If you’re new to tea, then it’s a pretty fair bet that on that rare occasion that you’ve made yourself a cup of brew, you’ve thrown a tea bag into some hot water, let it sit for a few minutes, and called it good. Did you love the result? Maybe it did the trick–hot drink with a decent flavor–but we’re guessing it didn’t blow your socks off.
How could we–a tea company–make a claim like that?
Because you’re doing it all wrong. Er, rather, brewing it all wrong. Tea bags only go so far in terms of quality and flavor. Where does the real magic happen when it comes to tea?
Two words: loose leaf.
In this article, we’ll give you the ins and outs of loose leaf tea–the benefits, how to brew it, and even a few specific recs to get you started on your new favorite beverage.
Loose Leaf Tea: The Benefits
Before we get started on telling you why loose leaf tea is the créme de la créme of teas, we want to fill you in on all the benefits of this wonderful stuff.
Bagged tea is typically made from broken leaves of lower-grade tea, blended together to produce the same, standard flavor year after year. The result is that you might get a cup of tea that always tastes the same–but you won’t get a cup of tea with rich, nuanced flavor that comes from using whole, premium tea leaves.
The increased surface area of using tea “fannings” or “dust” (ew) in tea bags means that much of the original aromatic oils evaporate, leaving a stale, dull flavor. Not only that, but tea bags often include artificial flavoring, and can taste like the plastic or chemicals used in packaging.
Loose leaf tea, on the other hand, retains the original flavor of all ingredients used–tea leaves, herbs, spices, flowers, and even fruits and cacao (yum!)
More Health Benefits
Because loose leaf tea is fresher and higher quality than bagged tea, it also delivers a more powerful punch of all of the awesome health benefits delivered by tea leaves.
Health benefits, you ask?
Black tea, green tea, and white tea are made from tea leaves in various states of oxidation that contain powerful levels of disease-fighting antioxidants. Here are some other pretty impressive benefits of drinking tea:
- May help you lose weight. Tea contains catechins–a type of flavonoid that may boost your metabolism and help you to lose weight.
- Boost cardiovascular health. Tea contains polyphenols–natural occurring organic compounds that can improve blood vessel function and increase good cholesterol.
- Improve gut health. The same polyphenols that are great for your heart can also increase the number of good bacteria in your gut.
Ultimately, loose leaf tea will be a far more effective strategy of getting these health benefits. Not only that, but bagged tea can contain harmful plastics that are released during steeping. In fact, one study showed that certain tea bags–made from PET plastic or nylon–released more than 10 billion microplastic and nanoplastic particles into water while steeping. Yikes!
Believe it or not, there’s a far greater range of varieties and choices when it comes to loose leaf tea (just don’t go to your grocery store). Think of it this way: Loose leaf teas can be hand-curated and blended, while bagged tea is mass-produced to generate a standardized flavor, as you learned above.
As a result, drinking loose leaf tea means that you can find a better-tasting blend that’s suited to your personal preferences–whether that means you love a fruitier blend, a grassier finish, or even a chocolate-tinged brew. You may even find yourself turning into an obsessive tea connoisseur (if so, join the club).
How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea
The key to brewing a great cup of loose leaf tea is to give the leaves sufficient room to expand. You can’t, for example, stuff loose leaf tea into a super tight tea bag and expect a great cup of tea. That’s why you’ll sometimes see loose leaf tea sold into larger tea packets or pyramid-shaped bags.
The trouble, however, with using these types of bags is that some of them are made from potentially harmful material (such as PET plastic or nylon mentioned above). Plus, using a tea bag is potentially, in the long run, less cost-efficient and less environmentally friendly than using your own filter or strainer to brew your tea.
That being the case, here are five steps to brewing your own loose leaf tea–no tea bag necessary.
1. Choose a device.
To brew loose leaf tea, you can use a tea ball, strainer, or even a pot with a built-in infuser (more on that in a minute). Essentially, what you need is a compartment where you can measure out your dry tea leaves, where they’ll infuse the hot water without getting bits into your hot drink (Loose leaves make for great flavor, but they’re not exactly the “textural touch” you want in your beverage!)
(One of our favorite devices for making a great cup of brew is our Loose Leaf Tea Express Infuser–a BPA-free pot with a built-in stainless steel strainer).
2. Boil water.
Next, you’ll want to bring a cup of fresh water (approximately 8 ounces) to a near-boiling water temperature–about 175 degrees.
3. Choose your tea, and let it steep.
Next, pick your poison (er, choose your tea).
If you’re looking for something to help wake you up and slay your workday, we suggest Matcha Mind Control– a blend of oolong tea, pu'erh tea, coconut, walnut, dark chocolate, blueberries, and good-for-you (and awesome-tasting) spices.
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, then you might want to try our Dark Chocolate Cherry blend–a sexy blend of pu-erh black tea, chocolate chips, cacao nibs, hibiscus, wild cherry bark, dried cherries, safflower.
Or, if you’re planning on drinking your tea on the rocks, we suggest Green Tea Piña colada–a refreshing mix of green tea, coconut, dried pineapple, and marigold petals that tastes pretty dreamy as iced tea.
In any case, you’ll want to measure out 1-4 teaspoons of loose leaf tea, add it to the chamber of your brewing device and let steep in heated water for 2-5 minutes–depending on how strong you’d like the finished flavor.
4. Enjoy as is, or mix it up.
Finally, enjoy your brew as is. Or, mix it up by pouring over ice, or adding a bit of natural sweetener and alt milk–we love a little honey and oat milk. Or, if you’re really down to get creative, try a tea-inspired cocktail or dessert.
Rare Brew: Damn Good Loose Leaf Tea
At Rare Brew, we’re super into loose leaf tea...like, it’s all we sell. That’s because we believe in selling the good stuff only: high-quality, carefully curated ingredients that make damn good tea. Not only that, but we’ve carefully crafted a menu of teas that we’ve vetted and tested until they taste absolutely perfect. To check them out, click here.