What is Loose Leaf Tea?

What is Loose Leaf Tea?

Hanna MotyJan 31, '191 comment

What is loose leaf tea?

In a very general definition, loose leaf tea is tea that does not come prepackaged in teabags. 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. To drink, you just place 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 teabag and a cup of loose leaf tea side by side you can really taste the difference.

loose leaf tea

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 are the best and highest quality, maintaining the most antioxidants and vitamins. The teabags you can buy at the grocery store normally contain dust and fanning grades of tea. Tea must be crushed to be packaged into teabags. Dust and fannings are the small particles that are created when the tea is crushed, and most tea experts consider it a waste product of proper tea leaves.

Why does this matter?

When tea is broken down, it affects not only the taste of the tea but also the nutritional value. Tea that is broken can taste more bitter due to a higher amount of tannins being released when steeped. Whole leaf tea, on the other hand, 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 teabag, it can expand more and create a stronger flavor. 

While some may argue that you get more nutrition out of the broken leaves because it releases more into the water, there are a number of issues with bagged tea. First is the bag itself - most brands of tea available at your local grocer or convenience store are using teabags with plastic. The plastic helps strengthen the teabag in the production line to prevent tearing and help it be handled through multiple stages of production. However, it also makes it so that you could consuming plastic molecules with your tea.

Second, even if the bag is plastic-free, the teabag can absorb some of the beneficial catechins in tea, making it so that less of the nutritional value transfers to you. Third, teas that are pre-bagged have often sat on the shelf longer, and are necessarily exposed to more oxidation in their bagged form, than loose leaf teas stored in airtight containers. This means it will go stale faster, if it doesn’t already arrive stale, and it will have lost some of the nutritional value. Finally, the grade of tea that is stuffed into bags isn’t just lightly crushed or broken, it’s degraded to “dust”, so there is less nutritionally to absorb. 

Due to this, loose-leaf actually imparts more nutritional value, more safely, than traditional bags of tea. For the best nutritional value and ease of drinking, we recommend using one of our infusers. However, if you are very attached to bagged tea, we do have paper teabags available that are 100% plastic-free, so you can drink with convenience and without worry. 

Want to learn more about loose leaf tea and how to make it?

Check out our Beginner's Guide to Loose Leaf Tea.

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