When someone offers you a cup of tea, the first thing they normally do is reach for a teabag. Well, there’s nothing inherently wrong with teabags…but us tea experts know that the best cup of tea is created through traditional methods. In other words, loose-leaf tea is the best tea.
The history of tea is a complicated one spreading across many cultures over thousands of years. Records of tea drinking (adding boiling water to leaves to make a comforting drink) date back to as early as the 3rd century AD in Southwest China. It’s believed tea probably originated in the Yunnan region during the Shang dynasty as a medicinal drink. Although from the 8th century the ancient Chinese would package up tea in little bags to transport and preserve it, the first modern tea bag wasn’t introduced to the Western World until 1903. When New York tea and coffee importer Thomas Sullivan began shipping his tea around the world in tiny silk bags, customers decided it was easier to brew his tea in the bags themselves. Which is how Sullivan inadvertent invented the first modern tea bag.
Although we’ve seen teabag designs come and go, we’ve now come full circle and gone back to basics. Ancient Chinese tea-lovers knew what they were doing after all, because deep-down we’ve always known that brewing your tea from loose leaves produces the best flavours!
For clarity, this article will be excelling the virtues of loose-leaf tea, not whole-leaf tea. Whole-leaf tea refers to whole, unbroken leaves. Teabags are usually made from the opposite – low tea grades, such as dust and fannings. Not only does that increase the larger surface area than whole leaves, so less flavour is released, but they are generally packed in paper boxes with paper wrapping which effect the freshness. But whole-leaf tea doesn’t give the hot water the opportunity to flow through the leaves either. And tha’s why loose-leaf tea works the best!
Loose-leaf tea is a tea that is not brewed in a teabag – just like the tea we sell. When you steep loose-leaf tea, it provides more room for the tea leaves to absorb water and expand as they infuse. This way a wider range of vitamins, minerals, flavours and aromas are extracted from the leaves.
The infusion of tea using a teabag is limited by the size of the bag. Tea produces have tried eliminating this by creating more and more innovative teabag design: plus-size teabags, “tea pouches” and “tea socks,” as well as “pyramid bags”. These bags may well allow the leaves to expand more than traditional tea bags, and create a better brew, but nothing is as masterful as loose-leaf tea in a teapot or diffuser/filter.
Switching to loose-leaf tea may seem scary at first, but don’t worry. That’s why we’re here! Pop into our café at Bowes Park station or get in touch via our website, we are always more than happy to explain to you the best way to brew and what tea will suit you best!
How to brew loose-leaf tea
Brewing loose-leaf tea isn’t that different to using a teabag, except your strainer is doing the job of a bag.
1. First boil the kettle/water (white and green teas can be brewed at a lower temperature once the water starts to steam, Oolong tea is best prepared at simmering temperature, and black and Puerh teas can withstand proper rolling boiling water).
2. Weigh out 2-3 grams of loose leaf tea for every 6 fl oz (180 mL) of water. Add it to your strainer/filter of choice, or teapot, then add the water.
- Allow it to steep for 3-5 minutes.
- Remove leaves (unless it’s in a teapot, in which case the filter will stop them going into the cup as you pour) and pour into a cup or mug. Then depending on what tea you’ve chosen you can add milk, sugar, honey or even lemon.
See, not that scary at all!
The great thing about loose-leaf tea is the huge variety of flavours to explore. Check out the Leafy Bean teas on offer, everything from Chai, fruit-flavoured teas and Earl Grey, to English breakfast, Camomile and Moroccan mint. We also do a great line is cute infusers and even DIY teabags…for those of you who want to have your tea on the go.
Once you get into loose-leaf brewing there’s no stopping you, so have fun upgrading your teaware and enjoy the ancient and magical ritual of perfecting the perfect brew. There’s no turning back now, we promise you’ll never stick another teabag in a mug again!
Visit our online shop for the best in Leafy Bean Co loose leaf teas delivered straight to your door!