Article by: Courtney Wohling, Founder of Twisted Tonic Teas
Many people asked me why I chose loose leaf tea over tea bags when making the Twisted Tonic Tea range. I had stockists ask if I would make tea bags, as they thought it was more cost effective and less time consuming. Tea bags still far out sell loose leaf tea, so it would have made sense to use tea bags, from a financial point of view. But what are you really drinking?
While most of our tea is herbal, we do have some black, white and green tea blends, so I wanted to cover it. And when it comes to tea, there are many grades. Forget just organic or non-organic, there is a grading system that goes from the beautiful young leaves, broken leaves to the fannings or tea dust. The higher grades of tea are picked and sorted, and then the fannings are the tea dust that is left over. Even fannings have different grades. This greatly affects the price of tea that we buy.
Most tea bag producers use the fannings, with the exception of some artisan producers, and some tea bags are better than others (such as pyramid). Fannings lose most of their oils very quickly and can become stale. They are also such a fine cut that your tea can become bitter quite quickly. Loose leaf teas allow for a slower, more rounded steep, allowing for a depth of flavour that you simply cannot get from most tea bags. Teas need space to infuse. They need to be able to mingle with the water to allow for the draw. Tea bags generally don’t have enough room for the tea to infuse with the water properly.
Loose leaf tea also can vary greatly from season to season, batch to batch. We rely on the seasons to dictate the flavour and quality of the herbs and tea. This makes it impossible to make a standard blend, but that is also part of the beauty. Big tea producers need to have standard flavour, otherwise people would stop buying their product. Using a broken leaf offers a more standardised tea.
So are you drinking a tea that has been carefully selected, or one that is using the cheapest possible product to create the greatest profit margin? Also have you thought about the bag your tea comes in? Has it been bleached, does it contain glue? It’s not just the tea you are ingesting, but also the by-products of the tea bags. And one of the greatest myths is that loose leaf tea is more expensive than tea bags. In some cases, this is true. We cannot compete on price with the big tea producers, but nor would I want to. But artisan tea bags can be as much or more expensive than loose leaf tea. So it really comes down to the quality you are drinking.
The other benefit of using loose leaf tea over tea bags, is that you can alter the amount you use to suit your tastes. I personally love the ritual of making a cup or pot of tea. There is a real beauty and art in making tea. Although it doesn’t actually take much more time, if any, than using a tea bag, the end result is without a doubt, worth the wait. The taste is so much more complex. But for me it is also about the whole process. Taking the time out of my busy day to actually prepare my pot of tea. Taking time to enjoy a beautiful cup of tea. There are studies that show drinking a cup of tea can actually reduce stress levels. I think it is partly from taking a moment from the craziness of our lives, as well as the health benefits of drinking the tea.
So next time you want to make a cup of tea, why not try a loose leaf tea. You won’t be disappointed.