What’s the Difference between Premium Loose Tea and Tea Bags?
One of the most common questions we get from people who are new to tea drinking is what the differences are between the premium loose-leaf tea and your ordinary tea sold in tea bags that you find, say, at your grocery store.
While both can provide an enjoyable cup, there are some notable differences between the two. Understanding these distinctions can help tea drinkers get the most out of their tea experiences. Let’s take a close look at these differences and how they affect the drinking experience.
One key difference between loose-leaf and bagged tea is leaf size. The best loose-leaf teas are often hand-shredded or shredded using a specialized mill. As a result, loose-leaf tea typically contains large pieces of leaves, herbs, and spices. On the other hand, tea bags contain small, crushed leaf fragments called "fannings."
This key difference has a significant impact on taste and aroma; the larger the leaf size, the better the infusion. Loose-leaf teas allow for fuller extraction of flavors, aromas, and other beneficial compounds. Broken leaves in bags can release more tannins and astringency during steeping. The result is a much less complex flavor that might be less enjoyable. Additionally, bagged teas often lose some of their health benefits from the method in which they’re processed.
Another consideration is the quality of the tea. Premium loose-leaf teas typically use higher grade leaves, while bags often use lower grade remnants from plants. Lower grade leaves usually impart more bitter notes, versus sweeter and smoother flavors from higher grade leaves. However, quality tea bags also exist, so this can vary.
Higher quality loose-leaf teas will also stay fresh on your shelf longer. And while tea doesn’t “go bad” like other food products, they can lose their taste and aroma over a period of time.
Where your tea comes from also matters. The same way we talk about wines and their “terroir,” or their land of origin, so too can we look at the impact a tea’s origin has on flavor.
Loose-leaf teas often showcase a single region. For example, our Kenyan Gold tea is a premium black whole leaf tea grown at a high elevation in the rich, volcanic soils of the Aberdares Mountain ranges, located in the Central Highlands of Kenya. This area is known for lush and varied vegetation and has some of the most fertile and productive land in the world.
On the other hand, bagged teas are often blends sourced from multiple regions, or even from different countries. Blended bagged teas provide consistency; they produce the same flavor over and over with little variation, no matter where the ingredients come from. By contrast, single-region origin teas will usually showcase unique flavors that are unique to teas cultivated in those regions.
When it comes to convenience, bags are simpler to use. You can quickly fill up a travel mug, plop a tea bag in, and take it wherever you need to go.
While that’s certainly an advantage, drinking tea like this misses the ritual of hand prepping and steeping leaves as part of the experience. Here at Cured Leaves Tea, that’s an essential experience of tea drinking that helps keep us centered and focused.
Convenience is certainly good to have, but it’s not always the most important thing.
While personal preferences will differ, understanding these key variables allows tea drinkers to find their ideal tea experience. Those desiring convenience may prefer bags, while flavor purists argue nothing compares to high quality, single origin loose leaf's complexity and nuance. There's something to appreciate in both forms.
Looking for your next tea experience? Check out the wide variety of premium hand-crafted teas and herbal blends!
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