It can be said that tea bags do not enjoy an excellent reputation in certain areas of the tea world. If this is not the first time you are reading us, you will surely remember our recommendations to avoid them and opt for loose tea if you are looking for quality.
However, tea bags have their benefits and form an inseparable part of the tea industry. They are comfortable, easy to get and, in short, the method used by many people to prepare their infusions.
In this article, we take a look at the good old tea bags and compare them to the option of getting good loose tea.
The story of the tea bag
Placing a tea bag in our cup and then hot water has become an almost unconscious action that we no longer pay attention to, but when did the first one appear?
As often happens in these cases, the history around tea bags is inconsistent and several people dispute their creation. Some historians maintain that the first bag to infuse tea individually was patented by Roberta C. Lawson and Mary Molaren around 1900 in Milwaukee, United States.
However, the story also circulates that points to Thomas Sullivan, a famous American importer, as the creator of this invention. In this case, it would be a totally accidental invention since Sullivan would have sent samples with teas of different varieties in small bags that were mistakenly infused by customers. They liked the new way of making tea so much that they asked for more bags and thus one of the most famous inventions of the century was born.
A curiosity? While tea bags were enthusiastically adopted in different countries around the world, in the United Kingdom, the birthplace of notable English tea blends, they did not become popular until the 1950s.
In any case, whether it was a brilliant idea that later became a huge business or a simple stroke of luck, the reality is that today we cannot imagine ourselves without tea bags, a product that for its convenience is found in almost all homes.
Comparison: bagged tea vs loose tea
The most purists maintain that there is nothing like buying loose tea. Others point to the undeniable convenience of tea bags and say they taste good if you buy the right ones.
Below we analyze point by point the main differences between both formats to settle classic questions related to the quality of tea, its conservation and, ultimately, its enjoyment from all perspectives.
Best Loose Tea: Better Leaves Than Chunks
Tea connoisseurs say it’s easy to spot differences in quality between leaves bought in bulk and bags. How can that be? To understand it, we have to delve a little into the process of making tea.
In the world of tea, a fundamental quality indicator is the type of leaves used and their strength. Higher quality teas often use only the main buds of the tea bush and are very careful that they are not spoiled in any way.
The reason is simple, when the leaves deteriorate, their essential oils begin to be lost. This causes the natural flavors of the tea to change and disappear.
During the process of making most teas, the leaves go through several mechanical processes (for example to roll them). This is very common, for example, in the production of black teas and causes waste to be created, such as pieces of leaves of different sizes and even tea dust.
Not that tea bags necessarily incorporate these by-products, but they are a great way to use them. There are many qualities of tea bags and it is worth noting that there are some whose content is whole leaves, although they are really an exception.
If we make a silly comparison with food, tea bags could be considered hamburgers or croquettes. The butcher can use them to take advantage of pieces of meat that he would not otherwise sell.
Best Loose Tea: Room for Flavor
As you have seen, tea is a delicate material. A multitude of small factors affect how its flavors develop during its infusion.
Not only the integrity of the leaves affects the flavor, but also the infusion medium. By using loose tea, we infuse leaves directly into water, allowing them to slowly open and the water to pass through them extracting their properties, aroma and flavour.
On the other hand, when infusing a bag, the tea that is inside does not have mobility, it is compressed and caked. For this reason, even using tea bags with an excellent raw material based on whole leaves, experts consider that the flavor will not develop correctly, since the leaves do not have enough space to release their flavor.
In case of using tea bags, we recommend you opt for the pyramidal ones that give the tea more space to move and allow a better extraction of flavors and aromas.
Best loose tea: for environmentalism
Beyond the differences mentioned above, it is worth noting that a study found that when infusing most variants of tea bags available on the market, small particles are released of plastic. The famous microplastics.
These residues are negative for the environment and potentially dangerous for human health. In recent years, different investigations have indicated that the human consumption of these particles in both food and drinks could have negative consequences for health.
The World Health Organization has even called for an urgent treatment of plastic to reverse this trend and protect human health as well as nature.
Best Loose Tea: Preservation
This aspect is difficult to compare, since factors related to the packaging with which we buy or in which we keep the tea intervene.
Tea bags often come packaged in individual plastic envelopes inside the box. Although this favors its conservation, it is very, very little ecological, don’t you think?
Loose tea, properly preserved, can last you a long time.
The best way to protect the leaves is to store them in a glass jar or can in a place protected from light, moisture, and strong odors. Remember that depending on the variety of tea, its durability will change. Always check the color of the leaves before infusing them to make sure they are in perfect condition and the final flavor is not affected.
Best Tea Bags: Convenience Is Undeniable
Infusing a tea bag is extremely comfortable, no one can argue with this. It saves us time and worries. We just have to pay attention to the temperature of the water to avoid affecting the taste of the tea and read the label on the bag!
Unlike when buying in bulk, at no point do we need to weigh the tea leaves or research the proper brewing time. Everything is ready! In a society where immediacy is rewarded, it is easy to understand the success of tea bags.
On the other hand, it is not necessary to worry about its conservation either. We all know that tea bags do not need any special treatment to keep them in good condition, while tea leaves must be cared for and protected so as not to spoil.
Best Tea Bags: Easy to Get
Bulk tea options in supermarkets are still very much in the minority. Instead, there is an extensive variety of bagged tea.
Therefore, it is much easier to access bagged tea in our usual purchase in a supermarket. To obtain loose tea, it is still necessary to go to a specialized store, in our city or online.
What are we going to tell you? The entire Infusionism team prefers, whenever possible, to use loose tea to prepare their infusions.
Of course, if we are honest, in our cupboard we also always have boxes with tea bags. They are very practical if you do not feel like preparing a kettle or if you have to take them somewhere.
In short, we choose loose tea whenever we can, but life is sometimes complicated and, sometimes, a tea bag can make it easier.