A Beginner's Guide to Loose Leaf Tea

What is loose leaf tea?

In a very general definition, loose leaf tea is tea that does not come prepackaged in tea bags. Because the leaves are not crammed into a tea bag, the tea maintains a higher quality and aroma while offering the best possible health benefits. The drinker places the tea leaves inside of a steeping ball, infuser basket, french press, tea strainer, or some other infuser to prepare the tea.

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What is the difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags?

Tea is categorized into four overarching categories: dust grades, fanning grades, broken leaf grades, and whole leaf grades. Whole leaf grades being the best loose leaf tea. Grades of tea can actually get pretty technical, but to save you the time, we've simplified it.

The teabags you can buy at the grocery store usually contain dust and fanning grades of tea. This tea must be crushed before packaging into tea bags.

Why does this matter?

When your tea is broken down, its flavor, aroma, and health properties are degraded. Tea that is broken can taste bitter due to a higher amount of tannins when steeped. Whole leaf tea expands and unfurls as it steeps. This expansion produces more flavor and provides a taste of freshness to the drink.

Tea grades including loose and broken leaf and fanning and dust

What are the health benefits of loose leaf tea?

Many benefits of loose leaf tea aren't FDA approved, and we always recommend you do your research. That said, benefits with scientific research include stress relief, heart, brain, liver, and digestive system health, flu, cold, and cancer prevention, plus much more!

Our caffeinated teas such as Matcha, Yerba Mate, and Black Tea are loaded with caffeine but don't have the crash that comes with coffee. Lastly, all teas provide some level of antioxidants, vitamins, nutrients, and have anti-bacterial properties. In our 'types of teas' snippet below, you can learn more about each type of tea and its health benefits!

Health benefits simplified

  • Black Tea: Great for digestion, heart health, energy, and immunity.
  • Green Tea:  Memory, dental health, cancer prevention, metabolism.
  • Herbal Tea: Sleep, immune system, inflammation (varies with herbs).
  • White Tea: Cholesterol, reproductive health, weight loss, brain health.
  • Pu-Erh: Blood pressure, stress relief, weight loss, digestion.
  • Oolong Tea: Diabetes, inflammation, weight loss, brain health.

How much loose leaf tea per cup?

Receiving a bag of loose leaf tea for the first time can be a little overwhelming. Fortunately, guidelines were created for every variation of loose tea. You can find steeping instructions on your packaging. Still, it’s recommended that you use 1/2 a teaspoon per 8 ounces if you want a single serve and 1 tablespoon per 8 ounces for multiple servings.

Serving size of tea

How to make loose leaf tea

Brewing tea can be complicated or easy, depending on who you ask. At Full Leaf, we’re pretty lax about brewing teas – and the multitude of ways means added flexibility and creativity to meet your taste. Check out the different ways to brew loose leaf tea!

Brewing with a french press

French presses are super easy and a perfect alternative to your traditional teapot or coffee maker. As mentioned in our ‘how much per cup’ snippet, the amount of loose leaf tea you’ll need at the bottom of your french press is determined by how much you plan to make.

  • Depending on how much tea you plan to serve, bring your measured water to a boil.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of loose leaf tea per 8 ounces into the bottom of your french press.
  • Place your french press lid into position and allow the tea to steep for the appropriate amount of time (indicated on your label).
  • Slowly push the french press plunger down, this separates the water from the tea.

Brewing with an infuser

Tea packaged into tea bags are crushed into a powder, causing them to lose their quality and taste. Infusers exist to replace tea bags but maintain the quality and taste of loose leaf tea. Even better, they’re sustainable and easy to use!

  • Boil 8 ounces of water.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of loose leaf tea into your infuser. If you don’t already have one, feel free to shop our selection of infusers!
  • Place your infuser inside of your cup, and carefully pour the hot water over the infuser filling up your mug.
  • Let the tea steep for the desired amount of time. If you’re unsure how long you need to steep for, our packaging comes with recommended times!

