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Tea comes in various types, including tea bags and loose leaf tea leaves. Tea lovers consider either of these options based on several factors, including flavour profiles, health benefits, and the steeping process.

If you visit your local tea shop or online store, you may be spoilt for choice. This guide can be of immense help if you find yourself fixating on the topic ‘is loose leaf tea better than tea bags?’.

Main Differences Between Loose Tea And Teabag

There are many differences between loose leaf tea and tea bags, including:

Packaging
The first place to look is the package. Teabags come in tiny bags, while loose leaf tea doesn’t require the protective seal of individual tea bags. Rather, loose leaf tea comes in tins and sometimes air-tight sealed bags, even though the latter is rare.

Preparation/Steeping
Many tea lovers tout tea bags as easy to use and prepare. You’ll only need to place a bag in a teapot or a cup full of hot water, leaving it to steep for about five to eight minutes.

Loose leaf tea lovers pour the broken tea leaves directly into the water. After steeping, you can remove the leaves with a strainer or tea infuser when you’re sure your hot water has infused the flavor.

History of Loose Tea
Customers began to request their tea in bags somewhere in 1920 when teabags started to gain ground as an emerging trend. Tea merchants moved from hand-sewn silk bags to gauze options when the demand for tea bags increased. Hand-sewn silk tea bags required more time and money to produce.

The gauze option also changed as tea manufacturers uncovered more economical ways like the crush-tear-curl (CTC) method to increase production and meet consumer demand.

Previously, tea manufacturers bagged loose leaf tea in tins as a quality preservation measure, but consumer convenience forced them to move to the bags.

4 Grades of Tea

Processing tea leaves involves sorting them into grades ranging from high to low quality. The four main tea grades include:

Whole leaf
Whole leaf tea is the highest tea grade and, thus, the highest quality you’ll find on the market.

It is made of dried tea leaves and has the strongest flavour profile lasting through multiple steeping rounds. Also, whole leaf tea is the best place to look for all tea’s health and wellness benefits.

Broken leaf
Broken leaves are crushed to maintain the flavour of whole leaf tea. They appear to be darker due to the crushing process.

This tea grade can be marketed and sold as loose leaf teas and last through several steeping rounds.

Fannings
During the whole leaf crushing process, the fragments of tea leaves considered are called Fannings. Manufacturers deem these fragments as low quality compared to whole or broken tea leaves. Many tea bags are made with fannings and can barely last after one steeping round.

Dust
Dust is the lowest tea grade among the four. It’s also a residue of the crushing process, just like fannings. They are tiny particles sourced from the crushing process, and the best option to keep and sell dust is the teabag. Dust’s low quality doesn’t allow the flavour retention to last for multiple steepings.

Final Verdict

The best way to choose between loose leaf tea and tea bags is to establish your purchasing preferences and needs.

For instance, you’ll gravitate more towards teabags if you’re affordability is your priority. Loose-leaf tea appeals more to seasoned tea lovers who may not want to compromise on quality and the tea-making culture.

Some people do not treat choosing between both tea options as an ‘either or’ situation. They use tea bags or loose leaf tea as and when. Ultimately, the choice is yours.