By Kathy McCarthy [reposted from our sister blog]
If you have never been particularly fond of tea, consider for a moment what kind of tea you have been drinking. If your idea of brewing a cup of tea is grabbing a box of teabags off of your grocer’s shelf and dunking them in a cup of hot water until the color looks about right, you may actually enjoy a good cup of tea more than you think. You would not know, though, because to date you have never really had a good cup of tea.
While grabbing a teabag from the grocery store does not necessarily guarantee an inferior cup of tea, it comes pretty close. The problem is that your typical teabag contains the fines or fannings left over from the whole leaf tea that is used to make a superior cup of tea. So when you make tea from a teabag, you are essentially brewing a cup of tea crumbs.
When you brew a cup of loose leaf tea, you are extracting your drink’s flavor from the entire tealeaf which is what results in the great taste of tea. The whole tealeaf is rich with essential oils and various tannins and chemicals, which combine during the brewing process to form the delicious flavor of your particular tea.
When the tealeaves are pulverized, as in the case of fannings, the oils evaporate and the resulting brew is flat and dull. This pretty much describes a typical grocery store teabag. The other problem with teabags is that they are too constricting, because tealeaves need room to unfurl and swell as they brew. Therefore, there has to be room and good water circulation in the teabag for the leaf to benefit from the brewing process.
When whole tealeaf is brewed in a tea sock or infuser, you can get the full bodied flavor that your tea was meant to have. So if you have never really enjoyed the taste of tea, before you write tea off as a beverage that you just do not enjoy, make sure that you at least give a cup of properly brewed whole leaf tea a fair chance.