Tea for Thought: Loose Leaf Tea versus Tea Bags

I am planning a big project with loose leaf tea, so I was exploring an article I wrote a few months back about loose leaf tea when I was newly discovering the wonders of what tea leaves could do. I still can’t believe how little I knew about loose leaf tea and why its SO much better for you than tea bags. I remember my discovery of loose leaf tea- I was walking through the local mall and took notice of this store that was giving out tea samples (which I later discovered was Teavana) and I decided to go over and give it a shot. I walked into the store and was almost terrified of the vast display of loose leaf teas all over the walls. My first question was, how on earth are you supposed to drink tea that doesn’t come in a bag? I became afraid of all of the accessories I would have to purchase just to drink a cup of tea so I decided it wasn’t worth my time.

A couple of months later, I began to research loose leaf tea after I had a friend mention David’s Tea. I was used to getting my $1.50 peppermint tea from the local coffee shop and didn’t think much of the taste or what was put into the tea bags. I decided to give it a shot and order my first batch of loose leaf tea from David’s Tea. I immediately got hooked, especially with taking my tea with me to work literally EVERY single day, so eventually my monthly tea haul began to turn into this:

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I was extremely humbled by the taste of this new tea. The flavours were unbelievably different as compared to bagged tea. I also researched that loose leaf tea could be used on multiple occasions, so I reused the steeped tea a couple of times and still experienced the same taste.

So, what is the difference between loose leaf and commercial tea bags?

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Commercial Teas

This is basically the same concept as ‘you get what you pay for’. When you buy cheap tea bags or visit the closest coffee shop and buy a tea, these are most likely generic brands that are mass-produced for sale, not for quality. Tea bags can be bagged in bleached material, adding extra chemicals to tea that alters the flavor and takes away from the ‘natural’ essence of tea.

The ‘tea leaves’ used in many commericial tea bags are primarily the ‘dust’ and leftover ashes from the tea leaves; meaning they have lost most of their nutrients and essential oils.

Most tea bags constrain the tea leaves inside; thus preventing it from expanding to its full flavor and goodness. Instead of allowing the tea leaves inside the bag to unfurl, they are instead compressed inside and thus don’t expand to their full ability.

Loose Leaf Teas

Loose leaf teas on the other hand are whole leaf teas that are produced from artisan methods such as hand-picking and hand sorting.

Many loose leaf teas are also packaged differently from tea bags, as they are sealed in an airtight container but still are sealed ‘loose’ to preserve the flavor of the tea. Since these tea leaves are ‘loose’, they are granted the room to expand while being steeped and thus are able to enlarge, expand and bloom to release full nutrients.

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Am I getting a better value from loose leaf teas?

Absolutely, hands down, yes. Whole leaf teas contain more flavor, antioxidants and aroma than mass produced tea bags because they contain mere tiny bits of leaves and typically stale tea dust. Mass produced tea bags may also sit in a warehouse or on the shelves of a grocery store for a long period of time before you ever feast your hands on them. Think of it like eating processed foods- which are usually picked, processed, and packaged by machines overseas and include a variation of chemicals that you can’t even pronounce. Loose leaf teas (especially if you buy local), have ingredients that you are aware of, are picked and packaged locally and usually seasonally, then crafted by artisans and masters of tea in small batches.

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How much is loose leaf tea?

That question depends of course, on where you are looking. I have tried a variety of loose leaf teas and I have landed on two favourites. I absolutely adore tea subscription boxes (I am a subscription box lover and a tea lover so the two combined are like heaven), and I found an amazing subscription box called Alakaban Tea that delivers premium Sri Lankan tea along with loose spies to add for as low as $19.99 a month!

I also am a huge fanatic of David’s Tea and they have fabulous deals and carry amazing products that last a long time. The average price of a 50g herbal bag of tea is about $8.00, which is a good value if you do the math comparing how much you spend on a cup of tea daily. David’s Tea also has a frequent steeper program where if you spend $100.00, you can get a free bag of 50g tea of any kind (believe me, this doesn’t take long to reach).

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It’s like my mother said the other day when I brewed a peppermint loose leaf tea and she could smell the aroma from the other room- “Why does your tea smell so much better than mine?” (she was drinking tea bought from the grocery store). You can smell, taste and even see the quality of loose leaf teas as compared to commercial tea bags!

Stay tuned for my big project involving loose leaf tea! In the meantime, here is a great book to educate yourself on all of the different kinds of medicinal teas that exist:

The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea By: Jennifer Browne

More than just a warm and comforting drink, tea has medicinal properties that are widely underused in North America. Common herbs, spices, fruits, and barks have been scientifically proven to help relieve pain, menopause symptoms, high blood pressure, insomnia, stress, and digestive angst. When taken preventatively, certain herbs in tea can help fight off cancer cells, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease and fibromyalgia. By learning about what these various natural ingredients are capable of and how they work, readers can begin to treat many ailments with what grows in their gardens—plants that have been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years.

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