I’m starting to think that bagged teas have gotten a bad rap (or maybe just a bad “wrap”). Generally speaking, tea in bags aren’t a staple item in my tea pantry. As one who lives the “tea life,” bagged tea is not to me what tea is all about. Hubby and I are the types that enjoy the process of tea preparation as much as the drinking of it. That means steeping the leaves (whole, pieces, or fannings) of the Camellia Sinensis plant to produce a tasteful tea “liquor” that hubby and I can then enjoy by itself or with some scrumptious tidbit.

Typhoo, Mighty Leaf, and PG Tips compared

Some teas that I absolutely must have on hand at all times (PG Tips, Typhoo, etc.) have to be ordered since they are not available in loose form from local vendors. Sometimes, I forget to order ahead and, when running low, have to buy from those vendors the bagged versions, which surprisingly, have proven to be most suitable — thus my change in thinking.

Yes, bagged teas have definitely gotten a bad rap. But there’s more to my change of heart than just poor planning of my tea purchases. The bagged teas I have used had one thing in common: they contained fannings and/or dust tea. These are the tiny bits left after the whole leaves and pieces have been separated out. While I still prefer to steep my teas made of whole leaves and/or pieces (broken leaf) floating free in the hot water to get every molecule of tea-ness, teas made of fannings and/or dust, such as most breakfast blends, seem to steep equally well in a bag vs. loose in the pot. That means convenience, especially at work.

Teabag shape is a determining factor in how well the tea steeps in the bag. Remember the old Lipton commercial for the “flo-thru” teabag? They were trying to assure tea drinkers that the tea would still get adequate exposure to the water and thus steep up good and strong as if the tea were floating free in the pot. Not sure if that’s true or not (never did a side-by-side comparison — maybe later), but the “flo-thru” design sold a lot of tea and is now used in other brands. Today there are a variety of shapes: round, pyramidal, sachets, etc.

Round, pyramid, and square bags

Part of my issue with teabags was the teabag material, i.e., the “wrap” of the tea. Bleached paper-like material used to be the only option. Teabags now are made of a variety of materials. For example, many teabags today are unbleached and made of a light paperish material (some Websites say it’s Manila hemp). Some, like Mighty Leaf, are made of nylon. More importantly, these teabags seem to allow for free interaction between tea and water almost as good as loose — I say “almost” because there’s still some blocking of free flow.

Teabag sturdiness is also an issue. My personal experience is that, except for the nylon material used by Mighty Leaf and some others, the typical teabag material seems to be more and more flimsy. My teabags often fall apart in the teapot. (Nothing like a cupful of tea dust!) That’s bagged tea with a bad “wrap”!

While I would still consider heinous the very idea of trapping teas made of full or broken leaves (such as Indian Spiced Chai or higher quality Oolongs) inside a bag (or an infuser, teaball, or other such device), I acknowledge that there are teas, especially quality teas like Typhoo and PG Tips, that are suitable for being wrapped in a teabag. So, yes, teabags — in this context — have gotten a bad rap!

Get your teabags ready. It’s dunkin’ time!

Learn more about tea on A.C.’s blog, Tea Time with A.C. Cargill.