How to decide: Loose-leaf or teabags?
Updated: Aug 16, 2021
Tea, it’s a delightful beverage that has shaped culture and tradition for more than 5000 years, making it the second most consumed beverage in the world. Nothing seems more soothing than a hot cup of tea on a cold, blustery day, nor more refreshing than a tall glass of iced tea when outdoor temps climb into the 90’s. Steeped in tradition, some cultures place more importance on the art of brewing tea rather than the flavor of the finished product.
The popularity of tea goes without question; however, brewing tea comes with some debate.
Loose-leaf or teabags?
If you do a quick search of the internet, you’ll find conflicting answers to this question. The correct answer really boils down to this: What do you value most?
Suppose you like the finer things in life. In that case, many experts in the field find the quality of loose-leaf tea superior to the mass-produced teabags stocking your local grocery store shelves. Steve Schwartz, founder and CEO of Art of Tea, provides the analogy of a bag of potato chips with unbroken chips likened to loose-leaf tea. At the same time, he compares the “crumbs at the bottom” to “grocery-store tea.” During the process of sorting tea leaves, dust and fannings fall to the bottom. According to Steve, those bits and pieces are “swept up” and placed in prepackaged teabags.
This process of using dust and fannings plays a role in quality when you steep the tea. As the tea leaves break into smaller pieces, the essential oils that provide the aroma and flavor evaporate at a higher rate, often leaving mass-produced teabags stale. Loose-leaf tea preserves these oils allowing for a more aromatic and flavorful cup when infused with water. With this in mind, it’s essential to allow room for loose-leaf tea to expand as it steeps for proper flavor infusion.
Perhaps you enjoy a little variety in your palate. If so, think of tea in terms of a local artisan bakery versus a fast-food chain. Mass-produced teabags are standardized for a broad appeal to the masses. In contrast, loose-leaf teas offer a greater diversity of flavors for seasoned connoisseurs and newbies alike. Whether you prefer green, white, black, or oolong, each type of tea leaf comes with a unique nuance of aroma and flavor based on where and how it’s cultivated and processed. Loose-leaf tea preserves this subtle nuance and delivers a greater depth of flavor when brewed.
If you like to be in the driver’s seat for most things in life, loose-leaf tea offers greater control. You decide how much tea to add to your cup, allowing you to adjust your brew to your taste. Maybe you prefer a more robust cup and add a little more, or a lighter profile and use a little less than the recommended amount. It’s really up to you and your measuring spoon. With a prepackaged teabag, you get what you get.
Maybe convenience matters most in your busy life. If so, loose-leaf tea may not be for you. Prepackaged teabags beat loose-leaf tea when it comes to convenience. Just drop a bag of tea in your cup, no measuring required, then toss it in the trash once your cup of tea is brewed and ready to drink.
What do you value most?
Once you’ve determined the answer to that question, you can easily decide between loose-leaf or teabags.