When blending teas, I sometimes end up doing the unthinkable: mixing loose tea and teabag teas. Yes, you heard me correctly. Despite the eyebrows that this might raise from some loose tea devotees, I find that it can actually be a very practical approach when my options are limited.
But before I go any further, I want to clarify what I mean, and in what circumstances I think it works. I am not advocating for mixing loose tea and teabags when you are blending two types of the same tea—don’t try dropping an earl grey teabag into your Nine Bend Black Dragon, please!—or when you are creating an existing, well-known blend, such as Russian Caravan (if you blended loose lapsang souchong and keemun with bagged oolong tea, for example, the difference in quality would affect the overall tea, and the tastes would not balance).
Instead, I am talking specifically about combining a pure loose tea base with a bagged herbal tisane to make a flavoured tea. In this case, “teabag” is a misleading term, because the bagged substance being added is not really tea (somehow “herbal tisane bag” doesn’t have quite the same ring…). So what would this look like? A few examples might be: a high quality white tea such as Peony White Needle Tea with bagged peppermint to make a white peppermint tea; Sencha (or Gyokuro if you’re feeling fancy!) with a bagged ginger infusion for a ginger green tea; a loose black tea with a fruity herbal tisane.
All very well you say, but if you use loose leaf, why not just combine the pure tea base with a loose tisane? If you have a loose tisane that you want to use, then great! However, there are a few reasons why you might end up going for a “teabag:”
1) I don’t know about you, but I find that I often end up with bagged versions of teas that I was given, or just somehow have lying around. And a lot of these are herbal infusions. I rarely drink them on their own, but if the flavour is one I like, why not use it up in a way that still makes a good cup of tea?
2) Availability can be an issue. There are several tisanes that I find perfectly adequate in bagged form, or am not particularly attached to the loose versions. For these it is often easier, and cheaper, to buy them bagged rather than seeking out the loose version in a specialty tea shop or ordering it online.
3) You might go for a bagged tisane if there is a particular blend that you enjoy, but which is sold by a company who only makes bagged tea.
4) As far as quality goes, although loose tea is always my first choice, there are some companies out there who make good quality bagged tea. And, as we know, there are ways to make the most of your teabags!
Have I convinced those of you who raised your eyebrows at the start of the article? As I said before, if you have a loose version of a tisane to use as the “flavour layer”, by all means use it. But I find that opting for a bagged version is often more practical, and it is an interesting way to expand your tea blending options!
Disclaimer: The author takes no responsibility for foul-tasting blends of tea.
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