To bag or not to bag, that is the question…. that tea lovers have been debating for years, but not one that goes as far back as Shakespeare.
Although their exact origin is debatable, tea bags are a relatively recent invention coming from the early 1900s. Contrastingly, tea has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Prior to paper packaging, tea was sold and transported either as cakes (compressed tea), loose, or in powder form (like matcha).
We are a subscription box which chooses to provide loose leaf tea, so we’re obviously biased 😊, but we also know that loose leaf may not be everyone’s first choice. This may be especially true if you are in it for the caffeine or are short on time. But if you’re open to giving loose leaf a chance, we’re positive you’ll be glad you did (especially if you try our premium loose leaf tea 😉).
Let’s get down to the brass tacks: how does tea being bagged or loose impact the shelf life, health benefits, ease in preparation, and flavour of the tea? All that and more, coming up next…
The quality of the tea
The standard tea used in tea bags is called dust, or fannings, which is generally considered to be the lowest quality of tea. These fragments of the tea leaves lose their freshness relatively quickly for the reason that being cut into so many different pieces causes the nutrients and essential oils in the leaf to escape. Packaging the tea in paper bags furthers this process because paper absorbs those minerals and oils, drying out the leaves even more and significantly reducing the flavour of the tea. Some tea bagging companies make an effort to use whole leaf tea in their bags to improve this issue, but unfortunately those that do are few and far between.
Loose leaf keeps the leaves whole and intact, allowing them to fold into themselves during oxidization then hold onto those nutrients and essential oils until they’re rehydrated again, releasing the full flavour and health benefits of the tea. Find out more about the process of tea-making here.
The steeping of the tea
In order to become fully rehydrated and release all their healthy nutrients, tea leaves need to have space to expand as they rehydrate. Letting the hot water flow through the leaves is dually important in extracting the full flavour of the tea. There are several methods of preparing a cup or pot of loose leaf tea including using metal steepers, straining the tea as you pour it, or steeping with reusable cloth tea bags. With these methods, you can not only make sure that your tea leaves have enough space to fully expand while rehydrating, but you can easily control how strong you make your brew by increasing or lowering the amount of leaves you use. You can find out more about how to brew the perfect cup of tea here.
Although disposable tea bags may save you a minute or two, the paper becomes heavy when wet, and rather than giving the leaves space to expand, the bag falls onto the leaves, thus blocking them from their normal and full rehydration.
You may have seen the exception to this in triangle tea bags, which are constructed to hold their shape, giving the leaves space to expand. The downside to these bags is that they’re often made out of plastic, which is less than healthy for the body, as plastic particles can get released into your tea, not to mention they’re bad for the environment.
To maximize convenience, we include a cute, heart-shaped, stainless steel steeper in every first box subscription to myteabox.ca! Once you’re your infusion is complete, simply open the steeper, empty the tea, and rinse.
As tea and planet lovers we feel it’s super important to make every effort possible, no matter how small. The beautiful thing about loose leaf is that it means less packaging, and there are several ways to reuse and repurpose your used tea leaves.
The happiness of the tea
At myteabox.ca we look at tea as an opportunity to be present in the moment and enjoy the ritual experience of making a cuppa tea. Not only are all of our loose leaf steeps curated to burst with flavour, but we try to create an experience which begins as soon as you reach for your package of tea. From the cute brown paper package, to the inviting aroma that accompanies opening the package, to watching the colours swirl as the tea steeps, and so on. Our decision to provide loose leaf blends protects the integrity of the leaves, which allows us to curate blends that deliver the full flavour of the tea.
We’re also fans of the slow life. We believe it’s important to (regularly) take a moment to breathe, relax, and re-center. Taking the time to watch a tea infusion form is an excellent invitation to do just that. If you’d like to read more about making the most of tea time, check out our blog article: A Mindful Approach to Tea.