Why Shouldn’t you use a Teabag to Make Tea?
A teabag is the first experience many of us have with tea, but in order to truly experience the world of tea, you have to go for loose leaf. There are many reasons why you want to avoid teabags when it comes to preparing tea, and we’re going to cover a few of them here.
The first and most important point to cover is the fact that teabags tend to contain much lower quality leaves than loose leaf tea. In order to get large tea leaves into a teabag, they have to be be broken down and therefore they will lose a lot of their essential oils, which are responsible for the complex flavors and aromas of a tea. A producer making high quality tea for a premium market would never waste the leaves in a teabag, so all of the best teas in the world are made for loose leaf consumption.
Teabags are made with the casual tea drinker in mind, and therefore they are mass produced using cheaper leaves. Teabags are often made from the leftover leaves from the tea production process. They can be made from later harvests with less nutrients or contain older leaves, stems or other plant material. The flavor of loose leaf and teabags couldn’t be more different, with the teabags having a flat and bitter flavor and loose leaf green tea having a sweet and complex assortment of flavors.
Even if you were to use high quality leaves for a teabag, the teabag itself is a less effective way to brew the tea. Tea leaves need plenty of space to open up and release their full flavor into the water. When they are cramped inside a small space like a teabag, the flavor becomes weaker. This is the second main reason to not use a teabag. You want to prepare loose leaf tea in a teapot like this so the leaves have more space to open up. You can then just pour out the teapot and the built in filter will help keep the leaves out of your cup. A common misconception about loose leaf tea is that you have to drink the leaves along with the tea, but there are many tools for filtering them out. The simplest is to just use a metal strainer to replace a teabag, although this won’t allow quite as much space and the flavor will be a bit weaker.
The third reason not to use teabags is that the teabags themselves can affect the flavor of the drink. Don’t forget that when you prepare a tea with a teabag, you are also pouring hot water onto the paper and plastic as well. This is why a lot of teabags have a cardboard flavor. The cardboard flavor is not only from the low quality tea leaves, but also the paper in the bag itself.
In addition to paper, most teabags are often sealed together with some type of glue. This glue is plastic based, and it can easily be pulled out by water, particularly hot water. You also have staples and string on the teabag, which can all negatively impact the flavor. What you want to do is avoid all these materials and just prepare tea the traditional way, with a clay teapot, some water and some leaves.
The material in the teabags aren’t just bad for the flavor, they’re also bad for the environment as well. The fourth reason not to drink teabags is that they are an environmental disaster. It’s estimated that in Britain alone, there are 100 million cups of tea drunk every day. With 96% of that being teabags, that’s as many as 35 billion teabags thrown out each year. This is not just paper but in many cases it contains harmful plastics, metal from the staples and strong. It’s also important to consider that a lot of teabags are individually wrapped, creating even more material. A good way to reduce all this extra waste is to switch to loose leaf tea. Loose leaf tea is far more efficient in terms of packaging and when you are done with the tea, you can just compost the leaves!
The fifth and final reason to not use teabags is that they cannot be reused as easily. Because teabags are so finely chopped, they are designed to infuse quickly and release everything in the first brewing. When you try reusing these teabags after they have been brewed once, you will end up with an extremely watery flavor.
Loose leaf tea, on the other hand, can be reused many different times. Some teas can even improve the second or third time around like fukamushi sencha, which becomes and even more vibrant shade of green with stronger vegetable tasting notes. This also lowers the price per cup. If you want to compare the prices of loose leaf tea and teabag tea, you have to consider that a teabag only contains 2 grams of actually tea and it likely needs to be thrown out after 1 brewing. Loose leaf tea on the other hand can be used 3-5 times, so that 100gram pack of tea can be used to make 150-250 equivalent cups, with a much better flavor. That being said, we recommend that you use 5 grams of leaves and a smaller amount of water to really concentrate the brewing and create a more powerful flavor profile. It’s better to enjoy a smaller quantity of really amazing tea than a larger quantity of slightly watered down tea.
I hope this article has helped you make the switch from teabags to loose leaf. If you’re looking to pick up a teapot, you can get a free one on our website with certain orders. If you need any recommendations for which loose leaf teas to start with, please feel free to leave us a message in the comments below. Thanks so much for reading, we’ll see you next time.