Loose tea vs bagged tea and where bagged teas may go wrong

Oxidized tea
penkin101
New user
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:52 am
Location: UK

Sun Jul 21, 2019 12:01 pm

Hello everyone,
I've always been a big tea drinker but mainly a tea bag primary/mainstream brands (my favourite is Yorkshire tea). I've had plenty of loose black blend teas before also but only out at coffee and tea shops. Loose tea's seems superior but a lot more effort for people on the go. I'm wondering firstly which you think is better and why and then also where you think bagged tea companies could step up more to be more towards loose tea quality if they could? i Feel something could be done as a lot of black blend mainstream teas just don't quite hit the spot. Any brands you can suggest i try is also a big help. I much appreciate you wisdom tea family!
Penkin :D (i'm based in the south of the UK)
Last edited by penkin101 on Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
pedant
Admin
Posts: 1026
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2017 4:35 am
Location: Chicago
Contact:

Sun Jul 21, 2019 12:28 pm

welcome!

high end tea is rarely bagged.

in essence, most bagged tea is like this:

Image

and loose leaf tea can be like this:

Image

not all loose leaf tea is good, but you won't find the good stuff in a styrofoam cup in the grocery store.
enjoy the journey :mrgreen:
User avatar
pedant
Admin
Posts: 1026
Joined: Fri Sep 29, 2017 4:35 am
Location: Chicago
Contact:

Sun Jul 21, 2019 12:30 pm

here is a topic you may find amusing: viewtopic.php?f=36&t=806
(and no, it's not necessary to spend hundreds of dollars to get started in loose leaf tea)
User avatar
Victoria
Admin
Posts: 2282
Joined: Sat Sep 30, 2017 3:33 pm
Location: Santa Monica, CA
Contact:

Sun Jul 21, 2019 3:31 pm

Yorkshire tea use to be one of my favorite blacks as well, it is nice and strong. To get started on loose leaf teas I recommend you sample a variety of teas. Since you like black try Assam and Darjeeling Indian varieties and Nepalese as well. Then there are blacks from Sun Moon Lake and Hualien, Taiwan that are eye popping amazing and many Chinese blacks too. If there are any loose leaf tea shops where you are I recommend you sample a variety of their teas.

A discussion about tea vendors in EU, since UK is still a partner :) viewtopic.php?f=17&t=696
And Vendor Discussions viewforum.php?f=17
User avatar
Bok
Vendor
Posts: 3619
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Sun Jul 21, 2019 8:56 pm

penkin101 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 12:01 pm
Loose tea's seems superior but a lot more effort for people on the go.
If you use grandpa style tea brewing, it is actually less effort than teabags and with the added benefit of not destroying your stomach :mrgreen:

Grandpa style:
throw a few grams of medium to good quality in a thermos (less amount of what you would use for a single serving normally) and add water. Top-up as you please and as long as you are still pleased with the taste.
LuckyMe
Posts: 103
Joined: Thu May 02, 2019 3:17 pm
Location: Chicago
Contact:

Mon Jul 22, 2019 1:07 pm

Bok wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 8:56 pm
penkin101 wrote:
Sun Jul 21, 2019 12:01 pm
Loose tea's seems superior but a lot more effort for people on the go.
If you use grandpa style tea brewing, it is actually less effort than teabags and with the added benefit of not destroying your stomach :mrgreen:

Grandpa style:
throw a few grams of medium to good quality in a thermos (less amount of what you would use for a single serving normally) and add water. Top-up as you please and as long as you are still pleased with the taste.

+1 for grandpa style brewing. Also, an inexpensive infuser basket would let you easily steep loose tea, both western style and gongfu.
penkin101
New user
Posts: 2
Joined: Sun Jul 21, 2019 11:52 am
Location: UK

Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:16 pm

Thank you for the replies,
I been looking into it a little more. (though still drinking Yorkshire tea XD at home and tetleys :oops: at work burgh)
I was recommended Tea pigs as a good loose tea / bag tea hybrid brand but am yet to try it as looking at their site it seemed to be fairly expensive per bag though prices do go down the more you buy.
I think the thing with loose tea is it seems to be more effort than most want to deal with, i'm wondering why there isn't a brand out there doing proper bagged leaf instead of the standard (what seems to be) dust tea.
I'm visiting my mother this weekend so may take her out to try a decent tea shop if i can find one in Bournemouth or Poole.
I see Assam seems to be the main black tea though i have heard a few people talk about sun moon lake (someone in the post also mentioned it) i will have to look this up. Where do you guys purchase your tea from? is there any decent websites that fill this market space that i'm currently unaware of?
Thanks again for the advice all.
(@pedant haha you are quite right nothing in Styrofoam is good generally, i enjoyed your picture explanation, well played)
User avatar
Bok
Vendor
Posts: 3619
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:22 pm

