea? While the tea bag has simplified tea making, the full spectrum of tea’s potential lies in the steep and strain of high quality loose leaf tea, rather than the dunk and dash of bagged tea.
Come dive into the world of loose leaf tea with this beginner’s guide on its advantages compared to tea bags.
High quality loose leaf tea versus bagged tea
1. Quality and freshness
Most bagged teas from supermarkets are mass-produced, and typically contain “dust and fannings”. These are the tiny bits of tea left over from the production of loose leaf tea, and are considered the lowest grade of tea. Think of it as the crumbs-equivalent at the bottom of your packet of chips. Still drinkable, but a long way away from loose leaf tea’s full potential.
Tea bags contain tea sourced from different tea estates, and even from different tea-producing countries. It has travelled great distances, from the point of origin to the point of tea bag manufacture before ending up in our supermarkets. Hence, the tea has likely sat around for a while.
2. Taste and aroma
Have you noticed that no matter when you buy a particular supermarket big brand of tea bags, it will taste the same? This is because bagged tea has been blended for standardisation. Irrespective of the harvest conditions, you won’t taste much difference from tea bags of a particular brand.
If you are looking to be a more refined tea drinker, drinking from tea bags isn’t likely to satisfy you. You won’t get to explore the taste uniqueness from different seasons or terroirs that high quality loose leaf tea provides.The taste and aroma subtleties are lost in tea bags. In place, you get a consistent but one-dimensional taste (bold and astringent) with limited flavour expression.
Due to the undiscerning power of machine harvesting, bagged teas may include stems and seeds that can make the tea bitter. Hence, it is common to drink brewed tea from tea bags with milk, sugar, honey etc, that you won’t need with loose leaf tea.
3. Variety and diversity
Tea is more than just black tea or green tea, which are the two most typical type of tea bags. Tea is also oolong, white tea, yellow tea, fermented tea like pu-erh. Tea is diverse, each a reflection of its cultivars, climate, geography and production.
These delights of tea variety and diversity are available only in the form of loose leaf tea. Most commercial tea bags are limited in size; loose leaf tea requires space to unfurl and steep that just can’t be done well in a tea bag.
4. Environmental considerations
Most tea bags are not compostable, unless made with special materials that allow you to do so. And admit it, most of don’t separate (even though we can!) the tea from a non-compostable tea bag. So the tea bag just gets thrown out into a normal bin rather than into compost.
With loose leaf tea, you can get rid of the extra packaging and compost directly. It is an easy way to reduce your carbon footprint.
5. Health benefits
Tea has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can contribute to our overall wellness. The primary chemicals responsible for the health claims of green tea, called catechins, are found in the highest concentrations in fresh leaves.
Once exposed to the ambient environment, catechins degrade rapidly. The highly processed nature of “dust and fannings” in tea bags degrade faster due to the higher surface area for exposure. It’s best to drink green tea as fresh as possible, as high quality loose leaf tea, to enjoy the potential health benefits of these phytochemicals.
While tea bags can be made in different ways, many contain a form of plastic called polypropylene which is used to strengthen and heat-seal the tea bags. To achieve the white exterior, many tea bags are also bleached. So, you could well be drinking a small serving of plastic and chemicals in your daily tea bag cuppa!
6. Intangible assets
Tea is a commodity – the further it has been distanced from its origin, the more you know it has been commodified. Tea bags from large global brands loses its authentic story of the natural environment which conditioned it, and of the tea makers who produced it. Drinking loose leaf tea supports a cultural heritage and traditional artisanal craftsmanship that takes years to perfect.
Oftentimes, specialty loose leaf tea sellers can trace the tea’s origins by sourcing directly from the tea farmers. By reducing the layers of middlemen who each take a cut of the profit, the tea farmers make a better living that is a truer reflection of their time and skills.
And if you are interested in tea culture, traditional tea rituals really work only with loose leaf tea rather than tea bag dunking.
While tea bags are convenient, the advantages of loose leaf tea are enticing enough for anyone to give it a try. Find a specialty tea seller who sources tea for its craftsmanship and expression of nature. You will then start to truly taste and appreciate the art that is tea.
You can find high quality loose leaf tea for sale at The Caffeine Trifecta’s shop, specially curated for you .
Wishing you a great day,
Suk-yi is a caffeine lover, blogger, entrepreneur, air quality consultant, environmentalist, world citizen, wife and mother. She explores various topics related to coffee, tea, chocolate and everything in between on her blog. Make sure to follow her on her Facebook Page, Instagram Page and Pinterest Page.
There’s a certain quality and freshness as you pointed out I can only find with loose leaf tea. Since they offer a better taste and aroma as you suggest, I’ll make sure to buy tea in bulk. I do like that I’ll get more variety and diversity as you mentioned with loose leaf teas, so I’ll buy them from a good store for my tea party next month.
Hi Sariah, once you start on loose leaf tea, you’d never want to go back! Have fun in your tea party 🙂