Beginner’s Guide #1: Why Loose Leaf Tea is Better Than Tea Bags
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Learn why buying loose leaf tea gives you better a taste and value than tea bags. Part 1 of my series of Beginner’s Guides for tea newbies.
When I started this blog, I was a novice tea drinker. I liked the idea of drinking higher quality tea but I didn’t really know anything about it. I texted my sister things like, “Heyyyyyy…. so, how do I make loose leaf tea??” and asked coworkers things like, “Ummm… how much tea should I dump in this thing?”
I still can’t claim to be an expert but I have learned a lot in the process. If you also like the idea of diving deeper into tea, maybe buying some loose leaf tea, maybe buying tea that — DUN DUN DUN — isn’t from the grocery store, join me on this ride.
I’ll be putting out a series of articles for the tea novice over this next year. Things like: Why you should buy loose leaf tea, how to pick the right tea strainer, and a comprehensive guide to using loose leaf tea.
If you have other tea questions you would love to have answered, leave a comment at the bottom! I would love to try to answer it for you.
Now let’s jump in with why loose leaf tea is a better choice than tea bags.
It helps the tea reach its full flavor potential.
Tea bags are by definition, small bags of tea. The bag restricts where the leaves can go. When you’re steeping tea, you want to allow as much room as possible for the tea leaves to stretch out and expand. When the tea leaves can fully expand, their full nuanced flavors can be released.
When using loose leaf tea, you generally either let the tea steep in a teapot and then strain it into your mug or you use a larger in-mug strainer. Either way, you’re more likely to use a method that will allow the tea enough room to fully expand and release its flavors.
This is my absolute favorite in-mug strainer. I love it because it’s nice and deep so the tea leaves can expand. The strainer itself is extra fine so no bits of leaves comes through. It also comes with a handy porcelain dish to set the strainer on after you’re done steeping the tea. AND the metal handles on top are plenty wide enough that it works with all of my mugs. Plus it's on Amazon Prime and you just can't beat that.
It’s easier to get the correct proportion of tea to water.
I don’t know about guys but all of my mugs are drastically different sizes. Some hold 6 ounces of water — others hold like 16.
But…..when you buy tea bags, they’re pre-portioned. You can add 1 or 2 or 3. Which means one tea bag for my 6 ounce mug is too much, but the same tea bag for my 12 ounce mug might be too little.
Hello loose leaf. You’re going to get a better flavor if you use the correct amount of tea and loose leaf just makes that so much easier. I will usually just measure the tea out by eye but if you’re less confident, just have a teaspoon handy and follow the directions on the tea box.
Good tea brands will often only sell loose leaf tea.
If you want to start trying higher quality teas, loose leaf is clearly the best option. Better quality tea brands will often only sell loose leaf tea.
Whether that’s because it’s easier for them or because they know it will create a better tasting tea, I’m not sure. But I know I couldn’t even get a lot of the really delicious tea I own in tea bags because they just aren’t sold that way.
It’s a much better value.
And the last but possibly the best reason to start drinking loose leaf tea. Saving dat money. Buying loose leaf tea is often significantly cheaper than buying the same tea in tea bag form.
For example a box of 15 sachets (1.2 oz) of my favorite Lord Bergamot tea from Smith Teamakers is $12. The tin of loose leaf Lord Bergamot tea is also $12 but gives you 3.5 oz of tea! It’s nearly 3x more expensive to buy this tea as tea bags!
How about my favorite white tea from David’s Tea? 12 sachets (.9 oz) of Buddha’s Blend tea is $10. If you buy the same tea in loose leaf form, 2 oz will cost you $13. That works out to 2.2x more expensive for the individually portioned tea bags.
If you’re used to the cost of grocery store tea, but want to step your flavor up a notch — buying loose leaf is probably the way to go.
Is any tea worth buying in tea bags?
Yes. One of the main reasons I would end up buying tea bags is if a brand has a collection of teas available in a bundled sampler pack. While more expensive, that allows you to try a bunch of flavors and see which ones you like. (And then order it in loose leaf).
Anything else? It’s nice to have tea bags on hand when you have guests over. You may not have enough strainers for everyone so having a handful of tea bags in different flavors is convenient.
Here are a few of my favorite samplers for taste testing & guests:
Lovely little things
I got the Whole Foods Natural Beauty bag and have found some new favorite non-toxic beauty items. I really like this Hyaluronic DMAE Lift & Firm Cream from Andalou Naturals. I’ve had trouble with night creams being too heavy and making me break out but this is really light and just feels nice and moisturizing for my face. I just bought the full size cream. I am also really loving Weleda Skin Food. The backs of my hands are always super dry and this helps hydrate them like nothing I have ever used. It seems to have a cult following. I definitely want to get the full size product once I’m out of my sample.
I got this jumpsuit from Anthropologie a couple weeks ago and it’s ridiculously awesome. It makes me question all previous clothing purchases that weren’t jumpsuits because it is so freaking comfortable and yet makes me look AMAZING. Highly recommend.
Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver. I had never read Mary Oliver before but I picked this book up, read a poem or two and put it on my Christmas list last year. She feels like a modern day Walt Whitman to me. Beautiful musings on nature and the self and the boundaries (or lack of boundaries) between the two. Loving it so far.