Most genuine tea experts drink only loose leaf tea—and for a very good reason: The best teas typically aren’t bagged. (Let me reiterate that “most” tea experts don’t drink bagged tea; sure as the world you know an expert who does, but he is, pardon the expression, an oddball.)
The experts realize, having visited a few tea processing and packing centers during their careers, that most commercial tea bags are filled with tea fannings and dust. That is, the bags are filled with the detritus of the good stuff, which was packaged and sold as loose leaf tea.
Think of it this way, when you finish off a box of cornflakes, the bottom of the box has a layer of dust. Because the dust consists of crushed corn flakes, it ought to be as good as the whole flakes, right? So why do you tend to quit pouring the cornflakes before the dust gets in the bowl? Because dust doesn’t taste as good as flakes!
The story is the same with tea in teabags. It consists of tea leaves that have been crushed, torn, and otherwise reduced to small pieces. They have much less surface area in proportion to their edges, so freshness and nutrients bleed away. That’s an apt metaphor—bleeding. The crushed leaves bleed to death before they can redeem themselves as flavorful agents in a teacup.
I’m sure you keep tabs on your favorite tea store to make sure it is buying from a good wholesale black tea seller. Go one step further: See if the store is stocking quality tea in tea pouches. That’s right, it is possible to have your quality tea and contain it, too—in tea pouches.
Sounds like snobbery, I guess. Teabags are no good, but tea pouches are OK! Yet it is true. It is possible to enjoy a cup of tea brewed inside a pouch. A good wholesale blooming tea seller is apt to handle pouched tea, too.
The difference is not that “pouch” sounds more dignified than “bag,” though it does. There are three genuine differences between bagged and pouched tea.
First, tea pouches are bigger. This is a case where bigger is better because the extra space gives tea leaves room to be fully infused. Many of the best pouches are pyramid-shaped as well, which further enhances circulation.
Second, the best pouches are not bleached, a process that can lead to tea tasting bleached, too. They usually are of a silken material and are hand-stitched to keep any mechanical residue from tainting a cup of tea.
And third, tea pouches are not filled with tea leaf residue but with full-flavored loose leaf tea. Some of the pouches have herbs and spices for additional flavoring. They come in single or double serving sizes.
So, yes, herbal tea experts sing the praises of loose leaf tea, but I bet in a pinch they will brew a cup of quality pouched tea. It can be as pleasurable as the real thing.