Loose leaf tea or tea bags? Which one to choose?
Thousands of years ago, tea was discovered by the Chinese. They delighted in its taste, and today it is drunk all over the world. Some treat it as part of their daily routine, drinking it with meals, during a break at work or during an afternoon chill time. For others, it is an important part of traditional ceremonies and rituals. Why is tea so popular? Which is the best of its form - bagged or loose leaf? Is it healthy? Read on!
- Let's start at the beginning... The story of tea
- Six colours, the same plant
- Loose leaf tea or tea bags - which type is the best?
- Loose leaf tea - how to brew?
- Buy the best tea in our online shop!
Let's start at the beginning... The story of tea
Legends say that thousands of years ago tea was discovered by complete accident by the mythical Chinese Emperor Shennong. He used to drink hot, boiled water everyday. One day, as he was strolling through the garden and sipping boiling water from a pot as usual, he decided to relax in the shade of one of the bushes growing nearby. As he sat relaxing amidst the lush trees and flowers around him, a few leaves from a nearby shrub inadvertently fell into the cup he was holding in his hand. After a while, the leaves tinted the water with an amber colour. Shennong was curious and he decided to taste the drink. It turned out that not only did it have an interesting appearance and a beautiful smell, but it was also very tasty. The delighted emperor began to drink an infusion of the leaves taken from the bush growing in his garden from then on, instead of pure hot water. Fascinated by his discovery, he decided to spread the habit of drinking of the infusion throughout the country.
Even if there is some seed of truth, the story of Chinese Emperor and the discovery of tea is just a legend. The first records of tea date back to the 10th century BC. Around 800 AD, the first tea seeds were brought to Japan. In the 16th century, tea was introduced to the Russians through diplomatic contacts with China. In the second half of the 17th century, brought from China by merchants, tea arrived in London. In 1826, the British discovered tea plants growing wild in Assam, India. Numerous plantations were established there, which developed to such an extent that India is now the second largest producer of tea - just behind China.
Six colours, the same plant
By far the most popular type of tea is the black variety. Green tea is just behind it. There are white, yellow, red and blue teas also in this colour palette. On top of this, it is estimated that there are around 1,500 different varieties of tea worldwide. Now here's a surprise: all these types come from a single plant - Camellia sinensis, or simply: “Chinese tea”. The “coloured” name of a particular type of tea refers to the colour of the infusion made from it or the colour of the processed leaves.
- black tea - the most popular of all teas. It is named after the colour of its leaves, which darken during the fermentation process. It is distinguished by its strong, intense and pleasantly astringent flavour and its infusion has a copper-brown tint. It is drunk all over the world, although in China and Japan it loses out slightly to green tea. The most popular varieties, which are named after the tea-growing region, are assam, darjeeling, ceylon and yunnan. There are also several popular blends, such as Earl Grey, a black tea flavoured with bergamot oil, or English Breakfast Tea, an intense composition of several varieties.
- green tea - unlike black tea, it undergoes minimal processing. The harvested leaves wither and dry. Shortly after being picked, they are subjected to high temperatures (using steam - in Japan or by roasting - in China), which stops the fermentation process. The result of these actions is a subtle, delicate flavour to the infusion. The leaves retain their green colour and the valuable vitamins and minerals they contain. Green tea is considered the healthiest of all types. By stopping the oxidation process, green tea also retains its fresh, grassy, refreshing taste. Although it is gaining popularity around the world, most green tea is drunk in Asian countries. There, it is not only treated as a food product, but also has cultural significance. The most popular varieties are sencha, genmaicha, gunpowder and matcha, all of which originate in China and Japan.
- white tea - similar to green tea, it is not fermented. It is made from young tea buds and leaves and its infusion is light straw in colour. It is very mild in taste - the mildest of all types. Despite its mild character, it contains quite a lot of caffeine. Comparing the scale of black and green tea production, the white variety is produced on a small number of plantations located in China and India. It is one of the most expensive teas, which makes it not as popular as other varieties.
- red tea or actually pu-erh tea - is a post-fermented tea. It undergoes an additional oxidation process, making the colour of the processed leaves even darker than the black tea. It takes its name from the Pu'er region, in southern China, where it originated. There are two types of red tea that differ in the way they are produced - Sheng and Shu. Pu-erh Sheng is subjected to ageing for up to several decades. It matures and ages naturally. Pu-erh Shu is a red tea that is subjected to steam and heat, which speeds up the fermentation process.
