All Tea is Not Created Equal - Loose Leaf vs. Teabags
Oct 16, 2014 | Written by Anupa Mueller
[caption id="attachment_4546" align="aligncenter" width="540"] The Many Grades of Tea[/caption] A cup of tea from a teabag is just not as good as Whole Leaf tea steeped in its pure loose leaf form. There are only two advantages to teabags – Speed & Convenience. It’s easy as 1-2-3 and takes no time at all. But for a great cup of tea with character and complexity and all the nuances of taste – malty, floral, astringent, smoky, nutty, earthy, rich, woodsy, pungent, fragrant – you need Whole Leaf. No one argues about the quality of Coffee anymore. Think about Tea the way you do Coffee. There’s Instant, then there’s the supermarket brand and finally, there’s Fresh Ground. Sure, a no-frills cup of coffee is sometimes all you can get but a cup of fresh ground Sumatra or Guatemala is a cup to savor. So too with Tea. Here are the Fundamentals of Tea. It starts with fresh plucked leaf. Then, for Black Tea, it is rolled, allowed to oxidize, dried and sorted. At the sorting stage, the leaf is separated by size. The largest leaves are set aside and sold as Whole Leaf, sometimes known as Flowery Orange Pekoe. The not-quite-whole leaves are the next best grade and known as Brokens. Finally, we’re left with the very small particles that didn’t make the Leaf or Broken grades and these are collected and used for teabags. These are the most inferior of the sizes. For Green Tea, the leaf is not allowed to oxidize at all. For Oolong, some oxidization is allowed and the result is not quite black and not quite green. The small sized particles in a teabag are also the reason that it takes only a few seconds to steep – it colors as soon as it hits the water. In the case of a full-sized leaf, it takes 2-4 minutes for the entire surface of the leaf to be fully infused and release its character & flavor. In some cases, the same tea leaves can even be infused multiple times. Tea is a simple cup – all you need is leaf and water. Within just a few minutes you can indulge in one of the world’s finest but most affordable luxuries – a great cup of whole leaf tea. It is simplicity, complexity, repose and upliftment in a cup. Here are some of the many advantages of steeping Whole Leaf Tea: Taste – Whole leaf is nuanced. It brings you the malty notes of a premier Assam or the fragrant notes of a Jade Oolong in a way that teabags cannot. Health Benefits – A teabag is a short steep – not long enough to provide you with the full benefits of antioxidants and polyphenols. Variety – All teas do not come in teabag form. This is true of some of the world's finest teas - Genmaicha, Ti Kwan Yin, Wu Yi Oolong, Pai Mu Tan, Yin Zhen… Aesthetics – The beauty of a full leaf tea unfurling before your eyes is remarkable. It reminds you of the vast journey of the leaf from the mountain sides to your cup. Calm – The small, pure act of measuring and steeping loose leaf tea provides a moment of calm to the day. Take the first leap into the world of Loose Leaf Tea. Make your own tea bags by using Disposable Filters. You can even fill it with your favorite tea and take it with you. Place the loose leaf tea in the paper filter and pour hot water over it. In a few minutes your tea is ready and waiting for you. Enjoy your moment of peace. Once you are convinced that the taste is superior – and you will be – you can experiment with a more permanent infuser basket or even a teapot. Just make sure you use leaf tea.