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If you’re someone who drinks tea for its health benefits and/or aroma and flavor, you might want to think twice the next time you go to grab those convenient tea bags you purchased because they were the cheapest and most convenient option. Tea leaves need space to steep to their fullest potential. Being wrapped up in a small bag keeps them from delivering the best flavor and quality that tea has to offer.
Loose leaf teas are often folded, rolled, or dried in more condensed forms during processing to ensure that the antioxidants are released when steeped. This condensed state also dictates how the teas will taste after steeping. The rolling of leaves helps to preserve essential oils, adding to the aroma of the tea. Therefore the leaves will need space to unravel when they are steeped to reach their true aromatic and flavor potential.
Tea bags often contain over processed tea leaves including tea dust derived from the processing of the tea leaves. Most of the teas in tea bags go through a process called CTC or “Crush-Tear-Curl.” CTC processing was specifically invented for black tea to save time and money.
This isn’t inherently bad (many CTC-prepared loose teas can be quite good), but the problem is that most grocery store tea bags don’t have the tea produced by CTC or other methods, but instead have the tea “dust” that these processes create as a byproduct. The material, shape, and size of the bag itself will also affect the taste, aroma, and quality of the tea you are steeping. This over-processed tea will yield a more bitter and astringent taste.
Steeping loose leaves freely in water will yield more health benefits, better aroma and flavor, and will give you more options with the wide range of tea types from long needles to rolled balls. There are so many different types of teas that are not available in the on-the-go tea bags. One reason is that packaging the teas in the bags will undoubtedly compromise their quality and flavor. To get the most full-bodied flavor, aroma, and health benefits, brew your teas with loose leaves and let them steep freely in water.