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Loose tea vs. tea bags

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 T2, Birchall and Tea Makers of London 


      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


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