If you like to indulge in the fresh aroma while you sip on your favourite tea, loose leaf teas are best suited for you! Fresh and rich in aroma, loose leaf tea has a soulful taste that will give you a dose of energy any time of the day.
New to the world of loose leaf tea? Let's introduce you to it.
What is loose leaf tea?
A tea that is not brewed in a tea bag is a loose leaf tea.
When you steep loose leaf tea in water, it expands to absorb the water. The water then flows all through the leaves and infuses all its nutrients into the brew.
This results in a healthy cup that is rich in vitamins, minerals, flavours, and aromas of the tea leaves.
Steeping the same tea leaves in a tea bag doesn’t result in the same rich taste as the infusion is limited to the size of the tea bag. Hence, loose leaf teas are usually not packed in tea bags.
Loose leaf tea vs. tea bags — Which one’s better?
Tea bags are easy to brew, have a consistent taste and are cheaper than loose leaf tea. But, the only reason they are cheap is that they are easy to mass-produce. The leaves in most tea bags are the dust and leftovers of tea leaves that have an odd aftertaste.
Tea bags require the tea leaves to be finely crushed. Thus, the aroma and flavour of the leaves get killed to a great extent. A large number of tannins present in it result in a bitter taste. You’ll have to rely on adding sugar and milk to your cup of tea to make it taste good.
Now, if convenience and ease of making your daily cup of tea are important for you, then you should opt for tea bags. But if you want to explore the various flavours of tea and develop a taste for them, it’s time to make the shift to loose leaf tea.
While tea bags are convenient to use, the tea prepared from using tea bags doesn’t quite compare to loose leaf teas. Loose leaf tea will provide you with real aroma and flavour. You’ll be brewing your cup of tea from the actual withered tea leaves.
Tea bags can not compare with the freshness factor associated with loose leaf tea. Tea bags are mass-produced and are meant for longer shelf life while the loose leaf teas are fresher. The best loose leaf tea brands try to bring them to you fresh from the plantations.
For instance, all of Teakruthi’s loose leaf teas are delivered within three months of being picked and without adding any artificial additives or preservatives. teakruthi delivers the freshest teas on the market with full flavour and rich aroma still intact.
How to choose the best loose leaf tea?
The best loose leaf teas provide you with all freshness be its aroma, flavour, or humidity of the tea leaves. Everything remains intact and yields a taste that leaves your taste buds on a high.
But, before you try your hand in buying loose leaf tea, you should understand the five key things that determine the quality of loose leaf tea.
Like vegetables, teas are also grown according to the weather conditions of the tea growing regions. The seasonality directly affects the taste of loose leaf tea. Let’s begin by explaining how the flavour and composition of the tea changes as per the different seasons - summer, winter, weather, and spring.
During the summer season, the grown tea leaves and buds are exposed to excessive sunlight and high temperatures. This results in a higher concentration of catechins. The excess of catechins results in developing a bitter taste in loose leaf tea. If strong teas suit your taste, then you can go for teas harvested in the summer season. The tea leaves harvested during this season are cheap in comparison to other season’s loose leaf tea. Most of the black teas are popularly grown and harvested during this season.
The loose leaf tea prepared during the winter season is sweeter in taste and richer in aroma and astringency. The leaves are devoid of sunlight and higher temperatures, hence, the winter season is mostly a hibernation period. The plants don’t grow much but they continue to absorb nutrients during this time.
Some tea leaves taste better when they are harvested in winters. Oolong tea is one such type of tea. Tea leaves harvested in winters are golden, dark in colour and deep in flavour.
Autumn leaves are the second-best kind where spring season yields the best quality of loose leaf teas. Cool temperatures of autumn results in creamy and buttery texture. These teas are easy to handle and are crisp and balanced. They are also rich in nutrients, striking the perfect balance of theanine, catechins & antioxidants.
Spring harvested loose leaf tea has a mild flavour and sweet aroma. Green tea is plucked in this season when they’re fully opened. During this time, it has higher levels of catechins and antioxidants, which makes it a more attractive and healthier option. Spring teas are well-known for their mild flavours, sweet aroma and lingering aftertaste.
Now, you know how seasonality affects the taste and flavour of your loose leaf tea and you’re ready to find the best-suited tea for yourself!
2. Tea growing regions
Tea is one of the most popular beverages, the second most popular beverage in the world after water. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 62 out of 195 countries have one or more tea regions.
Among these countries, the four biggest tea-producing countries today are China, India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. And together, they represent 75% of world production. Every country and tea growing region has its unique taste. Let’s have a look at which region is famous for which kind of loose leaf tea.
