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Tea Bags vs Loose Leaf & Tea Filter


Richard Kilgore
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Several posts have raised the issue of tea bags vs using tea filters with loose leaf tea, including these:

.....

Well, this is good to know. I drink tea at least three times a day and more if the weather is chilly. *But* I know very little about tea. My primary sources are from tea bags, my garden and hot water as provided by my bottled water spigot. Not the best resources, I realize.

I love perfumed, flowery, subtle, woodsy, smokey, bright, intense, etc. Really, I haven't met a tea or tisane that I didn't like, though some of the smoked ones presented a lovely challenge.

....

why not try using loose leaf tea-purchase teeli or any other brand of tea filter-

u will be surprised how easy it is to prepare your tea of choice

joanne

What's your preference and why?

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I like loose tea leaves when I am at home. Clearly teabags are convenient if you are in an office situation. If you like unusual teas, though, they may not be available in bags. And you can't beat the price of loose tea. Lately I have seen "make-your-own" teabags. Seems like that would be a great option.

Those dopey spoons with a hinge are too annoying, and so are those mesh balls. I love my teapot that came with a basket insert for the loose tea, and I also have another mesh insert with a top that fits right into my thermos if I want to take it with me. So if your filtering method is cumbersome or a drag to clean you probably won't be happy with loose tea leaves.

Many years ago my MIL gave me a modernist glass teapot--beautiful looking, very thin glass. I think it was made in Germany, but I can't remember. It had a glass cylinder insert with little holes in it. However, tea leaves got stuck in the little holes and it was a major pain to clean. Form should follow function! I have no idea what I did with it. It could have been one of those things I was sort of relieved to have broken, since I felt obliged to use it--it was so good looking.

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Hello- According to my understanding:High quality leaves are often rolled,atleast Chinese green tea leaves are often/usually rolled.One gets multiple steepings as these leaves gradually unfurl.Tea bags and tea balls inhibit this unfurling process and thus effect the quality of the brew.BTW open infusion baskets ,like those that come with some tea cups/pots are fine and do not cause the problems mentioned above.So.......I use loose tea.

Edited by Naftal (log)

"As life's pleasures go, food is second only to sex.Except for salami and eggs...Now that's better than sex, but only if the salami is thickly sliced"--Alan King (1927-2004)

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Here's a link to the teeli filters Joanne (jpr54) posted about above. There are permananet ones and disposables.

I occassionally use t-sac Tee Filters.

The t-sac and teeli disposable filters used with loose leaves are a great alternative to tea bags when you're traveling.

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The t-sac and teeli disposable filters used with loose leaves are a great alternative to tea bags when you're traveling.

What's the difference between those disposable tea infusers and tea bags? They're larger than standard tea bags, but I don't see how they would let the tea fully unfurl. Or are they bags one would use with one's lesser quality teas?

The muslin tea infuser I have is like the one at the very bottom of this website. I got mine at Mariage Freres several years ago, but I don't see it on their website anymore. I think The Cultured Cup used to carry it, too, but I don't see it on their website, either (this would have been way back in 2001 or 2002). It's more transportable than metal infusers, but care must be taken if storing them when they're still wet. I think the extra care is worth it, though, if it means not creating as much waste (my other issue with tea bags is that they're not very environmentally friendly).

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Has anyone here actually done a taste test to determine whether bags, balls, and baskets have a noticeable effect on the product?

I did one many years ago using a ball vs my muslin tea infuser. The muslin tea infuser won (the resulting tea was much much more flavourful), but the ball I used was really much too small for the amount of tea I used. I think the balls could work well if one had a very large ball for a smaller amount of tea, leaving a lot of space for the leaves to unfurl. That doesn't work as well for individual servings, however, because larger tea balls often won't fit in mugs.

Ditto for tea bags--if you're filling them yourself, if you have a large enough tea bag the leaves can still unfurl to their fullest.

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Has anyone here actually done a taste test to determine whether bags, balls, and baskets have a noticeable effect on the product?

I have not done a formal test, Chris, but for me the change from a metal tea ball many years ago to an infuser basket was not subtle. I don't use the fill-it-youself tea bags often, but the issue there still has to do with the extent to which tea leaves are restricted from opening up fully. (And of course, the problem with the vast majority of commercially made tea bags is that they use low grade cut leaves, so anything that allows you to use good quality loose leaves is going to be a noticeable improvement.)

