Why loose leaf tea?
Loose leaf teas are an artisanal product, and most are grown by independent farmers. From the moment the seed of a Camellia sinensis (tea plant) is germinated until the end product is packaged, loose leaf tea is cultivated, harvested, produced, and graded with great care.
Tea has many nuances, which are captured in leaves and made possible by the soil, topography and climate of the area in which it is grown. A tea leaf’s taste is further enhanced by the chemical reactions that take place during the production of the leaf. Each farmer must have a plan of what style of tea he is striving for before harvest takes place. He (or she) must watch the weather and observe the plants daily to be sure harvest takes place at just the right moment for his product to come to fruition.
The leaves used in most teabags are usually fannings or dust – the lowest grade (quality) of the tea leaf. "Fannings" is a term used to describe a grade of tea that is left after the larger broken leaf grades are sold to make higher quality tea blends. Dust is a term used to describe the smallest particles of tea. When you drink loose leaf tea, whether black, green, white, or oolong you are tasting a better quality of tea.
Without a bag surrounding the leaves, they have a chance to freely unfurl and release their flavor and aroma volatiles, giving you a much richer experience. Unfortunately, some paper tea bags can contain chemicals such as epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins that is considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The reason for the chemical addition? To prevent the paper tea bag from disintegrating, and it also acts as a pesticide. Pyramid bags might be made of different types of plastic that when heated may expose a person to toxins. (For more information google Dr. Mercola and The Atlantic plus keywords "teabags" and "toxins".)
Loose leaf teas give you the opportunity to completely experience teas. Upon opening the container, you will see beautiful leaves and smell the fragrance of them. You then take a moment to put the kettle on and heat the water. Next, you measure out the leaves into the mesh infuser. Pouring the water over the leaves, you watch as they begin their transformation. While waiting for leaves to steep, you take a moment to meditate. When the timer rings, buzzes or chirps, you lift the infuser from the water and smell the fragrance of the tea liquor. Finally, when the tea reaches a comfortable temperature you have the most sublime pleasure of tasting the tea-nectar.
Happy sipping! - Georgia Rayna, Certified Tea Sommelier