Tea connoisseurs will argue avidly about the superiority of whole leaf (or loose leaf) tea to bagged tea. However, when it comes to choosing between loose tea and bagged tea, there are a few key factors to consider: flavor, convenience, health benefits, and price.
Loose tea is left whole. This allows the leaves to absorb the water and allow it to move through it. This process creates more bold and dynamic flavor patterns. Each leaf expands to its fullest potential releasing more antioxidants, flavors, and aromas.
Bagged tea, however, is made most commonly from low grade tea dust and fannings. This gives bagged tea a one-dimensional flavor profile, and is the reason over-steeped tea bags often become quite bitter. The finely broken leaves used in bagged tea lose many of the essential oils and aromas during processing, which when steeped release more tannins. The reason for the diminished flavor profile is simple: the dust and fannings are what’s left after the whole tea leaves are processed. However, the strong bitter brew handles milk and sugar well.
The misconception is that it’s “harder” to brew loose tea, but it’s about the same number of steps to brew a teabag and loose leaf tea. However, taking the tea with you can be a little cumbersome. Loose teas are often held in tin containers and you’ll have to bring the steeper with you. Some companies are now making whole leaf tea bags, which allow you to reach almost identical results to steeping loose tea. [Check out directions for brewing here]
Bagged teas, on the other hand, are individually wrapped and easy to transport. They appeal to the on-the-go lifestyle, which has contributed to its success for hundreds of years.
Generally speaking all teas contain some level of antioxidants. It’s because of these antioxidants the following health benefits occur:
Tea contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants help neutralize cell damaging free-radicals which in return has a positive impact on some chronic diseases including some types of cancer (skin, oral, lung, ovarian cancer, etc.) and cardiovascular disease.
Research studies show that the theanine found in tea is a distinctive amino acid that preps the immune system to help fight infection, bacteria and viruses. This theanine helps the immune system generate higher levels of interferon. Interferon is a protein our bodies produce and one of its main functions is to build up our immune system.
The biggest difference between loose teas and bagged teas are the levels of flavonoids that diffuse. Meaning, with a whole leaf tea you get more bang for your buck.
When comparing loose tea to bagged tea, the loose tea ends up being cheaper. Even premium loose varieties that retail for about $20 come out to about $0.10 per cup. This doesn’t include the fact that whole leaf tea, because of its more flavorful profile, can be brewed more than once and still make a nice tasting cup.
We’ve given you the pros and cons of each, but at the end of the day, the choice is yours, and its a matter of preference. Whether you’re choosing whole leaf or bagged tea, you’re doing your body good by drinking tea!
Let us know which you prefer, loose or bagged tea, and why in the comments below!