People are funny creatures. Often times it happens that we prefer one thing over another even though there is technically no difference between the two things. If one takes tea, for example, the same variety of leaves are used to produce the same product. In terms of taste, the end product tastes exactly the same. The only difference is really in the packaging.
Whether you prefer loose leaves or a tea bag, if it comes from the same plant, there shouldn't actually be a difference. However, apart from the convenience of not pouring your tea through a strainer, can the tea bag influence the taste of tea?
In general, tea purists or tea snobs will opt for a loose leaf tea or whole leaf tea based on the natural factor. Loose leaf tea goes through very little processing which means that the end product that you get is as close to the natural thing as you are going to get. It is believed that loose leaves contain more bioactives because they are of a higher quality leaf.
Loose leaf tea is free to move around in a pot, and when you steep the tea, it has more room to move about and absorb the water and expand as it infuses the water. The water has a chance to flow freely between the leaves and consequently extract more of the vitamins, minerals and the natural flavors and aromas of the tea.
For many people, loose leaf tea brews just taste better. The fact that the leaves stay whole means that they retain much of their flavor. This causes subtle nuances in flavor that are allowed to spread freely throughout the pot. Because the leaves are whole, they can also be steeped more than once.
Loose leaves are also associated with artisan teas. This means that smaller quantities of leaves are produced because the leaves are hand-picked and sorted, to ensure that only the best leaves make it into the shops.
Loose leaf tea is extremely versatile and is generally made from high-quality leaves. Your options become very wide in terms of taste, leaf size and also the grade of the leaves. Like local breweries, loose-leaf tea can also be of a regional or local flavor. Certain areas of the world are so bonkers about their tea that they even come with a specific garden tag. Add a seasonal flavor to the mix, and you have one complex and versatile drink that you can choose from.
Contrary to belief, loose-leaf tea is considerably cheaper than their tea bag counterparts. In our modern day world, convenience and ease of effort are highly-prized qualities and people will pay good money to make their lives a bit more hassle-free. That being said, you then actually pay less for the same amount of loose-leaf tea as you would for tea bags, and the quality of the tea is better.
The case for loose-leaf tea is a strong one, and one cannot argue about the nutritional value that it provides. But surely, tea bags need to hold some benefit. Otherwise, it would never have been such a popular alternative to loose leaves. The in teabags are generally made from a lower quality of leaf in the form of dust and fannings.
Although tea leaves might be higher in bioactives, the fact that tea in tea bags are cut into smaller pieces means that the extraction process is enhanced. The teabag’s tea is granular, and therefore the surface area that is in contact with the water is greater. This has the effect of a faster brew as compared to whole leaves.
Loose leaves might have more bioactives, but the leaves in tea bags include more stems which give it a higher concentration of L-theanine, the very amino acid that is responsible for the relaxing effect of tea. For many people. They might place a much higher value on the relaxation than they might put on flavor.
Although loose leaves do provide a richer taste experience, the teabag is second to none in terms of versatility. There are many naturally infused flavored teabags which also provides for a very tasty cup of tea, minus the hassle of straining the tea and brewing it for longer periods of time.
Speaking about time. It is a rare commodity and if you are a tea-lover, going the natural loose-leaf route might not be very plausible or practical. It takes a considerable amount of time more, to produce a loose-leaf pot of tea than a teabag pot. You might sacrifice a bit on flavor, but you will be able to enjoy a cup nonetheless and still feel more relaxed after the cup.
Teabags were made with convenience in mind and although there are some poor quality packaging options available. You can still get artisan quality teabags that allow for the water to move more freely in and around the teabag. More recently, teabag manufacturers have gone to great lengths to improve the design of their teabags to improve the flow of water, and the teabag pyramid was the result.
Now you can have the best of both worlds, a loose-leaf quality cup of tea minus the effort. These bags, typically have whole loose-leaves in the teabag which means that the overall flavor of the tea is enhanced.
However, whether you are a loose-leaf tea drinker or a teabag fan, both have their pros and cons. It all depends on what you value more. If you have the time, and quality of taste is high on your list of priorities, then loose-leaves are definitely the way to go. However, if you don’t have loads of spare time and you would still like to enjoy a decent cup, nothing stops you from having a cup of teabag tea. You might not get all the flavor of a loose-leaf tea, but you will still feel relaxed, without having to wait for your perfect cup to steep.