Loose Tea Vs. Tea Bags

If you’re a tea lover or new to the world of tea, you might be wondering which is better- loose leaf tea or the commercial tea bag?

Well, it really does all boils down to the flavour, quality, and freshness of the tea.

Brewing loose leaf tea allows hot water to infuse every part of a high-quality, tea product, to produce the best sipping experience possible.

The commercial tea bag is designed to make tea drinking efficient, easy, quick and convenient, but it gives a lower-quality tea product that mostly produces a single tasting profile.

Below are the differences between artisan loose leaf tea and commercial tea bag tea:

Artisan Loose Leaf Tea

*Produced in the artisan method of tea making:

  • Whole leaf, high-quality grade tea grown by small independent growers across the world, mostly in small batch.
  • Multiple flavour profiles extracted from whole tea leaves that are allowed to expand fully in hot water
  • Packaged loose in airtight containers to seal in freshness and flavours
  • Produced in an artisan method that involves hand-picking and hand-sorting quality tea leaves
  • The same leaves can be steeped multiple times for several cups of tea


    Commercial Tea Bag

    *Produced in the machine-driven Crush-Tear-Curl method

    • Cut leaf, low-grade tea dust and fannings
    • Single flavour profile meant for a strong cup of tea that can stand up to milk and sugar
    • Often the tea bag material is bleached paper that can add chemicals and off flavours to your brewed cup.
    • Machine-produced in high volume to be warehoused and stored for long periods of time
    • Flavour is fully extracted after just one steeping



      History Of The Tea Bag

      Modern commercial tea bags that contain “Cruch-Tear-Curl” tea are made of bleached paper fibre and contain heat-sealable plastic. But the very first tea bag was made of hand-sewn silk and contained whole leaf tea.

      During the 1900s, New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan began shipping small samples of his whole leaf teas packaged in hand-sewn silk tea bags to customers around the globe.

      Thomas Sullivan

      Thomas Sullivan (image: Bruutea)

      Sending his tea temples in silk tea bags was a cheap way for Mr. Sullivan to get new customers to try his teas, without the cost of expensive storage.

      When customers received the tea, they were supposed to remove the tea leaves to brew it, but found it much easier to make a cup of tea using the silk bag.  When customers re-ordered tea from Mr. Sullivan, they requested that he send it to them packaged in the silk bags that they had received before.

       Evolution of the tea bag

      Evolution of the tea bag - (picture: Time Magazine)

      Hand-sewn silk tea bags proved costly and time-consuming to produce, so Mr. Sullivan moved to a gauze material and produced tea bags commercially for his customers during the 1920s.

      Since Mr. Sullivan never patented his tea bag discovery, other merchants began to introduce their own versions of the tea bag to market—very smartly patenting their own inventions—and various versions of the tea bag evolved over time.

      • German tea company Teekanne reportedly created their own version of the tea bag for World War I soldiers. Dubbed “tea bombs”, the bags were made of fine cotton and were included in all German soldiers’ provisions.
      • William Hermanson, founder of a Boston paper company, patented the first heat-sealable paper fibre tea bag in 1930.
      • Tetley Tea, inspired by the American tea bag invention, is credited with inventing the first square tea bag in England in 1944. They developed a tea bag machine that could stitch 40 tea bags per minute for export.
      • The Lipton Tea Company, founded in Scotland in 1880, patented the four-sided, flow-through paper tea bag in 1952. The double chamber bag allowed the tea greater contact with water and more room for the tea leaves to expand in the bag.
      • Tetley Tea was the first to introduce the round paper tea bag in 1992. This was mainly a marketing invention designed for tea drinkers who preferred drinking tea from a big mug rather than a dainty cup. They also reduced some packaging waste, since round tea bags were typically free of the string and paper tags attached to square tea bags.
      • Brooke Bond, the parent company of the United Kingdom’s PG Tips, is credited with inventing the pyramid tea bag in 1997. The tall pyramid shape, they claimed, would perform like a teapot, giving tea leaves 50 percent more room in the bag than flat tea bag varieties.


      As the demand and popularity for tea bags grew, tea merchants and producers looked for ways to further cut costs and increase the rate of production.

      Since customers proved to care more about the convenience of the tea bag than the quality of the tea, commercial tea producers moved to the machine-driven CTC method of tea production to keep up with tea bag demand.

      Tea producers typically sourced lower quality tea and shredded the leaves to fit into small tea bags that could be machine produced, sealed with plastic or glue, and packaged with tags and strings for a more grocery-store marketable packaging design than loose leaf tea.


      We have a wide range of Loose Leaf Tea and Tea Bags from Birchall.


      History of the Tea Bag by United Kingdom Tea Council
      Tea Bag by Wikipedia
      The History of the Tea Bag by Teekanne
      A (Tea) Potted History by Tetley
      History of Lipton Tea by History of Business
      Brooke Bond's 'Gotta Brand New Bag' by The Free Library
      The Story of Tea: A Cultural History and Drinking Guide by Mary Lou Heiss and Robert J. Heiss, Ten Speed Press, 2007
      History of Tea by Wikipedia




      Comments 0

      Leave a comment

      Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

      All Blogs

      Kyoto-Style Slow Coffee Cold Brew Method

      By Alex Wardle on Apr 15, 2024

      Unveiling the Kyoto Chill: A Redber Coffee Guide to Slow Coffee Cold Brew Unwind and savour the exquisite taste of Kyoto-style slow coffee.  Here at Redber Coffee, we'r...