- blue tea - also called turquoise or emerald tea. The proper name is oolong, which means “black dragon” in Chinese. The dried tea is slightly blue in colour. The level of leaf fermentation falls between black and green tea. Processing involves several steps: wilting the tea leaves in the sun or wind, cooling in a shady place, tossing the leaves in bamboo baskets or special machines to crisp up the edges, toasting - this is to stop fermentation, twisting the leaves and forming them into balls, roasting at a low temperature to dry the leaves. The infusion resembles green tea in colour. The taste and aroma have sweet, floral and fruity notes.
- yellow tea - this is the rarest of all types of tea and is considered the noblest. It is called “emperor's tea”. According to legend, during the reign of the Chinese Qing Dynasty, it was reserved exclusively for the emperor, and death awaited anyone who dared to drink it. As if that were not enough, the original recipe for the production and preparation of the tea was lost over the centuries. It was reconstructed in the 1980s, but it is impossible to verify how faithfully it was reproduced. Like pu-erh tea, yellow tea undergoes a double fermentation process. After harvesting, the tea leaves are heated, cooled, dried and then heated again. This process is repeated several times. The colour of the infusion resembles green tea, although it is more yellow. The taste is slightly astringent, but leaves a little sweet aftertaste.
Loose leaf tea or tea bags - which type is the best?
There are so many types and varieties of tea and they are so diverse that it is difficult to know which is the best. They differ in taste, aroma, colour, production and brewing method. Each also exhibits slightly different properties. Much depends on what we expect from the tea. However, there is one very important rule. Loose leaf tea is the best! The most popular forms of tea are loose-leaf, in pyramid-shaped sachets and in tea bags. The incomparably best quality tea is in loose leaf form. These are whole (or broken), dried tea leaves that, when exposed to warm water, unfold so that we can easily see their shape. The disadvantage is that, in addition to the mug, a brewer is needed to make it. Without it, the leaves entering the mouth can take all the pleasure out of tea drinking. When it comes to the convenience of brewing, express tea bags are the clear winner. Preparing the infusion comes down to boiling water, putting the sachet in a cup and pouring boiling water over it. The two forms also differ in price - loose leaf tea is usually more expensive. The thing is that in tea bags we usually find ground tea. Often, even the leftovers that remain after the production of loose tea are put into small bags. One compromise is tea in pyramids, created from environmentally friendly material. The pyramid-shaped sachets do not contain whole leaves, but larger fragments that have space to develop.
Loose leaf tea - how to brew?
Sourcing good quality leaf tea is not everything. Also very important is the way it is brewed, which involves several factors: the temperature of the water, the steeping time, the amount of dried tea used, and steeping the tea under a lid. Any change can affect the taste and aroma of the brew. For example, the effect of steeping tea leaves for too long will be an intense and bitter taste. A similar effect will occur if too much dried tea is poured into a cup or mug. Tea poured in too cool water will, on the other hand, be very weak and tasteless. In a nutshell, the different types of tea can be brewed as follows:
- black tea: water temperature - approximately 100°C (best: 98°C), time of brewing - 3-4 minutes;
- green tea: water temperature - 60-80°C, time of brewing - 2-3 minutes. Green tea leaves can be infused several times. There is a belief that the second infusion is the most valuable;
- white tea: water temperature - 80-90°C, time of brewing - 3-5 minutes. Like green tea, it can be infused several times - increasing the steeping time;
- yellow tea: water temperature - 80-85°C, time of brewing - approximately 3 minutes. It is worth brewing it in a glass vessel - it changes colour in a spectacular way. Like green and white tea, it can be infused several times and the steeping time should be increased for each infusion.;
- blue tea - oolong: water temperature - 90°C, time of brewing - not longer than 5 minutes;
- red tea - pu-erh: water temperature - 90-96°C, time of brewing - 3 minutes. Red tea can also be infused many times.
Buy the best tea in our online shop!
As you have already noticed, we do not only sell the “green gold” of South America aka yerba mate in our shop. We are also interested in healthy food and other natural and delicious infusions, including coffee and, of course, tea. Thanks to our collaboration with the Mary Rose brand, we already have quite a large range of high-quality teas, sourced from all over the world. We have various types of pure teas without additives, such as: yunnan black tea or green sencha tea. We also recommend amazing, aromatic and very tasty tea blends with herbal and fruit additives. Our hearts are stolen by Magic Forest black tea, and on warmer days we love to sip the herbal, refreshing composition of Fresca green tea. Recently, we've also really enjoyed the sweet and aromatic Tropicana red pu-erh tea. Among the range of teas, we also have an herb that is not quite a tea - rooibos. It is made from the kind of red bush, which is grown in South Africa. Unlike tea - Camellia sinensis - it does not contain caffeine, so rooibos can be drunk at any time of day without any concerns.
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