African tea cultivation is mostly famous for black loose leaf teas. The very existence of black tea here is based on the hot weather experienced in these areas. The tea from this region has a slight bitterness in it. Top tea growing regions in Africa are Malawi, Kenya, and Uganda. Here, the teas are grown most traditionally.
Coming onto Asia, you have many options to choose from. The most famous ones are Chinese tea, Sri Lankan tea (or Ceylon tea) & Indian tea.
China is the birthplace of tea cultivation and till date, the most number of teas are grown here only. Chinese tea cultivation is most famous for white tea, jasmine tea & black tea and the best loose leaf tea comes from areas such as Fujian and Anhui.
Sri Lankan tea cultivation came into place after the coffee plantations were ruined. Today, Sri Lanka is one of the largest producers in the world. The name Ceylon Tea has a strong reputation in the market, even though it is costlier than teas from other parts of the world. The tea-growing regions of Sri Lanka - Dimbulla, Uva & Badulla - are well-known across the world. You can find the most authentic teas in this part of Asia.
Indian tea cultivation originated during colonial times. Today, India consumes 70% of the tea it produces. The major tea production areas in India are Darjeeling and Assam. Other areas include Sikkim, Terai, and Himachal Pradesh. For traditional tea with complex flavours and aroma, Darjeeling tea is very popular. The loose leaf tea from Darjeeling and the Nilgris is rich in flavour, texture, and aroma.
Japanese tea cultivation regions include Kyushu, Shikoku, and Honshu. Major tea cultivation depends on these areas. If you’re a fan of green tea then, you’ll be surprised to know that, Japan mostly produces green tea. Uji area in Japan produces the most prized teas.
Now you know the most famous tea growing regions in the world. Whenever you are in a supermarket and searching online for best loose leaf teas, you know which of these areas you should focus on.
Elevation plays a crucial role in the development of the teas. At higher altitudes, the temperature is lower and the precipitation is higher. Also, lower air pressure at high altitudes reduces the capacity of air to hold moisture. This results in more and more water getting absorbed by the roots which are helpful for the growth of tea plants.
For tea to have a mild sweet flavour, the tea plants need more and more water. The tea plants on the windward side of the mountains that receive maximum rainfall can give you the desired sweet taste. You get the best loose leaf teas from such areas.
At lower altitudes, the tea plants experience a higher temperature as compared to higher altitudes. The loose leaf tea obtained from low tea growing regions is high in astringent content. You’ll get slightly bitter-tasting black tea from these regions.
4. Classification and grading
The location of the leaves determines the quality of the finished product. Hence, the hand plucking of tea leaves has special importance.
The finest quality of loose leaf teas contain the youngest emerging buds. These teas are graded as ‘flowery pekoe’. These buds also commonly known as tips.
As we move lower, the next set of leaves are known as ‘orange pekoe’ and ‘pekoe’. The other leaves that are much closer to the main stem are called souchong.
The kind of leaves are used to prepare the tea determines the final value of the package. There’s a leaf grading system to determine the quality. This grading system applies to black teas. It’s helpful to look at the grade of tea before buying your packet of loose leaf tea.
5. Types of loose leaf tea
The variation in the processing method yields different quality of teas. The final step for choosing the best loose leaf tea for yourself is identifying which type of tea you have a liking for. Whether it is black tea, green tea, oolong tea, white tea or any other variation of tea in the form of tea infusions.
This section of the blog will give you a complete view of the different types of loose leaf teas available in the market.
a. Loose leaf Green tea
Green tea is rich in antioxidants and the biggest health benefit of these antioxidants is that they keep our body free from toxins. The most popular kind of green tea is grown in Japan - Sencha is one of the most well-known. Sencha has a delicate sweetness and mild astringency. It’s also rich in Vitamin C.
Loose leaf Ceylon Green Tea is also popular. The Pundalu Valley in Sri Lanka is known by many as the Golden Valley, where the climate and the fresh mountain air work together to nourish these beautiful, fine golden green tea plants. teakruthi’s Green Valley Pure Ceylon tea is from this region.
If you’re following a diet plan for weight loss then, green tea is a good option. It increases metabolism and gives you a feeling of fullness. But, avoid drinking green tea on an empty stomach may cause acidity.
Also read: How to drink green tea for weight loss?
b. Organic loose leaf tea
Organic loose leaf tea is free from synthetic pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. The tea helps in maintaining the neutrality of the soil. The growth of this tea relies on the local climate, biodiversity and ecological processes.
The absence of chemicals from the tea and its growth under natural conditions makes it much more valuable. It has many more health benefits due to the conventional method of growing.
