Loose Leaf Tea in Tea Bags
A full Japanese tea ceremony can take anywhere up to five hours to carefully prepare each component and then
drink the results in a leisurely way. But what happens when us modern busy mortals want to enjoy a truly fine cup
of tea but do not have the time to follow the Japanese tradition. The dilemma may never be fully resolved, but the
choice starts with exploring loose leaf tea versus tea in tea bags.
History of Loose Leaf Tea Bags
Thomas Sullivan is reputed to have first introduced tea bags in the mid-19th century. He made samples of
different teas carefully enclosed in a cloth bag for his customers, to help them select a tea. He intended them to
open the bag and prepare the tea from its contents.
He soon discovered they were using the samples unopened in order to make their brew. The fine cloth mesh kept
the tea leaf bits from making their way into the cup. That created the possibility of drinking it down to the last
drop without having to ingest the leaves. The method was a hit.
More than a century has passed and bags and their contents have gone through much evolution, sometimes not for
the better. Bags today are finer, stronger, and lighter weight. They are manufactured and inspected to the highest
health standards. But the contents are not always the best that can be had in the world of tea.
In the 1970s, 'natural' became the watchword of all food and beverage products, especially those made from
plants. Tea certainly qualifies. As a result, loose leaf tea was looked on as a superior alternative. And, in many
cases it is. There are hundreds of truly fine loose leaf teas imported from many parts of the globe.
Loose leaf tea from China, India, Japan, and elsewhere can be as pleasing to the connoisseur as a fine wine. The
gentle jasmine from China stacks up well against a sweet orange tea from Turkey. Or, one may enjoy an outstanding
mint tea from Africa.
Loose Leaf Tea Benefits
By contrast, many bag teas are made essentially from left-overs, called fannings. Scraps of tea leaf that remain
from processing are fed into a machine that fills thousands of bags per hour. The result is lined up into a box
that contains a hundred or more which is shipped off to a grocery store. There it sits until someone takes it home.
By the time it is actually consumed, a tea that was never very high quality to begin with may be stale.
But simply being in a bag isn't an inevitable sign of low quality. Many vendors have evolved from the granola
days to combine the high quality of a loose leaf tea with the convenience and other benefits of a bag. Though they
often go by the more elegant name of "sachet," it's still tea in a bag. But the difference is that the tea is of
the utmost quality and is sold fresh. That difference is important.
So, retain your busy lifestyle when you must. But take a few minutes on occasion to celebrate your efforts.
Treat yourself to a truly fine cup of loose leaf tea, and enjoy it without a dozen distractions. You've earned