      Read more
      The Art of Slow Coffee

      By Petra Jones on Apr 07, 2024

      Slow coffee is more than just a method; it's an experience that emphasises manual brewing techniques, allowing you total control over the brewing variables. Slow coffee...

      Read more
      Crafting the Perfect Italian Espresso: A Journey Through Beans, Roasts, and Rituals

      By Andrea Agostini on Apr 05, 2024

      Ah, espresso. It has a deep, inviting smell and a creamy top that promises rich flavours. It wakes you up with a strong boost of energy. But espresso is more than ...

      Read more
      How Filter Paper Influences Your Coffee Extraction

      By Petra Jones on Mar 20, 2024

      When it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee, every detail matters. From the grind size to the water temperature, each element plays a crucial role in the final flavour of your coffee. One often-overlooked component is the filter paper used in your coffee maker. But how exactly does filter paper influence your coffee extraction?

      Read more
      Ocean Bottle: Leading the Charge in the Battle Against Plastic Pollution

      By Petra Jones on Mar 06, 2024

      In today's environmentally conscious society, Ocean Bottle stands as a shining example of innovation and hope. Launched in 2018, this visionary social impact company has set its sights on a monumental missio...

      Read more
      What is Filter Grind for Coffee?

      By Graham Jones on Feb 29, 2024

      Filter grind refers to the consistency of coffee grounds optimized for use in filter brewing methods. This encompasses a broad spectrum of devices from the classic drip coffee maker to pour-overs and the Aeropress. The grind size for these methods is typically medium, resembling coarse sand. This size ensures that hot water can properly extract the coffee's flavours and aromas without passing through too quickly, as it might with a finer grind, or too slowly, as with a coarser grind.

      Read more
      How to Fine-Tune Your Coffee Grind with Baratza ESP

      By Petra Jones on Feb 20, 2024

      As avid coffee lovers, we can all agree that the secret to a perfect cup of coffee is largely in the grind. With the right grind size, coffee flavours and aromas are accurately extracted, resulting in a delicious cup of coffee. For many of us, there is an ultimate grinder that perfectly accomplishes this task - the Baratza ESP coffee grinder. 

      Read more
      The Ultimate Guide to the Best Coffee Beans in the UK: 2024 Edition

      By Andrea Agostini on Feb 14, 2024

      Embark on a gourmet journey with our comprehensive 2024 guide to the UK's most exceptional coffee beans. This essential read takes you through the nuanced art of selecting beans that resonate with both the palate and the principles of sustainability. From the aromatic heights of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe to the robust depths of Brazilian Santos, we cover the beans that define the coffee landscape. We also spotlight the craftsmanship of leading local roasters like Redber Coffee, whose dedication to quality ensures your espresso is a luxurious ritual of taste and aroma.

      Read more
      The Best Valentine Gifts for Coffee Lover

      By Petra Jones on Feb 06, 2024

      Valentine's Day is just around the corner, and if your loved one is a coffee enthusiast, you're in luck! We've curated a list of the best Valentine gifts for coffee lov...

      Read more
      Exploring Baratza Grinders: Which One is Right for You?

      By Graham Jones on Jan 28, 2024

      Choosing the right coffee grinder can significantly impact the quality of your coffee. With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to decide which one is best for you. Baratza, a company dedic...

      Read more
      Tips for Making a Better Cafetiere Coffee at Home

      By Petra Jones on Jan 14, 2024

      Making a great cup of coffee with a cafetiere can be tricky especially if you are new to the world of coffee. But don't worry, with a few tips and tricks, you can make a delicious cup of coffee every time.

      Read more
      Top 5 Coffees to Try If you Love Cappuccinos & Lattes

      By Petra Jones on Jan 02, 2024

      When selecting the best coffee beans for cappuccinos and lattes, it's essential to choose beans that are medium-bodied and have a balanced flavour profile. Some of the our most popular coffee beans for cappu...

      Read more
      Coffee Of The Month January 2024 - Kenya Bora

      By Petra Jones on Jan 01, 2024

      Grown at high altitudes, between 1500-1700 meters above sea level, the coffee beans benefit from the perfect combination of rich volcanic soil, ideal climate, and skilled farmers. The coffee is made of varie...

      Read more
      Introducing Yes! Definitely Bottled Water with Breath-taking Illustrations from Independent Artists

      By Petra Jones on Dec 05, 2023

      Yes! Definitely, the bottled water brand that is making a difference in South Africa, is now making its big debut in the UK. And it's not just any ordinary bottled water - each bottle is a work of art, showc...

      Read more
      Best Tea Gifts for Tea Lovers

      By Petra Jones on Nov 16, 2023

      If you have a tea lover in your life and you're looking for the perfect gift, look no further. We've curated a list of the best tea gifts that are sure to delight any tea enthusiast.

      Read more