penkin101 wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 3:16 pm
I'm visiting my mother this weekend so may take her out to try a decent tea shop if i can find one in Bournemouth or Poole.
I see Assam seems to be the main black tea though i have heard a few people talk about sun moon lake (someone in the post also mentioned it) i will have to look this up. Where do you guys purchase your tea from? is there any decent websites that fill this market space that i'm currently unaware of?
Thanks again for the advice all.
If you are in the UK Postcard teas comes to mind, they're in London. There are companies doing loose leaf in a bag, but the issue is not only the obvious waste of packaging material, but also that whatever bag it is, still imparts some sort of flavour to the tea (although many won't notice). For other recommendations I suggest browsing the vendor discussion forums, there you will find a lot of options. I would not count on finding a decent tea shop in small-town England. I just recently heard from properly UK-grown English tea, if I were living closer I would check it out. In the worst case, you can still go to Fortnum&Masons and browse their open leaves section. Overpriced and soso, but still way better than teabags.

Sun moon lake is a type of black tea typical for Taiwan, generated by the Japanese during their occupation by crossing Assam and local varietals.

Taiwan has a lot of other black teas worth checking out, not made of Assam, which are very nice, sweet and honey like in taste. Do not turn acidic or bitter easily. Not comparable to Assam teas at all. If you try those you will wonder if you can ever have a Yorkshire bag ever again :mrgreen:

China obviously has a lot of different black teas as well, tricky thing is to find the good ones.

Good luck mate!
lucylove
Posts: 3
Joined: Mon Oct 21, 2019 3:54 pm
Location: US

Mon Oct 21, 2019 4:04 pm

Oh, Yorkshire Gold teabags will always be a staple in my house (Yorkshire without the gold is too weak for me!) I'm enjoying experimenting with loose leaf teas, though, and am really developing a taste for chai. However, you can dunk your biscuits in loose leaf tea...doesn't seem right :D
User avatar
Lisanerd23
New user
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2020 3:34 am

Wed Sep 23, 2020 3:55 am

I believe, teabags can't be better than loose tea, but in cases of long journeys it may help you over. Anyway, I don't think there is great difference between bagged tea if we are talking about premium ones in this segment. Once, I tried some bagget tea in China's hotel (you know, those teabags in the rooms) and I was pretty surprised with its reach taste, especially we used an ordinary tea pot, but I think it wasn't anything special for Chinese people. But for me it was.
Last edited by pedant on Fri Sep 25, 2020 12:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: mod edit: removed link to affiliate marketing site
User avatar
LeoFox
Posts: 107
Joined: Tue Sep 01, 2020 4:01 pm
Location: Washington DC
Contact:

Wed Sep 23, 2020 10:11 am

For convenience at the office or for experimenting with making my own chai or blends, i often use finum disposable paper tea filter bags. They are very easy to use: plop your loose leaf into the pouches and infuse as if it is a teabag. The bags are relatively cheap, made in germany, biodegradable, unbleached and, per my experience, practicality unnoticeable esp when compared to typical bags that contain some kind of glue, plastic or staple. This is from the amazon:

"made from pulp of the abaca plant - looks like a banana tree"

Main issue for me is that the porosity is not as high as the plastic bags, so you may need to "tea bag it" slightly more aggressively than you would a typical bag. On the go, I even use this to make coffee: 25 gram ground in a bag per 300 mL for 5 minutes does the trick.

They sell on amazon for about 5 dollars for 100 bags. They come in several sizes.
User avatar
Baisao
Posts: 744
Joined: Mon Dec 11, 2017 5:17 pm
Location: Austin, TX

Thu Sep 24, 2020 1:31 am

As for why teabag sellers are disinclined to use higher quality tea:

1) The product needs to be shelf stable potentially for years as boxes of teabags sit on grocery or warehouse shelves. Many higher quality teas will go off without proper storage.

2) While India-bush tea is cut and sorted some fines fall to the floor or to a tray beneath the sorting machine. The larger pieces make it into bulk bags for sale as a so-called premium tea, while the fines make it into teabags so they do not go to waste. Various fines are blended to target a flavor profile before adding to the teabags.

3) An overwhelming number of people either don’t know there’s better tea or they don’t appreciate the value of great tasting teas. The former will continue to buy bad tea at tremendous margins because they don’t know better, the latter is penny wise but pound foolish.

