There’s no doubt that bagged tea – tea bags – are extremely convenient. Fast to use, dip them in, take them out, job done!
Nevertheless, many people prefer loose tea because, as proponents would say, it tastes better and it smells better.
Certainly in China, where tea is the most popular drink by far, you rarely, if ever, see a tea bag. Oh no, it’s all fresh, loose tea in China.
During the early 1900s, tea bags were regarded as a luxury.
Then, after it was realized that tea bags were as convenient as they were – as they are – they really took off in terms of popularity.
First there were gauze tea bags. Next, cotton tea bags. Then, and what we still use today, paper tea bags that are heat sealable.
Tea Bags – Better Alternative?
There’s convenience with tea bags – great convenience.
However, the way it’s produced, which is known as “crush-tear-curl,” or CTC, often generates lack-luster results.
CTC refers to the cutting up of tea leaves – the leaves from the tea plant. Then, fannings (small particles of the tea leaf) and dust, which are generally of a low grade, are mixed together.
The original idea here was to increase the speed of infusion, to increase the surface area of the tea, and to improve flavor.
Nevertheless, what really happens is that tea bags have a fairly one-dimensional profile. That’s made worse because tea bag producers have a tendency to utilize lower-quality leaves to begin with.
You can, or you should, only use tea bags for a single dipping. Why?
For sure, some people re-use tea bags, possibly to save money more than anything.
But when a tea bag is used more than once the essential oils have already evaporated on the first “dip.” Hence, the second dipping is not of the same quality.
There are issues with the bags, too.
They become misshaped after the first dipping, and the materials used to manufacture the bag tends to impede the flow of water as well as tea expansion.
Then, there are bleached tea bags. These bags have been sealed with glue.
These bags generally release undesired chemicals.
Loose Tea Leaves – Are They Better than Bagged Tea?
Loose tea is hand picked then hand sorted on a seasonal basis – when the leaves are ready to be picked.
What’s more, these leaves are picked in small quantities.
The leaves are micro-blended, after which, they are sealed inside airtight containers – can be pouches that are re-sealable or in tins. This ensure that the quality and the flavor is superior.
You get the full flavor from these hand-picked leaves. You get full aroma. You also get vitamins, you get minerals, and you get antioxidants.
Because loose-leafed tea comes with a smaller surface area and because loose-leafed tea retains essential oils far better than tea in tea bags, you can, in fact, use loose-leaf tea numerous times over.
The leaves are higher quality in loose-leaf tea, meaning that you can pick up on subtle aromas and you can appreciate a more dynamic flavor than with tea-bag tea.
Of course, as you’d expect, for higher quality loose-leaf teas, the price is higher – or the price is much higher – than tea-bag tea.
Higher Quality Bagged Tea
Historically, bagged teas have been of lesser quality than loose teas.
Notwithstanding, these days, you can buy high-quality bagged teas.
Bagged teas are available in various loose-leaf blends. So there’s no need to purchase bagged teas that are made from fannings and dust.
Further, some bagged teas are available whereby they are unbleached, they are compostable, and they are made from materials that are of high quality.
Water flow and superior brewing can be achieved through varying shapes of tea bags such as pyramid-shaped tea bags.
So, in essence, the quality of the tea that you consume is about the quality of the materials. This applies to loose teas and to bagged teas.
To sum things up, let’s list out the advantages and disadvantages of bagged teas and loose teas.
Advantages of Bagged Teas
- Many people still consider bagged tea to be a luxury item. Bagged tea is still seen, at least by some, as a cool thing to use.
- Bagged teas are more convenient than loose teas.
- Bagged teas are cheaper, in general, than loose teas.
Disadvantages of Bagged Teas
- Generally of lesser quality than loose teas.
- Can’t be used more than once without an adverse impact on quality and flavor/ aroma.
Advantages of Loose-Leaf Teas
- Usually, loose-leaf teas have a better flavor and a better aroma.
- Loose-leaf teas can be used more than one time and yet, the quality is still there throughout.
Disadvantages of Loose-Leaf Teas
- More expensive than bagged teas.
- Not as convenient as bagged teas.