A Beginner's Guide to Loose Leaf Tea
Never tried loose leaf tea before? You've come to the right place.
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.
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 and even pyramid 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.
How to brew loose leaf tea
Brewing tea can be either complicated or easy depending on who you ask. At Full Leaf, we’re pretty lax about how to brew teas -- and the multitude of ways just means added flexibility and creativity to meet your taste. Check out the different ways to brew loose leaf tea below!
Brewing with an infuser
As you read earlier, tea which comes packaged in tea bags are crushed into a powder, causing them to lose their quality and taste. Infuser exists 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 teaspoon 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!
- Enjoy your loose leaf tea!
We’ve also taken the time to explain loose leaf tea and the brewing process in the video below.
How do I choose which tea to drink?
Choosing which tea to drink is challenging, almost akin to looking at a complex 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 a lot easier. Below we’ve outlined the main tea categories along with links to browse and read more about each tea category.
Perhaps the most common tea, black tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis plant and is highly oxidized. This gives the tea leaves their dark color. Common blends with black tea include English Breakfast, Earl Grey, and Chai. Black tea is also a popular choice for making iced tea.
Organic English BreakfastView details
Green tea is made from the same plant as black tea, but it is minimally oxidized. This 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 common green teas include floral tasting Jasmine Tea and smoky-tasting Houjicha. Matcha is a green tea powder.
Organic Ceylon Green (Sri Lanka)View details
White tea is the least processed tea. It 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. This makes it a popular choice for heart health. It is featured in our Organic Healthy Heart Tea.
Organic Pai-Mu-TanView details
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 so many different herbs are used, a large variety of flavors can be achieved in herbal blends. Some common herbal teas are Chamomile, Peppermint, and Rooibos.
Organic Sleeping TranquiliTeaView details
Oolong tea falls somewhere in the middle of black tea and green tea. It 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 flavor and is extremely smooth.
Organic Skinny Natural TeaView details
Pu-erh tea also comes from the leaves of the plant camellia sinensis plant, but 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 strong 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.