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Thanks for the Teeli filter link, Richard. That's my basket. I have had two generations of them: one was very annoying because it had a solid plastic bottom and the leaves didn't rinse out easily. My next one--and it's perfect--has a mesh bottom same as the sides and cleaning it out is a breeze. It fits on a single cup or on my thermos. With it's tidy little lid it can be set aside in a cup awaiting a second infusion without looking tacky!

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Has anyone here actually done a taste test to determine whether bags, balls, and baskets have a noticeable effect on the product?

For the last 20 years or so, I drank Constant Comment from bags. at least two cups/bags a day.

A year or so ago, I was at a local tea shop and started buying loose tea of various types...I also got one of the mesh, in cup, strainers.

One day I took a bag of Constant Comment and ripped the bag open and put it in the mesh strainer

I was shocked at the increase in all of the flavors of the bagged tea.It was ten times stronger in all the flavors. There was no clue it was the same tea...

I still use the loose tea most of the time but when I am out of the loose the ripped open bags are much much better than the bags alone...

Bud

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The t-sac and teeli disposable filters used with loose leaves are a great alternative to tea bags when you're traveling.

What's the difference between those disposable tea infusers and tea bags? They're larger than standard tea bags, but I don't see how they would let the tea fully unfurl. Or are they bags one would use with one's lesser quality teas?

The muslin tea infuser I have is like the one at the very bottom of this website. I got mine at Mariage Freres several years ago, but I don't see it on their website anymore. I think The Cultured Cup used to carry it, too, but I don't see it on their website, either (this would have been way back in 2001 or 2002). It's more transportable than metal infusers, but care must be taken if storing them when they're still wet. I think the extra care is worth it, though, if it means not creating as much waste (my other issue with tea bags is that they're not very environmentally friendly).

Thanks, prasantrin. I agree that the disposable tea infusers, which are do-it-yourself-teabags, do not let most loose tea leaves unfurl as much as they would in a mesh infuser, not to mention as they would floating freely in a tea pot. But they are a lot better than using commercial CTC teabags.

I don't think I have seen the muslin bags in the shop at The Cultured Cup recently either, but I'll ask next time I am there. I think I did see them at a Central Market, so I'll check there again.

How long will one of the muslin bags last? Does any flavor carry over from one tea to another? That is, if some one used it for a Jasmine tea, would that flavor contaminate the flavor of a green tea used next?

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I'm of the teapot and loose leaf tea persuasion when I make tea at home. I have a standard, Cchinese restaurant" teapot, as well as a couple of the small, clay teapots, which supposedly acquire a certain "seasoning" from the brewing tea.

When i use these small pots, I rebrew the tea leaves 2 or 3 times (each potful is only 6 or 8 ounces), and the tea changes in character each time. When I use the larger restaurant style teapot, I also use a fine strainer over the cup when decanting the tea.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I'm quite narrow minded when it comes to my tea. I only drink Twining's loose leaf Earl Grey. :blink: I brew it with the tea straight into the pot and usually don't bother with a strainer when pouring. I also absolutely despise Twining's Earl Grey tea bags.

(The above isn't strictly true. I happily drink green tea in japanese restaurant and gladly drink whatever I'm served if I'm eg having tea and scones at a café. But if I'm in charge of the arrangements, then Twining's Earl Grey it is.)

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I'm now sold on loose leaf. I got a finum tea brewing basket that I've been using to great effect. I also find that brewing a cup of tea with this basket is only slightly more work than using a bag, and the result is utterly superior.

Chris Amirault

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Has anyone here actually done a taste test to determine whether bags, balls, and baskets have a noticeable effect on the product?

Yes. Not side-by-side, but sequentially - I used balls for a spell a/c convenience, decades ago when I first got into tea, after tiring of keeping two pots & two strainers handy in a cramped NYC apartment,. In the end I went back to the two-pot loose-leaf method I've employed to this day. The difference in flavor made the extra hassle a small price to pay.

Over the summer I bought a British tea pot with a stainless steel mesh basket infuser from Bridgham & Cook which proved to be the next best thing to loose-leaf brewing. The basket is large enough to allow the leaves to circulate & expand & produces a really nice cup. (It's also similar to that finum basket, except there's no plastic, it's entirely stainless steel.) Unfortunately B&C don't list that particular item on their website, & in 10 minutes with Google I can't find it elsewhere. I left the pot behind in the cottage we'd rented as a gift to the owners & I didn't make note of the brand. Anyway it's a very good alternative.

The infuser is similar in concept to this filter, except it's open at the top & designed to rest inside the teapot, so that you can pour the boiling water directly onto the leaves & then place the teapot top over it while it brews. There's a little handle for easy removal. The pot is a nice heavy ceramic; the whole kit is well designed in every aspect.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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