Loose tea was traditionally the main way tea was traded and drunk, but after the invention of the tea bag, has been displaced as the main method of drinking tea.
While loose tea does not have the convenience of tea bags, loose tea is the recommended way to drink tea. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, loose tea contains high-quality tea. Secondly, loose tea tends to brew better than tea bags, therefore allowing the drinker to enjoy the tea in its full glory.
Loose tea and tea quality
Loose tea is generally regarded as the higher quality tea. There are three reasons for this.
Firstly, loose tea leaves are larger than leaves found in tea bags. Tea leaves contain chemicals and essential oils that are basis of a tea's flavor. The smaller the size of the leaf, the fewer flavors are available.
Tea bags usually contain leaves called "fannings", or broken parts. Loose tea usually consists of whole leaves.
Secondly, the production of tea bags affects the quality of the tea. Tea bags are usually processed using the "crush, tear and curl" (CTC) method, where leaves are placed through cylindrical rollers with small teeth. The rollers crush, tear and curl the leaves. While this method increases the amount of tea that can be placed into tea bags, the method also destroys some of the essential oils that enhance the flavor of the tea.
Loose tea, on the other hand, is usually rolled manually. It is a gentler method that preserves all components of the tea.
Lastly, tea requires space to expand and unfurl. Good water circulation is required, which is not available in a small tea bag.
Brewing loose tea
Brewing loose tea is not difficult. However, it does require knowledge of the ideal water temperature to use with a tea, and also the proper amount of time that tea should be allowed to boil. If the water is too hot, it can destroy some of the oils within the tea. If tea is brewed for too long, it may become bitter.