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To Bag or Not to Bag: Tea Bags vs Loose Tea

To bag or not to bag, that is the question that causes heated debate in the wonderful world of tea. In the United States, we have grown accustomed to going to the grocery store and picking up a box containing a hundred tea bags of the commercially popular blend of tea. Well, in the rest of the world this isn’t norm, in fact it is even frowned upon.


So where did these cute little tea bags come from, and what is the difference between tea bags and loose tea? I’m glad you asked, here is a little history on, one of the worst inventions known to tea, the tea bag.


Tea bags were actually invented by accident, as with several other inventions we currently use every day, giving credence to the saying “Necessity is the mother of invention”.


Around the turn of the last century, Thomas Sullivan, a tea and coffee merchant from New York City, in an attempt to cut sampling costs, started sending out his loose tea in small, hand-sewn silk pouches (instead of the costly tins, which most other merchants used).


The idea was for customers to open the bags and steep the loose tea as they normally would, however, most potential clients were confused by this new packaging and wound up throwing the bag right into the hot water to steep.


Sullivan soon realized he had something when he started receiving several requests for his “tea bags” and, as they say, the rest was history. The quick and simple clean up of the leaves, that were still contained in the bags, made this option much more favorable to several of his customers.


Around 1904, the first tea bags began appearing commercially and were quickly picked up around the world.


However, with the tea bag came a problem, flavor. Using tea bags was a problem because the tea leaves didn’t have sufficient room to expand completely while steeping and couldn’t release their full flavor, so tea quality paid the price.


Since the tea was now hidden in a difficult to see through silk bag, smaller leaves were used, so the leaves had more room to expand. To add to the decline in tea quality, since the size of the leaves no longer mattered, merchants began purchasing much cheaper grades of tea called “fannings” or “dust”.


These are the lowest grades of tea there are. They are quite literally “the bottom of the barrel”, nothing more than the dust which is left over in the bottom of the tea barrels after all the leaves are removed.


This “tea” will change the color of the water in your cup, but doesn’t have nearly as much flavor as full tea leaves. To add insult to injury, companies began wrapping the “leaves” in paper filters, a much cheaper solution for them, however, it limited the flow of water through the bag, further lessening the quality.


All of the harm done to the quality of commercial “tea” has lead people to believe that this is as good as it gets for tea. This is why, at ESP Tea Emporium, “What you see is what you get”. We only offer premium quality loose tea leaves that provide unbelievable flavor and aroma.


If you are only familiar with store bought, commercial tea bags you owe it to yourself to find out how truly amazing tea really is by trying some of the amazing blends only found at ESP Tea Emporium.


At ESP Tea Emporium, our goal isn’t to only sell tea, we want to inform and teach you about the amazing world of different teas, tea culture and the provided health benefits. Please check back for more interesting, helpful and informative articles about all the benefits to drinking tea.


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