Universi-tea: Loose Leaf v. Tea Bags

When I started my tea journey, I mostly planned to buy loose leaf teas to taste and test.  I still do have some favorite tea that I purchase in bags from the grocery store, or other stores and before I started learning more about tea I didn’t know what the difference was.  So now I’ll share with you what I’ve learned.

In general, loose leaf tea is higher quality than tea packaged in bags.  Loose leaf tea contains larger pieces of tea leaves and other components and is generally less processed than tea found in bags.  This enables it to release richer, more complex flavors as well as stand up to multiple brewings. It also retains more of the antioxidants than tea bags.

Photo credit: André Karwath, Wikipedia

In contrast, tea bags are usually filled with smaller bits of tea leaves and what is referred to as tea fannings (also called dust).  Though not always, these smaller bits and dust can be leftovers of what is not sold as loose leaf tea. Tea in tea bags generally brews more quickly than loose leaf tea, but much of the dust is dissolved in the first brewing, meaning multiple brewings lose potency quickly.  Also finer bits of tea release more tannins which can make tea brewed from tea bags taste more bitter than that of loose leaf tea.

A few people have also brought this article from Food Babe to my attention.  While any company can hide chemicals, artificial flavors and ingredients in their tea, in general it seems easier for companies to place these in tea bags and finer dust than in loose leaf tea where you can see most of the ingredients right there in the tea.

I want to state again that I still have favorite teas that come pre-packaged.  A few of my old standbys include Twinings’ Lady Grey, Twinings’ Jasmine Green, Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime and the newer Celestial Seasonings’ Sweet Harvest Pumpkin.

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