Movie references aside, I think we can all admit to ourselves that loose leaf tea is better. There is something about the taste – there is something richer and more beautiful about the tea. It tastes real. More real than that grocery store variety black tea ever did. It’s because it’s free. I don’t mean it in some magical metaphor of a way, but when a tea is free it can literally be that much more the tea. “Whole leaf tea”, which you can sometimes get when you buy loose leaf tea, is made of whole unbroken leaves while tea bags are usually made from low tea grades, like dust and fannings. Dust and fannings are small pieces of tea and because they have more surface area, some of the essential flavors and oils can evaporate from it – making it more dull and bitter. Even if the tea in the tea bag is whole leaf, the size of the teabag can limit what the tea could be. Tea leaves expand as they take in water to infuse the tea, and if they are crammed into a smaller tea bag – it limits the flavor of the tea. For those still clinging to the tea bag, there are now pyramid tea bags and bigger tea bags made by companies to make the taste better and truer. Even more, the standard tea bag is just that… standard. Year after year that same brand of tea will taste exactly the same, while in loose leaf tea there tends to be nuance. You can get something different and more compelling in your cup every time you get a new tin of the stuff.
It is admittable that loose leaf tea is somewhat tricky. That’s the reason that tea is still sold by and large in those bags they’ve been in for years. You put it in a teapot and you could forget to strain it and all of a sudden you’re coughing up soggy leaves, you could live dangerously swallow a leaf or two drinking it straight up loose – a bag doesn’t require this commitment. You stick it in, wander off, take it out and throw it away. Luckily for tea drinkers everywhere the idea of strainers was expanded into tea infusers. There are even teapots built with strainers in them as well. These infusers, when you put the leaves in them, take the same amount of time that a bag would take and you have your tea. It doesn’t get too strong over time. The tea just is. The same amount of commitment. So with a tea infuser in hand or living dangerously (the other loose tea routes) live a little looser. After all, we don’t buy coffee in bags. We buy the ground stuff, even if it is store brand. So give your tea the same amount of dignity. Put a tea infuser in your life and love that loose honest to goodness tea.