The Great Bag Debate

My grandfather came to the US via port-of-call in Boston. He left Birmingham as a young man and sailed to America to find a better life. When he came to the US, the tea he knew was loose, despite the fact that teabags were invented in 1907.

Teabags were initially made from Chinese silk and had a drawstring – to contain the loose tea that the world was familiar with. Teabags didn’t catch on until after World War II, when tea was rationed and the idea of having a set amount of tea from which one could obtain multiple infusions seemed like a smashing idea. Tetley launched the first “tea bag” in Britain in 1953 and it was immediately successful.

Teabags consist of either paper or a fine mesh fabric that permits tea leaves to be packed in and then infused with little fuss, no measuring, and disposed of with ease after use.

But teabags have gotten a bad name among tea connoisseurs – the tea used in some bags is considered to be “dust” (properly called “fannings”), and comes from the sorting of high-quality tea leaves for other packages. This trend may hold true in some lines of tea, but in others (Harney & Sons, for example), the tea is a high-quality, full-leaf like I see in my Twinings tins.

Some also complain of the process the paper teabag goes through to make it white – that the bleaching of the paper can taint the taste of the tea as it infuses. Others think that because bagged teas often have smaller pieces of large tea leaves (to provide a greater surface area for infusing), they become stale more quickly. Presumably, this is why Stash and Twinings teas individually-wrap their teabags – although I’ve always enjoyed the individual wrapping so I can drop them in my purse or bag.

Pyramid teabags are another newer creation – Lipton & PG Tips first introduced them, and then gourmet tea brands adopted them as well. The shape of the pyramid bags allows more of the tea to float during infusion, avoiding the compacted “lump of tea” in a tightly-packed teabag and providing a better cuppa all the way around.

Will I ever give up my infuser in my teapot? Probably not – there are too many delicious teas to try that don’t come in teabags. But I still love adore my Twinings teabags and carry them with me when I’m out and about.

Sue blogs regularly at A Mother’s Heart. Check her out today!

[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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One thought on “The Great Bag Debate

  1. Pingback: Making the Switch from Bagged to Loose Tea « Tea Blog

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