The world’s second favorite drink (after water), is one which has added to cultures and healed ailments all around the world. Serving conversations, cravings and colds and flus since 2737 BC, the act of drinking tea has gradually turned into the art of drinking tea.
Astonishingly there are over 3000 types of tea in the world, with each one with its own unique characteristics, flavor and health benefits. To add to your options, you also have different grades and styles of tea.
Why Loose Leaf Tea?
Loose leaf tea is the purest form of tea (including plastic free tea bags) available. It’s usually sold in large quantities and works out to be the cheapest option because it requires the additional steps of steeping and draining the tea leaves in comparison to tea bags which require less time and, dare I say it, effort.
This style of tea is the most flavourful due to its untouched form. You also get the maximum health benefits from the tea leaves and it doesn’t take much time at all to decompose.
‘Broken & Loose Leaf’ tea comes in tea bags larger than your average. The tea has been crushed slightly to make it fit into the bigger bags so it loses some of its potency. However this is your most expensive option as it is priced as a premium product, so you pay much more for less quality.
Finally, you can get ‘Dust & Fanning’ tea, or as you and I know it, as your standard tea bags. These are mass produced and you get them from any corner store or supermarket. The tea leaves are crushed and ground into powder so these are the weakest in terms of taste. They are cheap, but not great for the environment as the bag takes some time to decompose.
However, for the environmentally minded of you out there who like your tea bags as they are, you now have some good eco friendly options that can be added to the compost pile or Bokashi bin.
Types of tea and how much loose leaf tea do you use per cup?
With so many variations of tea it can be confusing and intimidating when first trying to make loose leaf tea. Some packaging will help guide you but that’s not always the case. So we will give you some advice on some of the most popular types of tea.
- Black Tea: If your favorite tea bag is Earl Gray, English Breakfast or Darjeeling then you are drinking Black tea. It is one of the most common teas you’ll find in supermarket tea bags.
So how much black tea loose leaf tea per cup should you be making? If you boil 6 ounces of water (180 ml), which is what a standard teacup holds, then you should use 1 level teaspoon of black tea loose leaves.
When steeping your tea leaves in the water, 3 – 5 minutes is how long we recommend you to let your leaves soak to get the best flavor. Also, when heating up the water, allow it to reach a full boil of around 212 degrees for the best result.
- Green Tea: Another popular choice, this tea has minimal oxidization which helps it keep its color, whereas black tea is fully oxidized. Its flavor is lighter in comparison and is known to have great health benefits as it’s packed with loads of antioxidants.
How much green tea loose leaf tea per cup is the right amount then? It’s the same as black tea as 6 ounces of water only needs 1 level teaspoon. However, it differs in how long you steep it, which should only be 1 to 2 minutes. You should also not let the water reach a full boil and remove it when it starts steaming strongly. The ideal temperature would be between 175 and 180 degrees.
- White Tea: Though white tea comes from the same plant as green and black tea, camellia sinensis, it requires the least amount of processing making it the most natural. Like all tea it has great health benefits, particularly helping to reduce high blood pressure.
Due to its delicate and mellow taste, this tea requires 2 level teaspoons for over 6 ounces of water. Like green tea, you should not boil it fully and remove it when the water begins to steam briskly, between 175 – 180 degrees. For its best taste you should steep it for between 2 and 3 minutes.
How to brew your loose leaf
Brewing loose leaf tea is almost the same as making a cup of tea with a normal tea bag with just a few added steps and some equipment.
Having boiled your water to the right temperature you measure out your loose leaf tea and place it in the filter of your choice. Your options range from filter bags and mesh balls, to basket style filters and infusers. If you don’t have any of these, not to worry, you can even spoon the tea directly into the water and use a strainer over your cup when pouring.
Once you place your tea in the water, you must then let it steep, i.e give it time to infuse its flavor and benefits into the water, transforming it into the tea you’ve been wanting. How long you let the tea steep depends on a few factors.
Firstly, how strong do you like your tea? If you love a strong brew then the longer you leave it, the stronger it will be. If you’re not really in the mood for one but have been forced into it, which often happens in social settings, then the time you let it steep should be less.
Secondly, it all depends on the type of tea. Certain teas only need two to three minutes like oolong tea. However other types of tea, like herbal and rooibos, need more than five minutes to properly infuse into the water.
What do I need to brew loose leaf tea?
Aside from the basics, like water, a cup and tea itself, all you need to invest in to brew loose leaf tea is some type of filter.
You have a few options to do the job a tea bag usually would. Infusers are popular and you can find teapots or even mugs which have them inbuilt. You can also use filter bags or mesh balls, and you can even put the tea directly in the water and then use a strainer over your cup when pouring.
Is tea good for me?
Tea is known to have a wide variety of health benefits depending on what you drink. From weight loss to boosting your immune system, to improving digestion and lowering cholesterol, it seems like there is tea for almost any ailment.
However, if you drink too much of it (more than 3 or 4 cups a day) then it can have a number of negative side effects, like headaches, anxiety and disrupting your sleep patterns, so don’t overdo it!