There are so many options to choose from when it comes to bubble tea, from flavors to toppings and the type of tea used as your base. So when it comes down to loose-leaf tea vs. tea bags for your tea base, which should you choose? If you are going for flavor and quality, then loose-leaf tea is your best bet, but tea bags have some benefits too.
Why Does Loose-Leaf Tea Taste Better Than Tea Bags?
The differences between the two are notable, though you wouldn’t necessarily think they would be. Loose-leaf tea is not industrially processed or mass-produced, unlike tea bags. That being said, tea bags can spend months or even years in packages before being consumed.
Another little-known fact is that the tea in tea bags is generally the dust and tiny scraps left over from the production of whole-leaf tea. Because of this, the tea contained in bags loses its essential oils quicker and, therefore, loses its flavor faster.
3 Benefits of Loose-Leaf Tea
Because whole-leaf tea is of higher quality, the taste will be richer and more robust than if you use a tea bag for your cup of tea or bubble tea. Drinking loose tea can give you more aromas and depth of flavors that tea bags cannot.
Though there are tons of flavors to try with tea bags, there are even more when it comes to loose-leaf tea. Of course, there are classic tea bag flavors like black tea, green tea, and Earl Grey tea, but there are also less well-known tea flavors such as Pu-erh tea, purple tea, and many more.
Better Health Benefits
As we already know, drinking tea has several health benefits, such as:
- Boosting your immune system
- High amounts of antioxidants
- Help with weight-loss
Because loose-leaf tea is of higher quality than tea bags, there tends to be more concentration of these benefits present in the tea. This is not to say that these benefits are not present in tea bags, but there is a higher amount in loose tea.
3 Benefits of Tea Bags
With loose-leaf tea, much more must be done before you can enjoy your cup of tea. You’ll need to measure the tea and use an infuser or a strainer to make a perfect cup. If you want convenience and an easier way to drink tea, then tea bags are your best bet.
Because they are made of tea dust and are a bit lower quality, they will also be cheaper than full-leaf tea. There is more attention to detail and precision when processing loose tea, so it is expensive.
You can find tea bags at almost any grocery store. However, to find loose-leaf tea, you may need to look a little harder and go to a specialty tea shop or search on Amazon. Again, it comes to convenience and how far you are willing to go to make your tea.
Can You Reuse Tea Bags?
The short answer is yes! However, there are some things to consider, like:
- Safety: If you plan to use a tea bag again, storing it properly is crucial, so bacteria don’t grow. Generally speaking, keeping your tea bags in a sealed bag or container is ideal for keeping moisture in and bacteria out. You can also keep them in the refrigerator for safe storage. If a tea bag dries out, it is probably best to discard it.
- Steeping Time: The amount of time you steep your tea for the first time will determine how strong it is on the second go-round. The longer you steep the tea the first time, the weaker it will be the second time.
- Time in Between Steeps: It is best to reuse the tea bags as soon as possible, so making one cup after another is the best way to do it. However, if you have to wait between steeps, refer to the safety bullet for proper storage.
How Much Loose-Leaf Tea Equals One Tea Bag?
The standard is typically between 2-3 grams (1 tsp) of tea leaves per 6 oz. of water.
Some variables to consider are:
- The size of the tea leaves in the blends
- Your preferences (as far as strength goes)
- Any additives you’re putting in (creamer, sweetener, etc.) as they will lessen the flavor of the tea
You may also wonder if loose tea contains more caffeine than tea bags. However, it does not. Tea bags often release more caffeine on the first brew than loose tea because they are made with fannings and dust and are finely ground. Some factors influencing the caffeine level found in tea include the climate, location, preparation, blends, and other environmental factors.
How to Brew Loose-Leaf Tea
There are a few different ways to brew loose-leaf tea.
- Heat your water to the desired temperature. (Depending on the type of tea blend, you may heat your water to different temperatures.)
- Measure out your tea leaves and add them to your tea cup or teapot.
- Pour the hot water over your tea leaves and steep your tea to your desired strength. The longer you steep your tea, the stronger the flavor profile will be. (Again, the amount of time you steep the tea may depend on the type of tea blend you are using. For example, herbal teas need to steep longer than black or white tea.)
- Pour your tea through the strainer to remove the tea leaves.
- Follow steps 1 and 2 from Method 1, but add a tea infuser to your cup or teapot.
- Pour the water into your teapot and steep the tea for the required amount of time.
- Remove the infuser from the cup or teapot.
- Heat your water to the desired temperature.
- Pour your measured tea leaves into the bottom of a French press.
- Cover with the water and let steep.
- Once it is ready, push the French press down and pour your tea.
As you can see, there are different ways to brew tea leaves, all with the same results.
How to Identify High-Quality Tea
Using good quality tea is essential for any tea drinker. Even if you add other ingredients to make a delicious flavored bubble tea, using the best tea is vital for making great drinks.
Finding the best grades of tea can be done using your senses:
- Sight: The tea should never look crumbly or appear to have stalks or wood fragments. It should appear curled into small pellets and unfurl as you steep it.
- Touch: High-quality loose-leaf tea should not crumble in your hands but should feel smooth and sturdy.
- Smell: If your tea is high-quality, there will be a deep, distinct aroma. If there is not much smell, it is not good quality tea.
- Taste: Of course, this is one of the most significant indicators of high-quality tea. Your tea should have a robust and recognizable taste.