Most people these days associate “tea” with “tea bags.” This sorry state of affairs came about because of the modern world’s obsession with convenience, even when convenience comes at the expense of quality.
Let’s face it – tea bags are not quality tea. Most tea bags – let’s say 99.9% of them, are filled with low quality tea powder that does little more than add color to hot water. OK – some tea bags are better than others, but the difference between tea bags and loose tea is the difference between night and day.
The reason why tea bags are popular is simple – convenience. The first tea bag was developed to distribute tea samples. The bag was made of silk and was much cheaper than the metal tins used up to that point. The inventor of the tea bag expected his customers to open the silk bag, but people quickly discovered they could put the whole bag in water and make tea that way.
This was a lot more convenient than cleaning tea leaves out of a tea pot, so there was an immediate demand for these new tea bags. That was back in 1900 and by 1904 tea bags were being produced commercially and shipped world wide.
The Cost of Tea Bags
Tea bags were a hit – but at a big cost. The bag restricted the tea leaves so that they could not open fully. This meant that tea made from tea bags was less flavorful. To overcome this problem, tea merchants used smaller tea leaves. Customers didn’t notice because the leaves where hidden by the bag.
And so began the degradation of tea that has led to our present situation. Once tea merchants realized they could put practically anything in the tea bags, they started using inferior quality tea and tea fannings – the powder that is left over at the bottom of tea containers.
As the quality of tea bags decreased, the popularity of tea in the United States also fell, so that now in the US coffee is more popular than tea. Worldwide, tea is the second most popular beverage after water.
The benefits of loose tea over tea bags are numerous. Loose tea is higher quality than the tea used in tea bags and it makes more flavorful tea because the leaves have room to expand in the pot. And all the health benefits of tea drinking are increased with the consumption of good quality tea.
The Tea Bag Redeemed?
Before we condemn the tea bag to eternal damnation, we must concede that it is convenient. For this reason, tea merchants have been exploring ways to package good quality tea in convenient sachets. This type of tea bag is now on the market. The bag is made from a fine nylon mesh and there is plenty of space for the leaves to unfurl. Although not as high class as loose tea, these tea sachets provide a convenient way to make good quality tea when you are away from home.