Why I Ditched the Bag & Switched to Loose Leaf Tea
by Carly Daley
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you order something from one of the product links, I’ll receive a small commission, but this does not effect the price for you. I also received a free Libre Tea mug to "test," and, sincerely, like it so much that I chose to include a review on it - all opinions are my own. Read my full disclosure here.
I never thought I'd say it, seeing as how I've been a total coffee addict for the past decade, but, I'm a "tea person." Which, of course, is totally different from a "coffee person." And let me first note, I have nothing against coffee, we've had a very healthy relationship for many years, it's just time we spent a little time apart.
Why the break up? Well, one day coffee just stopped "agreeing with me," so I decided to listen to my body and quit - cold turkey.
After suffering through about a week of headaches, crankiness and fatigue, the caffeine withdrawals seized (coffee - it's a hell of a drug), I switched over to tea. But not just your average bagged tea!
After doing my tea-due-diligence, I've decided to ditch the bag and switch to organic, loose leaf tea.
Your 30 Second History Lesson on Tea
Tea originated in China as a medicinal drink.
In the 16th century it was introduced to the west via Portuguese priests and merchants.
The first tea bags were made of hand-sewn fabric, dating back to China, as early as 618–907.
The paper tea bag wasn't introduced to the commercial market until the early 1900.
Tea found in tea bags usually consist of smaller pieces of tea leaves or tea fannings (also referred to as dusts) which may give a quicker brew. These fannings can be made by chopping the tea, or are sometimes the "crumbs" left behind after the whole tea leaves have been sold.
3 Reasons Why I Ditched the Bag
1. Tea bags are a surprising source of potential toxins. According to this article, some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics; some are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene. Steeping these tea bags in boiling water poses a concern for plastic leaching into your tea. Unfortunately, paper tea bags may be just as bad if not worse. According to this article,
"...many of them are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins. Considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health2 (NIOSH), epichlorohydrin is also used as a pesticide. Besides making its way into tea bags, it can also be found in coffee filters, water filters, and sausage casings.
When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It’s also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats3) and suppressed immune function4"
2. Loose leaf tea produces less waste. There's no string, staple, tag or bleached bag that needs to be disposed of when drinking loose leaf tea. Instead, just empty your tea leaves into the compost leaving no sign that you even had a cup of tea.
3. The quality and flavor of loose leaf tea exceeds that of tea bags. Tea found in tea bags usually consist of smaller pieces of tea leaves or tea fannings (also referred to as dusts) which may give a quicker brew, but contain less medicinal properties, caffeine and full flavor then loose leaf. Tea bags can also release more tannins than loose teas giving the tea a harsher flavor.What's the downside to loose leaf tea? The only real downside to loose leaf tea that I could think of, is that it is slightly more time consuming to prepare--but people, we're talking seconds.
Nonetheless, the solution to this is getting yourself...
a. a tea pot with a built-in infuser, like THIS,
b. a Libre Tea Infuser, like THIS(I have one and I'm obsessed with it.)
c. re-usable organic cotton tea nets, or a mesh tea ball infuser like THIS for brewing a single cup of tea in your favorite mug!
OR, don't use any straining device at all and just let the leaves settle to the bottom.
The Libre Tea Infuser
I'm not just being biased because the owner/mastermind behind Libre Tea lives in my small town. No, this product is really great, and I've been using it several time a day since I got it!
The Libre Tea infuser, in essence, is a tea to-go mug designed for loose leaf tea and herbal infusions. It consists of a glass liner, a BPA-free plastic exterior (so you don't burn your hands), and a stainless steel filter which catches the leaves as you drink.
Order yours HERE(I have the black one).
Where Do I Buy Loose Leaf Tea?
You really shouldn't have a problem finding loose leaf tea, as it's becoming more and more trendy, and specialty tea shops are popping up everywhere!
You can also find an incredible selection (over 60 kinds!) of ORGANIC loose leaf tea at Mountain Rose Herbs. Whether you're in the market for black, green, flowering, chai, white or red tea - Mountain Rose Herbs has it all!
Don't want to buy it? O.k., fine, you can make your own!
Make Your Own Tea!
Making your own to is incredibly simple. Or course, it's not actually considered a true "tea," but instead, a herbal infusion. You can use common, dried or fresh herbs and plants from your garden, all of which contain medicinal properties of their own, and include:
My favorite herbal infusions, which I make regularly throughout the day in my Libre Tea Infuser are:Night time infusion: Dried peppermint, calendula, lavender, and lemon balm.
Cold & Flu infusion: Ginger, lemon, honey, peppermint.
Day Time infusion: pinch of green tea, ginger and lemon.
Note: Many of the plants and herbs that I've listed above have powerful medicinal properties and are not intended for pregnant or nursing mothers. Please be sure to do your research before consuming these herbs.
How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea
Brewing tea is an art, and not all tea is brewed equally. Here are some basic guidelines to brewing the perfect pot or cup of tea:
1. Bring water to a boil in a tea glass, kettle.
2. Preheat your tea pot or cup by adding a small amount of boiling water to you mug and swirling it around. Don't skip this step, it's important in order to keep the tea from cooling too quickly.
3. Add the loose leaf tea, about 1-2 tsp per cup, to into you Libre Tea infuser, tea pot with built-in infuser or regular tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea.
4. Add boiling water - the ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:
White or green teas: Well below boiling (170-185 F or 76-85 C). Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
Oolongs: 185-210 F or 85-98 C
Black teas: Full rolling boil (212 F or 100 C)
Herbal, Rooibos & Maté Teas: 208 F or 97.8 C
5. Cover the pot with a cozy and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:
White or Green teas: 1-2 minutes
Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
Black teas: 2-3 minutes
Herbal, Rooibos & Maté Teas: 5-6 minutes
6. Remove the strainer or infuser, or if you've used loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup. Compost the leaves, sit back, relax and enjoy.