If you’re looking to buy organic loose leaf tea, then Teakruthi has some good options for you. teakruthi’s Organic Black tea is certified organic tea that is grown using traditional organic-only fertilizers and labour-intensive yet traditional methods of harvesting.
For preparing this tea, the worker's hand pluck only the bud and top two tender leaves, giving the finest quality of organic tea. This tea is processed to give you a strong flavoured brew that has a deep amber brownish-gold colour and woody, slightly burnt after notes.
c. Loose leaf herbal tea
Less popularly known as ‘Tisanes, herbal tea is made from an infusion of spices, herbs, or other plant materials in boiling water. It contains vitamin A, vitamin C and iron in good amount. Thus, it helps in getting rid of scurvy, night blindness, and dementia.
You can even drink two to three cups of this tea per day, to enjoy increased health benefits.
d. Loose leaf Chai tea
Chai teas are very popular in India. It’s a highly caffeinated drink with an amalgamation of strong flavours and an aroma of clove, cinnamon, and cardamom. These teas help in managing stress and have immense health benefits.
They are generally astringent in taste, dark-coloured teas and have relatively more caffeine content. Want to try Chai tea? teakruthi’s Cinnamon Chai and Majestic Chai (Cardamom Spiced) are great options to start with.
To further discuss and unfold all the aspects of loose leaf tea, let’s answer some of the most common questions that people have.
Do you need an infuser to brew loose leaf tea?
Loose leaf tea does certainly require an infuser. The importance of the infuser can’t be overruled in loose leaf tea. While choosing the infuser, remember that the tea leaves need space to unfurl completely. Make sure it provides enough space. You can buy teapots with built-in infusers or buy an infuser to fit in your cup.
How to make loose leaf tea?
For brewing loose leaf tea, here are a few simple steps that you need to follow. These are the generic steps. Most brands write down specific steps for brewing their tea on their tea packets.
In such cases, we suggest that you follow the instructions for brewing mentioned on the tea packaging.
Place the utensil (Pan/Kettle) for heating the water
Get your infuser in place
According to your preference, add loose tea leaves into the infuser
Submerge the infuser into the kettle, let it boil for 3-5 minutes for preparing Black tea. For other types of tea, you can take it off the burner and let it brew for a few minutes
Wait for a few seconds before pouring it
Treat yourself with a pleasant smell, add honey (sugar, milk, cream), and take a deep breath from near the cup
Relax with your cup of goodness
How to store loose leaf tea?
To save your loose leaf tea from the surroundings, you just need to keep it in an air-tight container. The jar should be opaque since direct contact with sunlight can hamper the quality of loose leaf tea.
Also, keep in mind that the tea absorbs the smell surrounding it. Set aside a dedicated place to store your jar. Add a teaspoon to your loose leaf tea jar to give you an idea about the number of tea leaves to be added in the everyday cup.
Can I cold brew loose leaf tea?
Of course, you can cold brew the tea. Just add some loose leaf tea into a pitcher with some water. Let it remain like this for over six to twelve hours, pour it and you’ll have a great taste of cold-brewed tea.
How long does loose leaf tea last?
With time the flavour begins to degrade as phytochemicals (flavonoids) starts degrading. Then too, loose leaf tea lasts up to two years.
If kept away from sunlight, odour, heat, and moisture, it can last up to 3 years.
Three years is quite a good time, you need not buy heaps of loose leaf tea at once.
Where to buy loose leaf tea?
Like most natural products, tea tastes best when fresh. However, most loose leaf teas on the market are far from it, taking nearly a year to reach your cup as they pass through a supply-chain of multiple middlemen and storage houses.
As your tea makes this long journey from the plantation to your home, it gradually goes flat losing its natural flavour and aroma. As such some common tea brands chemically enhance their teas with natural and artificial flavouring or GMO’s.
Sadly most of today’s leading tea brands (some might be in your kitchen cupboard) include harmful chemical additives to boost flavor and shelf life of their teas.
So, if you intend to consume the freshest and purest form of loose leaf teas, you can select from teakruthi’s range of loose leaf teas. They reach you within three months of being harvested from plantations and they are one of the best loose leaf teas available in the market.
- Tea and human health: biomedical functions of tea active components and current issues — www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4322420/
- Antioxidant activity of different forms of green tea - loose and bagged — www.foodandnutritionjournal.org/volume6number1/antioxidant-activity-of-different-forms-of-green-tea-loose-leaf-bagged-and-matcha/
- Benefits of drinking loose leaf tea — www.billi-uk.com/loose-leaf-tea-what-are-the-benefits-of-drinking-it/
- Tea for cancer - Fact sheet — www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/diet/tea-fact-sheet
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