I love a good cup of tea and I love that there is literally a tea for any circumstance I may find myself in. Thus, my tea collection is just as varied as the many different experiences that I go through each day. When I first began drinking tea, I knew it mainly as something to ease my cold symptoms. I remember standing in the tea aisle in the grocery store, all stuffed up, staring blearily (and somewhat blankly) at the various tea boxes. Since then, I have learned a lot about the wonderful world of tea. I have tried them all— bright and fruity, deep and sultry, and nutritive and soothing, each offering something uniquely wonderful. My biggest tea lesson to date came when I tried loose leaf tea for the first time. There was no comparison in flavor. After that, it was not long before the boxed teas disappeared from my shelves at home and were replaced by meticulously hand-labeled jars filled with all my favorite teas.
What is the Difference Between Loose Leaf Tea and Tea Bags?
This is a common question and one that I wondered about myself when I first began drinking tea. Boxed tea is certainly more convenient, so why switch to loose leaf teas?
Loose Leaf Tea is More Sustainable
The most obvious difference at first glance is the packaging. Boxed tea often comes in not only a box but also with each tea bag in individual wrappers. For those of us looking to cut back on excess packaging and waste in our lives, that’s a huge drawback. Buying my teas in bulk allows me to avoid that nagging question that we are all asking ourselves lately; “So, how much of this packaging is actually recyclable?” Plus, I love being able to put my tea directly into a cute jar of my choosing where I know it will stay fresh.
Bulk Tea Offers Better Freshness and Quality
The other big difference between loose leaf and pre-packaged teas, and the one that I found out firsthand when I brewed my own loose tea for the first time, is quality. Boxed teas tend to sit in warehouses until they are shipped, and then on store shelves until they are purchased, and that is after the loose tea was harvested, shipped, blended, bagged up, and then packaged. There really is no way to tell how old the material inside those bags is. Freshness can be a real issue for those of us who are looking for a delightful herbal beverage. The increased aroma and flavor of a cup of freshly brewed loose leaf tea is unmatched. And, for folks looking to use herbal teas as medicine, the quality and freshness is even more paramount to make sure they are getting all the benefits possible.
Loose Tea Offers More Customizable Options
Loose leaf teas also give me the ability to choose my own quantities of dried tea, whereas pre bagged tea only gives you the option to use multiple tea bags if you are wanting a stronger cup. We all have our own preferences when it comes to tea strength—loose leaf teas give us the freedom to adjust for flavor or caffeine content based on our unique preferences and needs at that moment.
How do You Brew Loose Leaf Tea?
Brewing your own tea can be confusing at first. There are so many different accessories to choose from, it can be hard to know where to start. It is true that the options are almost endless. There are teapots and to-go cups with their own infusers included. There are tea balls, reusable and disposable teabags that you can fill yourself, tea nets, tea strainers, and presses. I had to fine-tune my method to find out what I preferred. For medicinal tea preparations, I like to put my herbs in a wide mouth jar with hot water (be very careful when doing this, extreme temperature changes can cause glass to shatter. We recommend that you place the jar in your sink before filling it), allow them to infuse, and then use a mesh sprouting screen to strain the tea out. For peppermint tea in the mornings, my go to vessel is our very own bamboo tea tumbler, it is the perfect “pour it and ignore it” option for a busy morning since it keeps the tea nice and warm. When a long steeping time is not always ideal, I also enjoy the classic tea ball, especially for black and green teas.
- Loose leaf tea is also a great opportunity to experiment with making your own tea blends! Making tea blends is just like making any other recipe; start with flavors you know that you like and try different ratios. It is a fun and delicious DIY project.
How to Store tea
At Mountain Rose Herbs we often get asked about bulk herb and tea storage. The ideal storage for any dried plant material is in a sealed glass jar and somewhere with minimal light and heat exposure, such as a cupboard that is not super close to your stove top. With ideal storage conditions, bulk tea can have a shelf life of up to 24 months. We do not necessarily recommend storage in the freezer or refrigerator, as those environments can sometimes introduce moisture into the material.
Looking for more tea-making tips?
You may also enjoy:
- Yaupon: Rediscovering America's Forgotten Tea
- How to Create Your Own Herbal Tea Blends
- What's the Difference Between White, Green, and Black Teas?