Tea Bags vs Loose Tea — A Brief Comparison

Adams Peak Loose Tea
Adams Peak Loose Tea

The average tea consumer tends to purchase their tea at the supermarket, in convenient bagged form. However you’ll notice that many tea enthusiasts show disdain for tea bags, preferring to purchase their tea in loose leaf form. There are many reasons for that disdain, but let’s take a look at how much tea bags really do differ from loose tea.

First and foremost, tea bags make it easy to hide the low quality of inferior teas, usually made of what is termed tea “dust” made from very finely ground cheap leaves. The dust provides an almost instant deep dark color to your tea and has a strong, consistent flavor from one cup to the next. This consistency is one of the advantages of bagged tea over loose tea as bagged tea tends to be much more consistent from batch to batch. With loose tea you can see the quality of the leaves yourself.

Additionally, when using loose tea, you can brew an amount of leaves according to your taste. Pre-bagged tea is already rationed into equal portions of tea that may provide a stronger or weaker flavor than what you would like to taste. With loose leaf tea, you can measure your tea to the strength you prefer.

Because, as I mentioned earlier, bagged tea is usually much more finely ground than loose leaf tea, bagged tea goes stale a lot faster than properly stored loose tea. If the bags are wrapped in paper instead of foil , the airflow through the tea leaves is increased and therefore the tea loses it’s flavor much more quickly. Foil wrapped teabags are usually much preferred over paper-wrapped bags. Loose tea does, however, keep it’s flavor and aroma much longer than bagged tea. All teas should optimally be stored in an opaque, dry and airtight container out of sunlight and away from sources of heat.

Pyramid Tea Bag
Pyramid Tea Bag

Some companies are now using triangular see-through bags made from mesh for their teabags, instead of the traditional flat rectangular bags, to allow the tea leaves to be properly infused with water (allowing the water to freely flow through the tea leaves). This also allows the tea leaves to unfurl completely, releasing the greatest amount of flavor into the water. Traditional tea bags do not offer these features and as you can see, they can greatly influence your experience of your tea.

For these reasons, I recommend that you use loose tea, using an infuser or strainer to brew the leaves. However if you must use bagged tea for the convenience, try to use the mesh pyramid tea bags as they are almost always of a higher quality than traditional paper tea bags.

[Editor’s note: Our blog is chock full of great articles on this topic. Use our search feature to find them!]

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