What are the benefits of loose leaf tea vs. teabags? Pop the kettle on (and grab a digestive) because we’re going to find out why tea lovers should choose loose leaf tea!
The (speedy) answer
Loose leaf tea is better than teabags because it contains fresh, unbroken tea leaves, which are usually higher in quality and far tastier in flavour. Loose leaf tea drinkers also benefit from a healthier brew that’s high in antioxidants. What’s more, loose leaf tea is more environmentally friendly– no need to worry about non-degradable teabags lingering in the earth for hundreds of years!
Tea Lovers, aren’t we?
Here in Britain we brew, sip and dunk our way through 61 billion tea bags each year. Struggling to get your head around the number (we are)? Picture it this way: 61 billion teabags would cover almost 31,000 football pitches. Staggering, isn’t it? Especially when we learn that this equates to roughly 1,460 teabags per person, per year.
We’re clearly fond of teabag brewing. But should we be? Is there a better, tastier and more sustainable alternative to mass-produced teabags?
Considering the title of this post, I guess you know that I’m going to say YES. There most absolutely is an alternative, tea-and-biccie lovers! Read on for five reasons why you should choose loose leaf tea.
But first… what is loose leaf tea?
First of all, let’s clear up what loose leaf tea actually is.
Loose leaf tea describes the type of tea made up of whole leaves. They arrive ‘loose’ rather than in teabags, and are usually much higher in quality than the standard teabag (or pouch, or pyramid, or whatever they are calling them now). Teabags usually contain broken leaves, known in the tea world as ‘dust’ or ‘fannings’. These are the little bits left over from premium loose leaves and are much lower in quality.
You can brew loose leaf tea in many ways. Did you know you can even use a French press?! An infuser is probably the easiest way to brew loose leaf tea: simply fill it up, pop it in your teapot or mug, then brew away! Tasty!
Now you know the deets, let’s jump into those five reasons for buying loose leaf tea.
First is not the worst, because FLAVOUR is our reason no. 1. Dust and fannings are, as the name suggests, much smaller in size and so have a larger surface area. Remember this from GCSE science? A larger surface area increases the rate at which flavour-packed essential oils evaporate from your brew. This leaves your tea with less flavour, less aroma and a duller taste. Yum (not).
Teabags are more likely to taste bitter, too. This is because the small, crushed particles steep more tannin into your brewed cup. Tannins are polyphenols that have health benefits, but also give tea a bitter taste. They are present in tea leaves and transfer much more quickly when there is a larger surface area (i.e. when you’re using those teabags).
Loose leaf brewing gives the leaves the freedom they deserve. Rather than being confined to the shape of the bag, they can move and expand freely. Hot water has full freedom to flow over the leaves, and extract all that gorgeous aroma and taste. The result? A sparklingly fresh tea brimming with all your favourite flavours!
Proper tea and FRESHER tea
Whether we’re talking tea or tagliatelle, fresh is always best. Choose loose leaf tea, and you’ll enjoy a fresh, full-flavoured brew rather than something that’s spent months (or more) sitting on supermarket shelves. We source our premium loose leaf teas from individual estates and buy in small batches to ensure absolute freshness. This gives you an artisanal tea experience: fresh tasting tea that alters every now and again depending on growing conditions and harvest methods.
Industrially processed teabags, on the other hand, usually contain tea selected for standardisation. Big teabag companies import fannings from multiple locations worldwide to make a tea blend that always tastes the same. With teabags, it’s usually product standards and price that are important, rather than ethics and freshness (and these are the things we tea lovers like…).
Sip sip SUSTAINABLE tea!
Is loose leaf tea better for the environment? More often than not, the answer is a big (green) yes.
Last year, the BBC conducted an experiment to find out which teabags contain plastic:
- They placed each teabag in a copper ammonia solution for five days
- This dissolves all materials apart from plastic
- Some of the bags did degrade entirely, but others left a plastic teabag skeleton behind – an earth-polluting corpse that will remain in the ground for hundreds of years…
Teabags often need plastic to make sure they seal properly, and manufacturers use a plastic polymer called polypropylene to keep the bags closed even in hot water. The amount of plastic used might only be tiny, but it all adds up. Just think back to those 31,000 football pitches we mentioned earlier…
Choosing a plastic-free teabag comes with its own problems. Some ‘green’ teabags are made from PLA, a plant-based plastic that is NOT home compostable. Others are made from natural materials like abaca, which you should compost. Bin, compost, biodegrade… putting a teabag in the wrong place can cause more problems than it tries to solve.
Why not keep things simple and brew loose leaf tea instead? No hassle, no package-checking and google-researching. Just sustainable tea leaves you can pop straight on the compost or use in the garden.
Loose leaf tea is super HEALTHY
Tea is a treasure chest of healthy properties like antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. But to make the most of its body-loving nutrients, you really need to brew whole leaves rather than teabags. With more room to move and expand, whole leaves can infuse the water with all their lovely vitamins, minerals and nutrients, to give you a brew brimming with health and flavour!
Green tea is especially golden when it comes to health. It contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps to reduce anxiety and aids mental focus. Green tea is thought to boost your metabolic rate and reduce the risk of cancer, too.
Green tea is also a good source of healthy polyphenols. These organic compounds are jam-packed with antioxidants and offer a list of health properties as long as your arm and leg combined! Green tea is especially high in catechins, a healthy polyphenol you want in your diet. Catechins are highest in whole leaves, as they degrade much faster in dusty fanning (it’s all down to that larger surface area…).
Tea YOUR way
Looking for another reason why you should buy loose leaf tea? Because loose leaves allow you to brew your tea YOUR way. With teabags, you have to use the amount that’s sealed in the bag. But you might not want this amount. You might like a cup that’s a little stronger or more delicate. Well, “tough,” says the teabag.
With loose leaves, however, it’s customisation station. You can add a little more or less tea, depending on what tickles your fancy. But don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re going into loose leaf brewing on your own. Wondering how to brew loose leaf tea? We’ve got a guide for that!
- If you use a teapot and want to make tea for two, start with four tsps (10g) of tea and 800ml of boiling water.
- Infuser more your thing? Try 1 tsp (around 3g) of loose leaf tea for one mug. If you want to make tea taste stronger, just add more tea leaves or brew for a little longer. Easy (and SO delicious)!
Ditch the teabags and switch to loose leaf tea!
Or should we say make the switch back to loose leaf tea. Because did you know that only 3% of British households made tea with teabags in 1963? The rest, a tea-lovin’ 97%, put loose leaves in their teapot. Gran and Grandpa knew their stuff, right?
If you are wondering how to make the switch from teabags to loose leaf tea, we’d recommend taking a look at the name and flavour description on your teabag box. Is it a malty breakfast tea, or an elegant Darjeeling? Then, simply choose your favourite tea in loose leaf form. You’ll enjoy all your cherished flavours, just fresher and way more flavourful!
Fancy taking a look at the range? Pop along to our lovely online tea shop today!