Many of our customers ask us why we don’t carry bagged tea. It’s easy and convenient, and they consider themselves to be too busy to make loose tea a part of their lives. The short answer is that it’s because we care about our customers, and the quality of our tea.
Tea bags constrict the leaves, preventing them from fully opening, and from fully imparting their flavor. This isn’t a problem for most bagged tea, though, because it is already ground to dust. Whole, loose-leaf tea has to be harvested by hand, in order to avoid damaging the crop. This is too expensive to do on the scale of cheap bagged teas. Bagged tea therefore has a machine simply shave off the top parts of the plants, where the good new leaves are, and grind them up. This also causes the leaves to oxidize more quickly, which is why traditional, cheap bagged tea is always black. If you’re ever feeling curious, try ripping open a tea bag. The contents is a ground, fine dust. If you’re wondering if whole leaves really make a difference, I want you to try to remember the days of instant coffee. Certainly, it was convenient, but the taste was terrible- so much so that it was traditionally consumed with milk and sugar. Compare it to freshly-ground coffee. There is absolutely a difference.
Bagged tea actually began accidentally. A tea company sent its customers samples in small paper bags, much as we do today, though ours are plastic. Many customers misunderstood the samples, and, rather than opening them, simply dunked them into hot water, paper and all. The customers loved how convenient they were, and so the tea companies keep making them. As the 1950’s brought a passion for time-saving technology to Britain and Ireland, who were the two biggest markets for imported tea, the tea bag became a staple of everyday life.
Many have tried to find a way to combine the quality of loose-leaf tea with the convenience of bagged tea. The answer seems to have come in the form of sachets. Sachets are pyramid-shaped, rather than rectangular, and tend to be made of a loose mesh rather than paper. The pyramid shape allows the leaves more space to fully expand, and the loose mesh allows the water to properly interact with the leaves.
These bags are both incredibly environmentally unfriendly, and unhealthy. Their pyramid shape is less efficient, and therefore uses more paper, when they are made of paper. However, pyramid bags tend to actually be made of a “silken mesh”, which feels very nice, and sounds very luxurious, until you realize that they’re made of plastic nylon. While paper bags are somewhat more bad for the environment, because they waste paper, which takes a negligible amount of time to biodegrade, nylon takes 30-40 years. To put that in perspective, plastic shopping bags, which have become the subject of many an environmental crusade, take 10-20 years. Regular tea bag drinkers themselves should not feel particularly superior, either, as most paper tea bags are also sealed with a strip of plastic. If you try to compost your tea bags, you may find these strips of plastic, not broken down, in the soil.
Check out our environmentally-sound Brew bags for your premium loose leaf teas on-the-go. Click here to learn how.
While the nylon is food safe, many tea drinkers, upon learning that these luxurious bags are made of plastic, become wary about letting them sit in boiling water which they then drink. If you’d like a safe and more sustainable alternative, we offer a variety of stainless steel infusers, which are designed to be used for the rest of your life. I’ve personally used mine every day for the last four years, and it still works as well as the day that I got it.
The final, and perhaps most important reason why we don’t offer bagged teas is that we like that they’re slightly inconvenient. Loose-leaf tea takes a moment to brew. It forces you to stop, to take a moment for yourself, and to recenter. Tea is not about getting more things done faster-- it is about appreciating a moment.
If you’re looking to switch away from bagged teas, we recommend Blue Sapphire, a Kenyan black tea, which should taste like what you’re used to and familiar with, but oddly better.
White Peach is a delicate summer tea, with a light and peachy flavor. I serve this tea to people who tell me that they don’t like tea, because it is fruity and delicate, with no astringency or bitterness.
Silver Needles is our finest tea. It is the first leaves of the season, hand-picked while they still have the soft down of winter on them. They are traditionally consumed in the early spring.
Jasmine Dragon Pearls is a quality green tea. Each pearl is hand-rolled individually, and the high-quality leaves are known for their ability to be steeped four or five times.
Try these teas, and then tell us what you think about Lipton.