Loose Leaf Tea 101
When you think of tea, you likely think of the soft white pouches called tea bags. While convenient and intuitive to use, tea bags are a relatively recent invention, and there are more traditional ways that tea is prepared. One of these methods is brewing loose leaf tea, which is nearly a 5000-year-old practice.
This traditional way of preparing the drink is a game-changing experience that will bring your tea standards to another level. You won’t ever look back at your name-brand tea bags again. In this blog, we share more details to give you an in-depth understanding of loose leaf teas. Read on to learn everything you need to know to switch from tea bags to loose leaf tea!
Whole Leaf vs. Tea Bags
The first thing you’d want to know is the various tea grades: Whole Leaf, Broken Leaf, Fannings, and Dust. Let’s focus on the first one: whole leaf teas. As you may surmise from the name, this variety comes in whole, unbroken leaves. They have the best quality, offering full-bodied flavors and aromas that remain fresh for a long time. These can also last for multiple steeps. That’s why, among the four, whole leaf tea is the most sought-after product.
On the other hand, tea bags contain mostly fannings and dust. These two are the lowest grade types, and they’re usually the most available. Since they are broken down into small, fine pieces, they have larger surface areas. This means they have more exposure to air, and thus evaporate more quickly, causing them to go stale faster than whole leaf teas. This is why freshness is a major issue with most tea bags.
Loose Leaf vs. Tea Bags
Taste and Aroma
These two qualities are what make loose leaf tea superior to tea bags. Since the latter generally use fannings and dust, the essential oils that make subtle aromas evaporate quickly. That’s why tea bags go stale even while in storage.
Loose leaf tea, on the other hand, has a better depth of flavor and more complex aromas. Since there’s less surface area thanks to the curled leaves, tannins and other compounds stay within for much longer.
As mentioned, tea bags are made from dust and fannings, the lowest-quality tea leaves available. Their ground-up state is ideal for the small tea bags since the pouches can’t contain enough loose leaf tea to make a flavorful cup. Still, tea bags suffer from bland flavors because of the tea leaf grade.
Loose leaf tea is typically made using whole or broken leaves. Because of these premium-quality ingredients, you’ll savor more complex and rich flavors in every cup.
Tea bags have components like the pouch, a string, labels, and the tea itself that needs to be assembled. That’s why most tea bags are manufactured in large factories. With the streamlined manufacturing processes of these establishments, mass production is possible. But all these reduce the quality of your tea. Further, it has recently been discovered that even premium tea bags may be leaking billions of particles of microplastics into your tea cup.
Whole and broken leaves for loose leaf tea are usually handpicked, like Mosi's, and dried by seasoned farmers. Their traditional techniques help preserve the product’s quality, and they’re usually more sustainable in the long run.
Most tea from tea bags, no matter what brand, have the same flavor. That’s because they are usually a blend of fannings and dust from many varieties. The intensity or mildness of flavor is also limited since you can’t control the number of leaves inside a bag. Loose leaf tea offers more variety. They can come in many types like oolong, black, and green teas. Since you can add more leaves, you can adjust the intensity of flavors to your taste.
Most people will find tea bags more convenient to prepare than loose leaf tea. All you have to do is dip your tea bag into hot water, allow it to steep for a few minutes, and you’re good to go. While this may seem to be an advantage that tea bags have over their loose leaf counterpart, if you invest in a great tea infuser, you may find it just as simple to brew a high quality cup of loose leaf tea.
How To Switch to Loose Leaf Tea From Standard Tea Bags
If you've been reliant on tea bags to get your tea fix in, you're not alone. We're here to help you understand just how easy it is to make the switch to loose leaf tea and enjoy a better brew each time.
What To Look For
The rule of thumb is that the larger the leaves, the better the quality. Your nose is also a good tool to select premium teas. The more intense the smell, the more aroma will be imparted to the hot water. Smelling the product will also help you determine if it’s gone stale. If you're looking for loose leaf tea online, look for keywords like "handpicked" or "garden-picked" and images of full leaves, herbs and spices.
You’d also want to try the many varieties of loose leaf teas available. From the pale colors of green tea to the dark shades of black tea, you can usually tell by visual inspection the type of tea you’re looking at. However, the more place-specific specialty drinks are harder to distinguish, so you’d need to read the label for these varieties.
Different Ways to Make It and Tools You’ll Need
Brewing loose leaf tea is practiced everywhere in the world, so different cultures have their process to extract every bit of flavor and aroma from the tea leaves. Most of these aren’t suitable for regular kitchens, so there are modern innovations that make brewing a quicker and more convenient experience. Here are the basics of how to brew loose leaf tea.
● Tea bags: Yes, tea bags. For those who want the ease of “just add hot water,” some companies have made tea bags that contain loose leaves instead of fannings and dust. While these pyramid-shaped pouches are great flavorwise, you still can’t control the amount of leaves inside them.
● In-Cup Infusers: There are a lot of in-cup infusers in the market, but they all use the same principles. An infuser hangs inside the cup and contains your desired amount of loose leaf tea. Pour hot water, let it steep, and remove the infuser once done.
● Portable Infusers: Out of all the options, portable infusers are the most convenient; you may even find them easier to use than a tea bag. These have their own sieves that you can fill with loose leaf tea and take on-the-go. Once the water is steeped, you can simply remove the sieve and throw the used leaves. Brands Mosi Tea offer multibrew infusers which allow you to brew any type of tea, including iced tea, on-the-go
Why Loose Leaf Is Better for the Environment and Your Health
The quick answer is tea bags. These pouches, innocuous as they may seem, pose danger to the environment and the human body. First, they are hard to compost and will take years before they finally decompose. With the amount of tea bag users today, the amount of waste quickly accumulates to high levels.
Then there are the microplastics. While tea bags mostly use fiber or paper, there are small amounts of plastic used to seal them. These degrade because of heat, so people end up ingesting trace amounts. Microplastics also contaminate water sources, leading to more pollution.
Loose leaf tea removes all these, especially if you use the more sustainable materials when brewing a cup. And since the integrity of the leaves is preserved, you’ll get more of the nutritional benefits that come with drinking tea. So is loose leaf tea better for you and the environment? No doubt.
Make the Switch Today!
Loose leaf tea is the healthier and more flavorful alternative to your regular tea bags. Its aroma and taste are more nuanced, and there are so many varieties to choose from. Not to mention it’s better for your body. When you’re considering the switch, look out for new loose leaf tea launches from Mosi Tea. We offer innovative products that will improve your drinking experience.