Loose Tea vs Bags – What’s the Difference?
Loose leaf vs tea bags – which should you be drinking? To find the answer, we’re going to thoroughly compare the two.
We’re going to cover the most important factors, including:
As loose leaf is usually associated with premium quality and prestigious afternoon teas, it is often thought to be more expensive.
But, these assumptions are wrong.
Many studies have concluded that when purchasing the same weight of tea as loose leaf and in bags, loose leaf produces more cups for your money.
It makes sense, as tea companies need to charge for the cost of putting the tea into a bag and the bag itself.
Although, you might want to consider that with loose leaf you will need to buy accessories, which you don’t need for bags. A strainer is needed for brewing, but you can find a good quality one for less than £5 and it’s a better investment for saving money in the long run.
Loose leaf is a clear winner when it comes to freshness, and this is for a few reasons.
Firstly, it starts with the picking. Tea bags are often machine picked, which not only picks up debris, bugs and twigs, but also damages the leaves. This is why you’ll find a fine powder in your tea bag, as everything that’s collected is ground up together.
Loose leaf is often handpicked, which results in a much fresher taste. Only the best parts of the bush are picked, and there is much more precision involved.
Secondly, handling. As the leaves are broken and ground up for bags, most of the essential oils and flavours are lost in handling. This creates a dull, bitter or flat taste in bags that is certainly far from fresh.
Care and consideration is used for loose leaf to preserve the leaves and keep the fresh flavour intact.
Finally, storage. Tea bags are often stored in warehouses for longer periods before shipping out for delivery. As they contain this fine powder, it’s harder to tell when the tea goes stale.
When it comes to loose leaf, shipping is quicker, and it isn’t left in storage for too long. As each leaf is visible in a batch of loose leaf, it’s much easier to tell when they have been left on the shelf for too long.
There’s really no competition when it comes to the taste between the two.
There are so many detectable flavours in loose leaf. The taste is smoother, more pronounced and more sophisticated.
It’s all down to the preservation of essential oils and flavour molecules that maintains the premium taste.
Bags on the other hand are a very different story. The flavour is often described as one dimensional, dull, bitter and sour. The leaves, along with twigs, debris and bugs, are ground up into a fine powder. This eliminates the essential oils and any hope of a desirable taste.
Over steeping is also a problem when it comes to bags. As they do contain a fine powder, this creates a larger surface area. This often means the tea is over steeped, which brings out the tannins and creates an unpleasant bitter taste.
You’ve probably guessed it, but yes, loose leaf wins this battle too.
We’re not biased, it’s just the truth!
Those precious essential oils come into play again. The tea that goes into bags is ground into a fine powder which releases all of the oils, flavour molecules and aromas before it even gets to your cup.
So, what does this leave for your disappointed nostrils? A faint aroma that is generic and undistinguishable.
If you’re looking for a fragrant aroma, loose leaf is your best bet. Those lovely preserved whole leaves are bursting with flavour, which creates a dreamy aroma that will fill your kitchen.
The one downfall of loose leaf, it does take longer to brew.
But, good things come to those who wait.
Although loose leaf may take a couple of minutes longer, many don’t mind this small sacrifice for the flavour and freshness they receive in return.
It takes a little longer to brew as there is a smaller surface area due to the large leaves. This requires a bit more time to fully extract the flavours.
As the fine powder in bags has such a large surface area this takes no time at all to brew, and is often accidentally over steeped.
If you’re unfamiliar with loose leaf, you might be imagining complicated contraptions and accessories to brew a simple cup.
But, it’s a lot easier than you think.
All that’s needed is a strainer. Place the loose leaf in the strainer, pour over the hot water and steep like you would with a normal bag.
A tea bag works in a similar way, simply place in the mug, pour over the hot water and steep.
You could argue that bags are slightly more convenient as a strainer isn’t required, but they both require minimal effort.
When it comes to storing loose leaf and bags, the same rules apply to both.
The tea needs to be kept away from air, moisture, light, high temperatures and strong smells. Opaque air tight jars work well for storage.
For more tips, read our guide on how to store loose tea.
So, which will you go for? If you’re passionate about tea, I hope you see the importance of investing in loose leaf.
View our delightful range of fresh loose leaf tea.