What is loose leaf tea?
In a very general definition, loose leaf tea is tea that does not come prepackaged in tea bags. Because it is not crammed into a tea bag, loose leaf tea uses tea leaves of a much higher quality than your typical tea bag. The drinker places the tea leaves inside of a steeping ball, french press, or some other infuser to prepare the tea. When you taste a cup of tea from a tea bag and a cup of loose leaf tea side by side you can really taste the difference.
What is the difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags?
Tea can be categorized into many different grades. There are four overarching categories: dust grades, fanning grades, broken leaf grades, and whole leaf grades. Whole leaf grades being the best and highest quality. The tea bags you can buy at the grocery store normally contain dust and fanning grades of tea. Tea must be crushed to be packaged into tea bags. Dust and fannings are the small particles that are created when the tea is crushed.
Why does this matter?
When tea is broken down, it actually affects the taste of the tea. Tea that is broken can taste more bitter due to a higher amount of tannins being released when steeped.
Whole leaf tea expands and unfurls as it is steeped. This produces more flavor, and provides a certain taste of freshness to the tea. When the tea is not trapped in a tea bag, it can expand more and create stronger flavor.