What is loose leaf tea and why not tea bags?

Updated: Mar 4


Simply put, loose leaf tea is any tea not brewed in a tea bag.


And Loose Leaf Tea is our thing! As dedicated tea drinkers, we know there are many options to brew and enjoy tea--individual tea infusers, large ball infusers, mug infusers, teapots, travel mugs, and even by just letting the leaves sit in the water while sipping your tea. The one way to infuse teas that you won’t find at SpiceTopia is pre-filled tea bags.





Well why not?

We have two reasons:

  • Environmental concerns

  • Quality of teas


Environmentally, tea bags aren't so friendly for the earth.


Silk Tea Bags


You’ll find many higher-end tea bags labeled as silk or mesh--which doesn’t seem so bad for our mother earth. But these bags are actually created from nylon, and nylon is a product of petroleum. When these bags are heated to temperatures as low as 100°F they start breaking down and molecules of the nylon begin leaching into that heated water. Teas are brewed between 160° and 210°F. At those temperatures, there are most certainly molecules of that nylon in your tea. We’re thinking that’s not a cup of tea you want to drink!


Polylactic Acid or PLA Tea Bags


PLA is often called a nice plastic as it is created from corn and is touted as compostable. While these tea bags are a much better alternative for your body than silk tea bags, they don’t usually get composted. The composting process needed to break them down is not a process that can happen in a home composting situation and so 99% of these tea bags end up in a landfill.


Paper Tea Bags


Is paper better? Teas are not pre-packaged in paper tea bags as these tea bags are truly compostable and tend to break down before they can be sold. We do offer self-fillable tea bags for your use at home or when traveling. They are unbleached, compostable, and safe to use with any temperature of water. But do keep in mind the environmentally damaging effects of the paper manufacturing process.


Which brings us to the Quality of Tea Bag Teas and Loose Leaf Teas

Loose leaf teas tend to be better quality than what you find in a tea bag. Our teas are featured in glass jars, so you can see exactly what you are getting. With tea bags that just isn’t the case!


Many teas in tea bags are of the grades fannings or dusts.

  • Fanning are pieces of tea leaves that have broken off of whole leaf or higher grade teas.

  • Dusts are even smaller pieces that have crumbled off the fannings.



Before commercially available tea bags, fannings and dusts were considered inedible and were used to compost tea fields.


But for tea bags--they seem perfect. They are small enough to fit into a tea bag and they don’t expand when brewed like whole leaves of tea. So what’s the problem you ask? The broken leaves lose their essential oils quickly and with the loss of essential oils comes the loss of flavor. And these smaller pieces tend to release tannins quicker than whole leaves. More tannins means your tea will be bitter.


Also keep in mind that tea going to tea bags are formulated so that each cup of tea tastes the same cup after cup and year after year. Because of this formulation, you lose the special terroir qualities that come from single source teas. Oolongs grown in Taiwan taste different than Oolongs grown in China. Year to year harvest of teas will taste different depending on the weather year to year. And we really love exploring teas from different farms and different harvests, it’s part of what makes tasting teas so exciting and enjoyable!


 

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