Do you prefer loose leaf tea or tea bags? This Tastessence post talks about the pros and cons of each, and allows you to make an informed decision.
Best of Both Worlds!
The latest innovation in the world of tea bags is paper tea filters, that contain whole leaves as opposed to tea dust and fanning. They claim to be of high quality, and come in triangular or pyramidal shapes.
Does it really matter, you may ask, whether your daily cup of tea is prepared using loose leaf tea or tea bags? Well, for the average tea drinker, it doesn’t. However, if you love fine-quality tea, that is rich in flavor and aroma, then a tea bag is definitely not your cup of tea. But have you ever wondered why tea bags taste different from loose leaf or whole leaf tea, even though they originate from the same plant(s)? The truth is that, there’s a difference in how they are processed before they reach the shelves in our neighborhood supermarket.
Loose Tea vs. Tea Bags: Which One is Better?
Loose tea is made from handpicked whole leaves and buds of the tea plant Camellia sinensis. Tea bags do not contain whole leaves, but fanning, tea dust, and fine pieces of tea leaves. Here, we shall analyze the different aspects that you normally consider while choosing tea, and see which one wins the face-off.
Quality and Freshness
The quality of tea is largely influenced by factors such as the time of the year, growing conditions, region of origin, and the method of processing, among others. Loose tea is made using the choicest of tea leaves that have been carefully handpicked. On the contrary, the tea used in tea bags is picked, processed, and packed by machines. Tea generally ceases to be fresh after a year. As for tea bags that are mass-produced, you can never know how long the tea has been in storage warehouses before being packed and picked up by you.
Flavor and Aroma
Tea should be stored in proper air-tight containers to prevent its aroma from escaping. If you love to experiment with different flavors of tea, then loose leaf tea is definitely for you.
► The small pieces used in tea bags contribute to a larger surface area, and the tea gets brewed in a shorter time, but the flavor is never the same like whole leaf tea. Also, the larger surface area makes the tea lose most of its essential oils through evaporation, leaving it dull and tasteless.
► A major disadvantage of tea bags is that they release more tannin’s, which impart a bitter taste to the tea.
► Whole leaf tea is fresher as compared to tea bags. The longer you keep tea leaves in storage, lesser would be the nutrients left in it.
► Over-processing of the tea that is packed in tea bags causes it to lose its flavor.
► More often than not, tea bags comprise a mixed blend of teas, and hence, can never match up to the unique aroma of pure premium tea. Also, this means that there’s hardly any consistency in the flavor of the tea prepared from tea bags.
The primary reason tea bags are so popular is the convenience factor that they bring in. After all, when you want to grab a cup of tea while rushing to work, it’s only tea bags that can come to your rescue. Just dip one in a cup of hot water, and presto! Your cup of tea is ready in a jiffy. Can you say that for loose leaf tea? Tea bags are also a boon for novices who are not skilled at the ‘art’ of making tea. After all, how many of us have the necessary know-how regarding the amount of tea leaves to be used, how long to boil the tea, and other nuances of making that perfect cup of tea? Well, not many. For us, a tea bag is the only way we can enjoy a cup of tea.
However, while most whole leaf teas can be used more than once, tea bags are only meant for a single use.
Availability is another reason for the popularity of tea bags. No matter where you go, you’re bound to find tea bags everywhere, right from the humble tea store in your neighborhood, to the shelves in the supermarket. Loose leaf tea, on the contrary, is only found in certain niche outlets that cater to lovers of premium tea.
Another reason to go in for whole leaf tea is the nutritional benefits on offer. Since loose leaf tea has enough room to expand when steeped in water, the water extracts essential vitamins and minerals from the tea leaves, along with essential oils. Thus, a cup of loose leaf tea is a healthier option. Drinking whole leaf tea gives you healthy skin, and aids in weight loss.
On a parting note, loose leaf tea is tea leaves at their natural best, as opposed to the tea dust in tea bags which are processed before packaging. People with a more traditional mindset would never appreciate the idea of preparing tea using tea bags, as they value the traditional method of making tea by using the finest quality of tea leaves. But what about you?