Brewing with a teapot

Loose leaf tea is best brewed with a teapot designed to brew loose leaf tea. These teapots have built-in infusers or tea strainers, which can be removed to avoid over steeping. Teapots come in different sizes, so you'll need to follow the 1 tablespoon per 8 ounces.

  • Depending on how much tea you plan to serve, bring your measured water to a boil.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of loose leaf tea per 8 ounces into the strainer inside of your teapot.
  • Once your teapot comes to a boil, remove the strainer.

Where can I buy loose leaf tea?

Loose leaf tea is widely available online, a bit of a shameless plug, but we blend and ship our loose leaf tea in Southern Oregon! We’re very proud of our teas, in fact, with over 10,000 positive reviews, we’re kind of the spot for tea! If you’re more of an in-store shopper – you’ll be able to find loose leaf tea at any natural grocery store such as Whole Foods.

Full Leaf Tea Company is...

USDA OrganicGluten freeFree of GMO'sCompletely vegan

How do I choose which tea to drink?

Choosing which tea to drink is challenging, almost akin to looking at an elaborate menu for dinner. But if you boil it down to a few categories, suddenly choosing which tea to drink becomes easier. Maybe you’re looking for a tea with specific health benefits or a tea with caffeine (or without caffeine).

Drawing down what specific requests you have for your tea, and then matching those requests with specific teas makes your choice easier. Below we’ve outlined the main tea categories and links to browse and read more about each tea category.

loose leaf rooibos tea

Types of Loose Tea

Black Tea

Perhaps the most common tea, black tea, is made from highly oxidized Camellia Sinensis, a plant common in most teas. This oxidization gives the tea leaves their dark color. Standard blends of black tea include English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Chai. Black tea is also a popular choice for making iced tea.

Green Tea

Along with black tea, green tea also comes from the Camellia Sinesis plant. Unlike black tea, green tea is minimally oxidized. Minimal oxidization is why the leaves are green in color. Green tea has a lighter, more vegetal taste.

Green tea is known for being a high source of antioxidants and for its many health benefits. Some traditional green teas include floral tasting Jasmine Tea and smoky-tasting Houjicha. Matcha is a green tea powder.

White Tea

White tea is the least processed out of all the other teas. White tea is made from the same plant as black and green tea, but the tea leaves are exposed to heat as quickly as possible to stop oxidation, this gives the tea a mild and delicate flavor.

White tea is known for many health benefits, including helping lower blood pressure. Lower blood pressure makes white tea a popular choice for heart health. White tea is featured in our Organic Healthy Heart Tea.

Herbal Tea

Herbal tea is a blend of herbs and spices. Any tea that does not contain tea leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant is considered an herbal tea. Almost all herbal teas are caffeine-free (one exception is Yerba Mate).

Because of the abundance of herbs, a large variety of flavors can be achieved in herbal blends. Some common herbal teas are Chamomile, Peppermint, and Rooibos.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea falls somewhere in the middle of black tea and green tea. Oolong is oxidized more than green tea, but less than black tea. The tea is rolled into unique shapes, which can result in a variety of different flavors.

Dark oolong is more oxidized and has a bold nutty flavor. Green oolong is lighter in character and is exceptionally smooth.

Pu-Erh Tea

Pu-erh tea comes from the leaves of the Camellia Sinensis plant. Still, it goes through a unique process of oxidation and fermentation. Pu-erh is aged to get a unique flavor that no other tea has.

Pu-erh has a robust earthy flavor that lends itself well to chai and cocoa blends. Pu-erh is commonly used as a substitute for coffee because of its high caffeine content.

What is the shelf life of loose leaf tea?

Loose leaf tea has a remarkable shelf life! For most teas, as long as you are storing in a dark container or bag in a room temp or cool location, your loose leaf tea can last for years. Because of general government mandates on food, Full Leaf Tea Company prints a 2-year expiration date on loose tea and a 1-year expiration date on Matcha.