Teabags have been the go-to way to brew tea for decades, but there’s a better way to drink tea – it’s called leaf tea. Leaf tea is made from loose, whole leaves that are steeped in hot water and brewed for a longer time than traditional teabags. This process of brewing allows more flavor from the leaves to come through and provides an overall better cup of tea.
Teabags are a great invention. They’re convenient, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive. But if you want the best-tasting cup of tea, then it’s time to ditch those paper cups for loose leaf teas. Tea leaves have more aroma than tea bags and they offer an infinitely better flavor profile.
In this article, I will discuss the difference between tea leaves and tea bags, why leaf teas are better than bagged ones, and what types of good leaf teas are available today.
Higher Quality Tea
Tea Leaves are better than tea bags because they provide a better quality tea. Most tea leaves are organic upon purchase, with no chemicals or additives; whereas, tea bags have been ground down and mixed with additives and chemicals, causing the tea to be weaker and less flavorful.
According to theteaclub.com, most teabag companies use ground tea to hide low-quality leaves that have less flavor, go stale quicker, and offer a much more bitter taste.
Benefits of Quality Tea Leaves
Using tea leaves, as opposed to tea bags, can offer a variety of benefits one may not consider. For instance, Tea leaves, tea buds, or partially cut leaves have the potential to be reused. Using actual tea leaves means you’re getting them fresh and can use them multiple times. They retain their flavor as they haven’t already been weakened by the process through which most tea bags go.
Teabags are processed until they can barely offer enough flavor for a single cup, keeping consumers coming back for more, far more often than those who drink reusable tea leaves.
Tea leaves also provide a fuller flavor with different notes, some nutty, some earthy, some that have lingering herb flavors, etc. Teabags have a dull, single-note flavor that gets boring after a while.
Medicinal Benefits of Tea Leaves
Loose Leaf Tea also provides much stronger medicinal benefits than tea bags. Green tea, for instance, has a higher concentration of antioxidants when in leaf form rather than in bagged form. The medicinal properties in tea leaves haven’t been diluted by overworking the leaves during processing and packaging as they have in bagged tea.
Types of Tea Leaves to Consider
There are many kinds of tea, each with its own benefits and qualities. It’s important to know what kinds of teas provide and what kinds of benefits.
Green Tea Leaves
- Green tea leaves are packed with antioxidants which can reduce the risk of heart and brain diseases as well as some cancers.
- Improves brain function and increases fat burning.
- Helps with weight loss.
- Reduces bad breath.
- Helps prevent type 2 diabetes.
Black Tea Leaves
- Black tea leaves also contain a certain level of antioxidants.
- May improve one’s heart health as well as gut health.
- Reduces blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Lowers blood sugar.
- Reduces the risk of stroke and some cancers.
Oolong Tea Leaves
- Oolong tea leaves help with weight loss and lowering blood pressure.
- Improves sleep quality.
- Protects the brain.
- Improves gut health.
- Protects against certain cancers.
Peppermint Tea Leaves
- Peppermint tea leaves are most popular for easing upset stomachs.
- Reduces nausea.
- Freshens breath.
- Relieves clogged sinuses and menstrual cramps.
- Helps to relieve headaches and migraines
White Tea Leaves
- White tea leaves are yet another type of tea full of antioxidants.
- Reduces the risk of heart disease.
- Helps fight some cancers.
- Protects teeth against bacteria.
- Potentially helps weight loss.
Cost Comparison Between Tea Leaves and Tea Bags
While tea leaves may have more health benefits, better flavor, and are reusable, they also tend to be more expensive and harder to find than bagged teas.
Bagged teas are mass-produced and widely distributed. You could walk over to the nearest grocery/convenience store and find several different brands and flavors of tea bags ready to be purchased.
Loose tea leaves are a little bit more tricky. Sometimes you can find loose leaf tea at a grocery store but a lot of people prefer to order their tea online or visit a special tea shop because there they can find a wider selection. Below are some well-known stores and the cost/variety differences between the loose leaf tea and tea bags they sell. Usually, the tea in these stores will be of higher quality.
Here are some examples of the prices of different famous grocery stores:
Important note – The prices may change from time to time.
Loose Leaf Tea
- Lipton: 8oz – $4.50
- Brooke Bond Red Label: 2lbs – $9.56
- Celestial Seasonings Fruit Sampler: 18ct – $2.50
- Lipton: 100ct. – $3.48
- Luzianne: 24ct. – $1.98
- Tetley: 100ct – $2.98
The options go on and on.
Loose Leaf Tea
- Heritage Tea Queen B: 2oz – $9.99
- Pinky Up (various flavors): 2-3 1/2 oz – $9.99
- Yerba Mate Organic: 1lb. – $14.99
- Lipton: 100ct. – $3.69
- Luzianne: 24ct. – $1.99
- Twinnings Classics English Breakfast Tea: 50ct. – $6.79
- Stash (various Flavors): 18-24ct. – 3.79
The selection continues
Loose Leaf Tea
- Lipton Gallon Size Tea Bags: 48ct. – $10.78
- Lipton Tea Bags (regular size): 312ct. – $8.98
- Luzianne: 96ct. – $10.28
- Steep by Bigelow: 60ct. – $8.28
As you can see, not only are tea leaves hard to come by, but they are also a lot more expensive than tea bags. While better quality, loose leave tea comes in smaller packages and costs several dollars more. Bagged tea comes in insanely large quantities at cheap prices, though these teas are lacking in flavor and quality.
How It’s Made: Tea Leaves v.s. Tea Bags
Loose leaf tea is made by harvesting tea leaves from the tops of tea plants. According to senchateabar.com, the leaves at the top two inches of the plant are called flushes and are only produced every 7-15 days. Tea leaves are typically hand plucked and stored in large baskets.
Each individual tea leaf is inspected and sorted based on size and type. They are then processed and packaged. The most orthodox method of tea processing is withering, rolling, oxidation, and drying.
This is how “flavor profiles” are created (senchateabar.com). The orthodox method is typically used on darker teas. Lighter teas, such as green tea, needless oxidation so they can produce lighter, fresher flavors.
Bagged teas, unlike tea leaves, are made from broken leaves and dust. Most companies that make teabags crush, tear, and curl the tea leaves, breaking them down in order to make grinds to fill the bags. Using large machines that roll and crush the leaves to fit into bags, companies subsequently cause the healthy components, such as antioxidants, to dull in comparison to organic whole tea leaves. This process also dulls the flavors and richness of the tea, causing bagged tea to have a more bitter taste.
You deserve the best tea experience, and that’s why I recommend using loose leaf teas instead of teabags. Loose-leaf teas are more flavorful, they offer a wider variety of options for brewing styles and taste profiles to suit your preferences, and you can enjoy them without any paper or stringy bits in your drink.
If you want to make the switch from tea bagged tea to loose leaf tea leaves but aren’t sure where to begin–don’t worry! I have plenty of resources on our blog about how different ingredients affect flavor profiles so you know what type will be perfect for you. Whether it’s green, black, white, or herbal iced tea – I’ve got all the tips and tricks.