Have you ever wondered what the difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags is? Well, we are here to fill you in! As you read, keep in mind that we’re going to be making a few generalizations. We know that there are many tea companies that produce bagged tea that are highly reputable and that use high quality tea. We also know that not every loose tea is the best option on the market.
With those things in mind, here are a few “rules” for what makes the difference between a bagged tea and a loose tea.
This one is self-evident. Cut open a bag of tea, and nine times out of ten you will find nothing but tiny pieces of tea leaves, classified as “dust” when tea companies grade each batch of tea leaves. It is literally the left over bits and pieces from processing each batch. And, occasionally, if it’s particularly low quality tea, there will even be bits of filler mixed in with the dust.
With loose leaf tea, you get a higher grade of tea leaves. While they are often small leaves (and like I said, not every single loose leaf tea is the highest quality), they are bigger pieces of the leaf. With some high quality tea, you can even find a full leaf or two inside the infuser once the tea has steeped and the leaves have unfurled.
One of the most noticeable differences between a cup of tea made with a bag and a loose tea can be the color. If you dunk a tea bag into a mug, you see instant color. With a loose tea, when you put the infuser into the mug, it takes a minute or two to begin to see the color. However, when both loose or bagged teas have been fully steeped the color can be comparable.
In general, the flavor difference between bagged teas and loose leaf teas is pretty significant. The flavor of a loose leaf tea should be rich, deep, and complex. With a good quality tea – in a bag or loose leaf – there should be depth to the flavor and aroma. For example, a good quality Assam tea will leave you thinking of roasting nuts, maybe a bit of wood smoke, and have a graham cracker, malt flavor. Bagged tea tends to be less flavorful and less complex, more one-sided. Make a run-of-the-mill cup of bagged Assam and you’ll only get one of those flavors.
Again, not every bagged tea is bad quality. Many are very good quality teas, but in generally, you’ll get a more flavorful cup of tea with loose leaf tea.
So there you have it! A quick run down on some of the differences between bagged and loose teas.