Loose vs Bags- The Simple Difference Is In The Leaf
For anyone who’s had the chance to compare loose leaf tea to a tea bag… the difference in quality is evident immediately. There are a few common sense explanations like…
Quality of the Leaf:
“Whole leaf tea” or “loose leaf tea” means that the tea you have is primarily made up of whole, unbroken leaves. Tea bags on the other hand, are made up of the lowest possible grade of tea leaves, commonly referred to as “dust” or “fannings”. These are the smallest bits of tea leaves left over after processing. The “scraps”. The “waste”. You get what you pay for? You betcha! While some specialty loose leaf teas can cost a *delicious* pretty penny, many tea-baggers don’t know that buying loose leaf tea can be quite affordable, especially if you are re-infusing your leaves for added value.
Room To Grow:
Tea bags are small. There is essentially no room for the tea in a standard bag to absorb water and expand as it infuses. When a full leaf tea is allowed to expand to its full potential the full flavors, antioxidants, and general tea “goodness” make it into your cup. This simply cannot happen in a tea bag. When you bag-it, your infusion is directly limited to the size of your tea bag. For this reason, The Tea Spot has designed an entire line of teaware for loose leaf tea, called Steepware, with large volume infusers that allow your leaves to unfurl to their full potential.
There is also a simple physical explanation for why loose leaf tea is a better choice. Because the tea offered in bags is so small, more surface area is exposed to water while you brew. More surface area means that tannins from these leaves are released rapidly into your cup, often resulting in a bitter brew. Additionally, broken tea leaves and dust also lose many of their essential oils during processing.
I recently compared our English Breakfast tea to a standard English Breakfast bag brand (who will go unnamed here). Not only was my loose leaf brew noticeably darker and more fragrant, but after sipping back and forth between the two brews comparing flavor … I wasn’t even able to taste the bagged brew. Might as well have been sipping on hot water! I left the tea bag cuppa to its lonesome… and enjoyed my cup of delicious full-bodied, bold loose leaf tea.