4) They want a low calorie beverage that doesn’t taste like water or they want green tea for their health.

I’m sure there are more reasons but these are four that come to mind.

I bag my loose leaf tea at work, which is hard to grandpa style since it’s always sencha. Otherwise, it’s loose leaf in small teapots at home where I can focus on the really delicious stuff.
mbanu
Posts: 154
Joined: Fri May 03, 2019 3:45 pm

Thu Sep 24, 2020 3:25 am

The best place to start is with terminology. Strictly speaking "bagged tea" is a method of preparation, not a type of tea -- you can put any tea in a bag. Many places sell empty bags for just this purpose.

The term to use is "tea fannings" or in some cases "tea dust". You can brew these sorts of tea without a teabag, if you'd like. You can use a teapot and over-cup mesh strainer, or a mug infuser, for example. You can even look at the example of ceremonial matcha, which is a very fine tea dust, where no attempt is made to separate the dust from the tea whatsoever.

So why would someone choose tea fannings or tea dust instead of whole leaves? One big thing is frequency of consumption, because one of the biggest advantages of whole loose-leaf tea is that it has a very good shelf-life. If the tea takes a month to reach the grocer from the tea farm, is sold in a week, and is consumed by the customers in two weeks, then the appeal of a tea that has a shelf life longer than a few months is not so high. All things being equal a longer shelf-life would be nice, but fannings have a big advantage over loose-leaf, in that the cost of production is lower due to mechanization. So as shipping times became faster (this was the biggest bottleneck), the size of tea particles became smaller in places like Ireland and the UK which used to be very heavy tea-drinkers. These sorts of teas are also easier to blend with, because there is no obvious distinction between the leaves of one garden and another, which can stabilize the price season to season.

Part of this was possible because of strong supply-chain control. One reason tea-fannings have never been as popular in China is because the Chinese market is full of counterfeits, and all tea fannings look the same, allowing malicious blending of teas from different regions, among other things. In the UK, the plantations were vertically integrated with the wholesalers, and sometimes also the retailers, so much of the tea never exchanged hands at all, which shaped how the rest of the market acted.

I think the problem comes when for whatever reason people start drinking less tea. Now the stock is not as fresh, more likely to become stale before it is finished. Reverting to a larger size would be much harder because now the price goes up. These larger sizes can't be used in blends with fannings or dusts because it causes mixed grade problems. So now all of the suppliers need to change to a larger size. Teabag shapes would need to be re-tooled. Habitual tea-drinkers are stressed by any change in their usual teas. So I suspect that instead what happens is that the sellers reformulate their blends to lower the price, in hopes that this will boost the demand back above the freshness threshold. Tea-grocers come out with new advertising campaigns. But of course this just makes the problem worse. :)

My pet theory, anyway.
pase22
Posts: 19
Joined: Sun Sep 27, 2020 6:16 pm
Location: Montreal

Sun Sep 27, 2020 9:00 pm

If you're carrying your tea in a tin, it doesn't take much time to scoop a teaspoon of tea into a strainer AKA: infuser. You have to wait for the water to come up to temperature anyway.
faj
Posts: 436
Joined: Mon Oct 14, 2019 6:45 am
Location: Quebec

Tue Sep 29, 2020 6:49 am

pase22 wrote:
Tue Sep 29, 2020 12:05 am
Yes, I now live on the south shore just across the Jacques Cartier bridge.
Reading through the forum, you will notice most members drink loose leaf teas. While in theory any tea can be put in bags, the best teas are not sold in teabag form, typically. The way most members prepare tea is by simply putting the leaves in a (usually small, by western standards) teapot that has some sort of filter, and pouring out the tea once the desired steeping time has been reached. Attention is paid to water temperature and steeping time, as they deeply affect the results (not all teas are best infused with boiling water). The leaves are usually steeped multiple times.

I will not lie, it can be quite a bit more expensive if you really dive into it, but there are affordable loose leaf teas that are, in my opinion, much better than bagged teas, and for the same price as one Starbucks coffee a day, you can afford having pleasant tea on a daily basis.

When conditions allow it, I would suggest you visit the Camellia Sinensis teahouse in Montréal. They have a wide variety of quality loose leaf tea, and they can prepare tea for you so that you. They also sell online, and you can visit their website to get an idea what is on offer. You can start with black teas if you are more comfortable with them, but do not discard other tea types too fast : what you get from teabags is likely to be very different from what you can get from properly infused loose leaves.
Post Reply