Let’s start with some honesty : I prefer loose leaf teas. I find them vastly superior to tea bags in almost every way. However, tea bags almost consistently outsell loose leaf teas in North America, so the subject must be adressed.
First you may be asking yourself what the differences between loose leaf teas and tea bags may be, beyond the simple fact that they represent two differing infusion methods. Well, put simply, loose leaf teas are as close in form and taste to the original plant as one can get. Tea bags are those same leaves, crushed into fragments, sometimes even powder, then put into bags. Loose leaf teas release a full bodied flavor when infused whereas tea bags offer only strong and abrupt flavors. Loose leaf teas are…you know what ? Here’s a quick rundown :
Loose Leaf Teas :
- The full, complex flavor of the tea is released upon infusion
- Many loose leaf teas can be re-infused several times
- As the leaves are whole they can be stored longer and lose their flavor less quickly
- You can see exactly what you are infusing. There’s a certain honesty about loose leaf teas
- You can decide exactly how much tea you want to brew
- You need a teapot
- Longer infusion time (patience grasshopper !)
Tea Bags :
- Quick infusion time
- Easy to brew a single cup
- Convenience in transport (throw a few bags in your briefcase to take to work !)
- Easy clean up. Just throw it away !
- The leaves are broken into small pieces, thus cannot be stored as long as loose leaf teas
- Because the leaves are small and broken, tea bags often do not provide a full and rich brew.
- Many tea bag companies use tea leaf pieces and dust to fill their tea bags (sometimes sweeping up what has fallen to the floor from the production of whole leaf teas)
- Bags do not allow the tea enough space to be properly infused
- All that extra packaging cannot be good for the environment
Now don’t get me wrong : my preference for loose leaf teas has not blinded me to the fact that tea bags are easy and convenient to use. I simply take issue with the practices of most teabag companies and what they use to fill their bags. There are however some tea bag companies that I love, use and recommend, who fill their bags with whole leaves and whose practices are commendable.
The choice is yours. As I stated in a previous post, the best tea to drink is the one that you like, and no one can tell you any different, not even this biased tea “obssesser”.