Our history and relationship with tea dates back thousands of years, but the way we consume it has changed over millennia. The small, single-use teabags that line the grocery store shelves weren’t always there. Teabags, as we know them today, came about as a response to mass market demand, a desire for faster steeping times, and more. The teabag solution solved some of those initial qualms, but at a big loss of tea quality. That’s why we’re so passionate about loose leaf teas at Schasteâ!
What’s the main difference in quality? Loose leaf tea allows for a greater infusion of the flavors, vitamins, and essential oils that imbue tea with its healing properties, aromatics, and flavorful notes. Without being confined to a teabag, the tea leaves can expand and absorb water more efficiently and make a more flavorful and nutrient-rich steep.
The loss in flavor and nutrients in teabags is also due to its extended exposure to air. Teabags tend to sit in industrial warehouses for years before hitting the grocery shelves whereas loose leaf tea is usually from a recent harvest. Because of this, loose leaf teas will often become seasonally out of stock or switch providers, which never happens with the large, mass-produced tea companies because of their warehouse backstock.
The quality of tea leaf size is another differentiating factor. Every tea leaf, whether it’s packaged in a teabag or loose leaf, starts off whole. The goal for tea growers is to keep the leaf’s integrity through the lengthy process of plucking the leaf, withering it, oxidizing it, and a few other key steps. The less damage there is to the leaf size, the higher the quality of tea it’ll steep.
Tea leaves are inevitably damaged through the prepping process, but in recent years, to keep up with demand, companies started to use dust-like pieces of tea known as fannings. Fannings are the lowest quality of tea on the market. It’s the fragments leftover after the premium to mid-level tea leaves have been picked out. To give a clearer picture, fannings are at times swept off factory floors and then sold to tea packaging companies to distribute in teabags. Not all teabags are made with fannings, but loose leaf tea will always offer a more quality leaf and therefore a more robust scope of flavor, a higher level of freshness, and overall quality.
Here are a few more differentiating factors between loose leaf tea and teabags:
Loose Leaf Tea
- Improved infusion that creates stronger flavor + aromatics
- Nutrient dense + improved holistic properties
- Variety is abundant (and beautiful) from season to season
- Loose leaf tea can be re-stepped, allowing graduated flavors
- Comparable price point to teabags, though one generally buys in bulk for loose leaf
- Support small scale tea growers + small business
- Connects you with millennia old traditions + rituals
- Improved eco-friendly packaging
- Lower quality and price point
- Faster steep time with reduced health benefits
- Wasteful + unhealthy packaging (glue, staples, microplastics, chemicals, etc.)
We know it can feel overwhelming to make the transition from teabags to loose leaf tea, but now that you understand the basic differences between the two, the tradeoff we hope is simple! Like most things in life, steeping your own loose leaf tea will become a natural ritual the more you practice it. Our tearoom crafts all our own tea blends and we can match you with the aromatic notes you already know and love as well as a teapot to use at home. We hope to see you at the tearoom soon or you can browse our selection online, here!