There’s a lot of talk around why loose leaf teas or whole leaf teas are better than tea bags, and then what about pyramids, tea temples or fuso-bags? Some of the information out there is great while some of it is just sweeping statements with little behind it to back it up or explain why. In this article, we will attempt to give you a little more insight into the world of loose leaf tea, its various benefits, and how it compares to the world of pre-bagged teabags.
One thing is for sure, all tea’s are not created equal, and that applies to both loose leaf tea and teabags of all varieties, so regardless of how you are brewing your tea, try to ensure you get the best quality tea you can buy.
Loose-Leaf Tea vs Whole-Leaf Tea vs Teabags
Loose leaf tea is, as the name suggests, tea that is brewed where the leaves are loose in the pot, with the space to expand and absorb water as it flows around the leaves and infuses, this process allows for the optimum extraction of vitamins, minerals, flavours and aromas from the leaves. A well-brewed infusion from high-quality loose leaf tea will always produce the best results. Additionally, many loose leaf teas can be set aside to dry out before re-steeping again later, adding variations in flavour and also adding more value to your purchase.
Whole leaf tea, refers to full, unbroken tea leaves, and is often prized for freshness, quality and flavour. Whole leaf teas are mostly found as loose leaf tea. You can find whole leaf tea bags, but it is more rare, and won’t produce the best results due to the confined space in the bags.
Teabags traditionally use tea that is of the lowest quality, often referred to as Dust & Fannings - primarily made up of lower-grade teas or the broken bits and particles of leaves leftover during the production process of higher grade teas. The broken leaves produce a larger surface area that is exposed, leading to the increased opportunity for the essential oils that are responsible for the flavours and aromatics of the tea to evaporate, leaving the tea tasting dull and stale. The increased surface area also affects the rate at which the tea brews, increasing the risk of over-brewing significantly and resulting in a stronger but less balanced brew often accompanied by a more astringent flavour.
And what about Pyramid Bags, Tea Temples or Fuse-Bags?
These, along with reusable loose leaf tea sacks, tend to be the middle ground between standard teabags and true loose leaf tea. They are convenient, and can address some of the issues concerned, for example, Fuse-Bags or Tea Temples afford the leaves a little extra space to move and expand due to their shape, and can often feature a better quality leaf than normal teabags, however, they don’t provide quite enough space for the leaves to fully expand and move and don’t allow the option to dry and re-steep the leaves. The reusable sacks suffer similar space constraints to standard teabags, however, they do allow you to control the quality and quantity of the leaves you place inside.
They are a good substitute if brewing loose leaves isn’t an option, and can indeed be much more convenient at times, and we do offer a few of our own teas in Fuso-bags for this reason. Whenever possible though, we recommend taking the time to enjoy the ritual of brewing loose leaf tea and then taking a few minutes, and just savouring the taste with yourself or with friends.
Moving from teabags to loose leaf teas
Switching from stewing teabags to brewing loose leaf tea can seem daunting at first, but with a little guidance (...and the help of an amazing online teashop with a marvellously delicious range of teas - nudge, nudge) and a little practice, you should be brewing beautifully flavoured loose leaf infusions in no time at all.
First, you need to find a great source of loose leaf tea, you can take a look around for a knowledgable local teashop, or try buying loose leaf tea online and select something that suits your personal taste, be that green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, blended teas or even herbal infusions.
Next, you need to make sure you have the right equipment. This could be as simple as a standard teapot and a pour-through strainer to catch the leaves, or you can use an in-cup infuser or basket or even a special loose tea infuser teapot. There are lots of options available each with their own up and downsides - for more information take a look at our basic guide to brewing loose leaf tea. Then all you need is your kettle and some water, filtered if possible, to ensure the best possible quality for your brew.
After that, it’s time to start brewing. In order to get the best from your loose leaf tea, it’s important to get the right balance of water temperature and steeping time. This can vary depending on the type of tea you’re brewing, for example, black teas can withstand higher temperatures and can benefit from slightly longer brews, whereas green teas or white teas are a little more delicate and require lower temperatures and shorter steeping times. So do a little research or hop over to our brew guides page to get the basics on brewing different types of teas.
After steeping, if you’re not drinking all of the tea right away, it’s essential to remove the leaves from the liquor to avoid over-brewing the remaining tea in the pot. Often, loose leaf teas can actually be left to dry out a little before rebrewing, the resulting brews will usually not be as intense and will hold a different balance of flavours and can be a great way to enjoy the different flavours in the leaves.
Pour your tea, add some milk/mylk and/or honey if desired, or just enjoy it without and then put your feet up and relax. Tea time is a time to savour, take a few minutes, just you and your tea and allow yourself to relax and enjoy your beautiful loose leaf infusion.
Once you have the hang of it, you’ll never look back. Take the time to explore and try a range of different teas and infusions, with our extensive range of both blended and single origin teas, we like to think we have a tea for every taste and occasion, so why not spread your wings and explore all of the options that loose leaf tea can bring.