Tea is at the forefront of almost every culture, finding its way into billions of cups around the world.
It makes a great companion when you’re feeling sick, and offers a lifetime of drinking enjoyment.
So, how are you preparing it? Is it loose leaf style, or are you simply dunking a tea bag into the water and hoping for the best? If it is the latter, then this read may prove insightful.
Loose leaf tea is without a doubt the best way to enjoy tea… and for many reasons. Ten of which we will explore below.
Since loose leaf tea consists of larger leaves, it keeps more of its powerful antioxidants and polyphenols. What does this mean?
It means that you get more of those goodies that tea is noted for: health benefits. Tea can help prevent certain cancers, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and boost the immune system. Tea brewed by the bag contains fewer of these properties.
Loose leaf tea will always give you a healthier cup, and for best results, it is recommended the leaves are consumed within the first six to eight months of opening them.
Tea bags are filled with tea dust, also known as “fannings,” which are processed by macerating tea leaves until they’re unrecognisable. By contrast, loose leaf tea is left in-tact, keeping in all the goodness and improving the flavour, scent, and appearance.
Loose leaf tea will have a nice fresh and clean taste, and depending on the variety may taste sweet, floral, vegetal, malty, or earthy along with many other distinct nuances. Bagged tea will almost always taste bitter, old, stale, fuzzy, and muddy, and will leave you with a funny aroma that doesn’t promise much. Bags will add a colour to your cup, but not much after that.
Another thing tea bag consumers suffer from is a lack of variety. Folks will always be limited to what is offered on the supermarket shelves, and while that may look like a lot, you’ll find yourself going through them pretty fast, as well as finding many you do not fancy.
Tea is broken into six main types: White, green, yellow, oolong, Pu’erh, and black. Each main classification yields hundreds of varieties, cultivated by many cultures around the world. A large portion of these varieties are sold in loose form, so that means there is always a new kind to look forward to.
This is often one of the biggest pleasures a true tea drinker enjoys.
A big advantage loose leaf tea has over bagged tea is the age factor. In order for tea to be considered good quality, it must be young and fresh. Have you ever wondered how old those tea bags are? If I told you they can sometimes be over 18 months old, would that surprise you?
As mentioned, it is recommended that all tea is enjoyed within the first six to eight months of the flush. Even loose leaf tea can go bad so it is important that you get steeping as soon as possible after your purchase. And store it well.
It is no doubt that everyone welcomes gourmet food as a present. Loose leaf tea will always impress guests when served, or make a friend or family member feel special when received as a gift. Including some variety samples along with some steeping equipment is a perfect way to introduce someone to this great beverage.
They may even become hooked on the loose leaf tea and start a great new habit that is actually good for them.
It’s a little-known fact that loose leaf tea is much better for the environment than tea bags.
Most tea bag brands use a sealing plastic called polypropylene to keep their bags together. Not only does this mean that tea bags are not recyclable or biodegradable, but it also means that when you put them in the compost heap, it can lead to plastic pollution.
Along with that, the tea you find in tea bags is often bought at auctions, to then be blended with other strains and cultivars abroad. Then, they are shipped back out to factories to be flavoured. This both degrades the quality of the tea and increases the carbon footprint, making it even worse for the environment.
Have you ever thought about how you can buy a packet of 250 tea bags for only £1? How this incredibly cheap price somehow covers shipping costs, packaging costs, and provides adequate wages to the farmers?
Well, unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Tea bags are part of a notoriously exploitative industry, in which farmers work for as little as 11p a day so that the big tea bag brands can make themselves a hefty profit. As such, making the switch to drinking quality loose leaf tea from a reputable brand means that the farmers picking your tea leaves are receiving a fair price for their work.
We mentioned that loose leaf teas are free of plastic, but did you also know that they’re free of other nasties like glue and bleaches?
Tea bags are often bleached (hence why they’re such a pristine white colour), and are stuck together with glues. When you brew the tea, you are then drinking all of these things that you would be much better off avoiding.
Luckily, loose leaf tea is naturally clean!
Many loose leaf teas – most notably black teas and Pu’erh – have their flavours fully ‘activate’ after the second brewing. This means that you can re-steep your loose leaf tea many times, with more subtle and complex flavours infusing into the cup as you do so.
Depending on the variety, type, and processing of the leaves, you can re-steep loose leaf tea up to six times before it loses flavour!
And finally, one of our favourite things about loose leaf tea is the fact that you can actually watch the leaves unfurl as they brew. You can pick them up, inspect them, and watch as the unbroken ingredients seep deliciously into your tea.
Unlike tea bags, which leave you with soggy, muddy mush, loose leaf teas are beautiful to look at. One of our personal favourite things is purchasing loose leaf tea that has very sweet ingredients – such as candied apple – and snacking on them as the tea brews!
The next time you find yourself dunking a bag, consider the options and go the extra mile and treat yourself to the true side of tea.
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