Loose Leaf Tea vs. Tea Bags
Debunking The Myth That Loose Leaf is Superior
Once upon a time, I dabbled. I know, that sentence really lets your mind wander, but let’s get our heads out of the gutter—I was once known to use loose leaf tea every so often.
Gasp. I know.
I thought it made me fancy...a tea snob, if you will. But really, it was just more money, mess, time, and effort than I was willing to put in. I wanted something simple that didn’t sacrifice flavor or quality. Enter Embrew artisan tea bags—perfectly pre-sweetened and without compromise.
Flavor is super important to me, and my original tea bags were whole leaf teas with sweetener. But, in order to expand and grow, I needed to use a machine (wince) to grind the tea and blend it with natural craft granulated sweeteners. It hurt my heart to do this. I was convinced back then that whole leaf tea was always better. What did I learn in the process of milling and grinding the teas and herbs? Yes, the flavors change, some more dramatically than others, but most of the time, it’s for the better (more on that later)!
If you read that last paragraph with some distaste and you’re a loose leaf fan at heart, I think it’s important that you continue reading. I might be able to change your mind! There are a few myths floating around out there about tea bags, making it seem that loose leaf is the superior option, but that’s not always the case. According to the Dollar Tea Club, loose leaf tea is recognized as being more environmentally friendly, better quality, and having more flavor—but I think it’s time to stand up for the underdog tea bags—they aren’t ALL as terrible as the grocery store dust and fannings passed off as tea.
What Is Loose Leaf Tea?
First thing’s first—we have to define our tea types. Loose leaf tea, or whole leaf tea, is mostly made up of whole, unbroken leaves and it’s not brewed using a tea bag. According to The Spruce Eats, when steeping loose leaf teas, your infuser should leave room for the tea leaves to absorb water and expand as they infuse. Consequently, this allows the water to flow through the leaves and extract key vitamins, minerals, aromas….and most importantly, flavor! Here’s a list of true loose leaf tea varieties from the camellia sinensis plant:
What Are Tea Bags?
Turning the tables, now let’s talk about tea bags. Traditionally, tea bags are known for using low-grade tea leaf dust or fannings which are smaller pieces of tea that have larger surface areas compared to the whole leaf. A larger surface area can allow more flavor to evaporate, and can lead to the tea bag being less than fresh. Plus, it’s widely known that many store bought tea bags use plastics in their packaging or bleached cellulose fibers—yikes! Even some “paper” tea bags have also been found to include plastics. Just check out this USA Today article for evidence.
But, it’s not all bad—I promise. Once you find a high-quality tea bag that’s packed with flavor, it’s actually much easier to incorporate into your day compared to loose leaf tea. There’s no messy infuser or clean up. All you need is a mug, a kettle, and your tea bag to steep. Bonus: if you use Embrew tea, you don’t even have to worry about adding sweeteners.
Settling the Debate
At the end of the day, tea time is supposed to be enjoyable, and we encourage people to prepare and drink what feels best for them. However, keep in mind that tea grade and freshness are the most important things. Bar none. Bad tea in tea bags gives you a bad flavor. Great tea in tea bags, crushed properly, and blended in a balanced way, will give you great flavor, and oftentimes, it’s richer than the whole leaf. Grinding the tea leaves exposes more surface area and releases more essential oils, but can often also release more tannins causing a bitter brew.
Interestingly, some of the Embrew teas changed in the transition from whole leaf to ground leaves and herbs when I was just getting started. Some for the better, and some blends needed tweaks to make sure the chamomile didn’t take over completely (which it did and we adjusted). When the blends didn’t taste the same once we tried crushing the leaves, I couldn’t allow the tea to change. I still hand-make every single tea bag of the Creamy Honey Oolong because the magic disappeared once it was cut and ground. I’ll die before I let that beautiful, creamy, happy flavor change.
With that being said, let’s put some myths about tea bags to rest, shall we? Sure, not all tea bags are created equally, but Embrew tea bags are high-quality, responsibly sourced, have robust flavors, and are environmentally friendly. So, be careful the next time you hear a blanket statement about tea bags!
Myth #1: Loose leaf tea is higher quality.
Debunk: Yes, almost all generic store bought tea bags use lower quality tea leaves and tea leaf dust and fannings, but that’s not the case with Embrew and other premium tea bag companies. We source our tea ingredients from different farms all over the world, buying directly from growers we know by name—plus, we buy Direct and Fair Trade and we don’t use overly processed or shredded leaves.
Myth #2: Tea bags aren't environmentally friendly.
Debunk: Sure, some aren’t—like I mentioned before, a lot of commercial tea bags that “cute” and show off the ingredients inside actually have harmful plastics that seep into the tea itself. However, our tea bags are not bleached, they don’t come with a wasteful tag, string, or staple, and they can be composted (after resteeping, of course!)
Myth #3: Tea bags are bitter and have limited flavor options.
Debunk: That’s where they’re wrong. Our tea bags are lightly pre-sweetened and come in a range of complex artisan flavors. We carefully crush and grind loose leaf-grade teas from small farms to preserve flavor and expose essential oils, combining a touch of natural craft sweeteners during the process. Whether it’s our green oolong from Taiwan or black tea from Nepal, each ingredient is treated with care.
So there you have it—I dabbled, pivoted, and never looked back. Once I knew I could achieve the same great flavors and freshness with a tea bag, I never had any interest in using loose leaf teas again. Forget the mess and infuser (I think I threw mine away, actually). Try switching up your tea routine with Embrew. It’s a simple, affordable, and hassle-free way to indulge if you’re used to loose leaf. Actually, it’s so easy to make that we even encourage getting your kids in on the action. Check out our blog article on the top 5 reasons to have tea time with your kids, or learn how you can make a batch of cold brew for the fam with our resteepable tea bags. Interested in exploring our flavors? Explore our curated selection of pre-sweetened teas, or skip right to the caffeinated or caffeine-free section if you know what you’re looking for.