The method of consumption of tea has changed many times throughout history. When tea leaves were first starting to be infused with water in China, the leaves were packed into cakes with a multitude of other things like ginger to add different flavor and add to the numerous health benefits that tea has all alone. People in China then started stone grinding the tea leaves to consume whisked with water in a similar way to how Matcha is enjoyed today. Then people started brewing tea with the loose leaves. Steeping loose leaves in water is the most popular way in which Tea is enjoyed today. However, there are always variations in brewing methods. One of the major changes to the method of brewing leaf tea is the use of disposable tea bags. When the English started enjoying Chinese tea they drank whole leaf tea, what we refer to today as loose leaf tea. This changed in the last century when large tea corporations desired to produce disposable more convenient ways to brew and sell tea. Today these large corporations do this by purchasing what is referred to as “tea dust” in the tea world. Tea dust is produced in two ways. The first way in which tea dust is produced starts with low-grade tea grown near cities or close to pollution hotspots due to the desire for cheap, quick, and easy transportation. This tea is harvested, fixed, dried, then crushed into tea dust and sold in tea bags. The second method of acquiring tea dust for tea bags is by collecting the remains of what is left over from the production of good quality tea leaves. This includes the stems and everything else that gets sifted away from the good quality leaves. This is often collected by the producers and sold in bulk to large tea corporations. It is collected by machine or sometimes even swept off the ground of the production floor and stuffed into large sacks with any kind of dirt or insects and whatever else might be there.
As tea lovers, we find this a little disturbing and absurd. Even good quality Tea is relatively cheap when considering the number of possible infusions in the gong fu and western brewing styles. However, most of us in the Western world simply don’t know what true tea is and can go years loving tea in tea bag form without even considering what the dust inside the bags might look like whole. We believe this to be a detriment to ourselves and to the tea we are drinking! Tea is a beverage of relaxation and appreciation. It slows us down and calms us, and those properties of the tea drinking experience are greatly enhanced when you can see the tea leaves unfurl in the water and come to life. Allowing the leaves to move about the water, to let the water pass through the leaves, is fundamental to the steeping of tea. This observing of the leaves allows you to appreciate more fully the aesthetic beauty of the leaves. The experience of observing the leaves is grounding and earthy. The aroma of loose leaf tea is enticing and complex and an added layer of the tea drinking experience that is enjoyable to us naturally. The flavor of the tea is more complex in its loose leaf form as well and has less of the harshness that tea bags might have. This is especially true for green tea bags, which often have an overpowering sour flavor that is not present in loose leaf tea.
Many tea bag distributors are also now switching from tea bags to tea sachets, which are mostly made with synthetic plastic materials, and though they often contain more whole leaf teas, there is little information provided for them on the processing and origins of the teas. The synthetic plastic materials also might be of some concern for some due to their being steeped in boiling water.
Tea New Jersey is dedicated to sourcing the best loose leaf tea for you and helping you in your transition to loose leaf tea if our teas are your first encounter and also promise to help enhance your experience if you are a practiced loose leaf tea drinker. Let us know if you have any questions and we look forward to helping you enjoy the good leaf!