The tea bag is an icon, there is no denying that. It is as important to tea – the history, the industry, the culture – as the tea plant itself. But then why are people turning away from the loyal tea bag? The answer is simple, yet definitive: loose leaf tea makes a better cup of tea. Which is it for you? This is loose leaf vs tea bags!
See Also: Here’s what you need to know about the different types of tea available! What’s your favorite cup of brew?
Loose Leaf vs Tea Bags: What we Know
It’s a tough call for tea drinkers out there! How many of you have faced the same dilemma? Choosing between these two tea drinking methods can make your head spin. What we know is that tea bags offer convenience. On the other hand, many claim loose leaf brews the best.
Tea Bags: The Good and the Bad
There is one shining grace about tea bags: convenience. Just take one tea bag, drop into a cup, and add hot water and you have a cup of tea, simple. Unsatisfied tea connoisseurs have been quick to dismiss the tea bag, but on reasonable grounds: Tea bags are filled with what is called “fannings”. Or dust, the scraps leftover from sorting out higher quality loose leaf tea. The tea bag is usually made out of materials that can add an unwanted taste to the tea.
The tea inside the bag has undergone further processing to break apart the leaves, allowing essential oils (which give tea its flavor) to evaporate, thus creating a duller and staler tea. Fannings have a greater surface area to volume ratio, exposing the leaves to more air which makes the flavor become stale faster. Cramped tea bags do not provide proper water circulation for the leaves to expand, unfurl, and develop in flavor.
The debate between loose leaf tea and tea bags has been raging for sometime now, but although the facts stack against tea bags, it remains widely available, widely chosen, and a legitimate method to drinking tea.
Pyramid Tea Bags
Tea brands like Lipton have confronted criticisms with the introduction of the larger pyramidal tea bags to allow greater water circulation. Along with the new shape came better quality tea leaves inside of them to satisfy antsy tea aficionados. Even tea shops that specialize in loose leaf tea sell these new sort of tea bags. But let’s be honest, in terms of tea leaf quality and water circulation, any tea bag will be inferior to letting the leaves steep freely.
Loose Leaf Tea
Switching to loose leaf tea avoids the problems found with using tea bags. As an added perk, loose leaf tea is like stepping through the door into a new world filled with possibilities. The variety of teas available as loose leaf far outnumbers those available in tea bags. The visual spectacle of blooming teas and the experience of using tea cups and tea pots are also a perk. Loose leaf tea requires a little more effort, sacrificing convenience for taste. When using loose leaf tea, consideration needs to be put into brewing time, temperature, and serving amount.
Then there is the issue of hardware; tea cups, a tea pot, and a strainer are necessary items. At this point, if you care enough to make the switch, you probably are willing to do the work into making the tea. The act of buying loose leaf may seem daunting. Aside from the vast array of varieties, loose leaf tea (with its fancy metal tins) is more expensive, right? Nope. Loose leaf tea is actually more economical than tea bags. The tea leaves can support multiple brewing (depending on the variety) and given the higher quality of leaves, the price is well worth the product. As for storage, loose leaf tea tends to stay fresher longer as long as it is properly kept in a dark, cool, dry place.
Ultimately it all comes down to personal preference. It is true that tea snobs swear that loose leaf tea is infinitely better in taste and quality. While they technically are right, but there is nothing wrong with using tea bags. Tea is a drink that is supposed to tie people together. A sign of hospitality and friendship, not division. If you drink tea, take it however you can and enjoy!