Loose Leaf Or Teabags?
Before we compare loose leaf tea with tea bags, let us first look at the different grades of tea as that can be the key differentiator. When teas are produced, they are graded by size and quality. In order of highest to lowest, the grades fall into four basic groups: whole leaf, broken leaf, fannings, and dust.
Whole leaf tea refers to tea where the leaves have not been broken or torn during production. They take the longest to infuse and can be used for multiple infusions (normally upto 2 to 3 infusions).
Broken leaf tea refers to tea where the leaves are broken, but the pieces are still large enough to be recognised as parts of whole leaf. While whole leaf tea is generally considered to be the best, there are broken leaf teas which are better than some of the whole leaf teas.
Fannings are finely broken pieces of leaves which still have a recognisable coarse texture.
Dust is what remains after the tea has passed through the grading machine. It is powdery in texture and is often swept off the floor. Dust is considered the lowest grade of tea. Please however note that tea that is made by pulverizing larger tea leaves, such as Matcha is not considered Dust.
The reason why whole leaf tea tastes better is because the larger surface area allows it to release significantly more flavour and aroma without introducing as much astringency into the tea.
Now most of the tea sold in teabags is the lowest grade dust or fannings. The main reason for this, apart from being cheap is that conventional teabags do not have enough room for the whole leaf tea to expand while steeping. Which is why, to enjoy all the goodness of premium whole leaf teas, loose leaf is still considered by many as the way to go.
However one cannot deny the convenience of teabags and with the growth in the of speciality and premium tea segment, a new type of teabag has been developed which is gaining popularity amongst tea lovers all over the world. This new tea bag is pyramidal in shape and has more room for the whole leaf tea to expand while steeping. So for those of you who would like to get the goodness of our premium whole leaf teas in the convenience of a teabag, you can still do so without compromising on the taste and aroma.