Tea bags vs loose leaf tea: Top 5 reasons to ditch the tea bags and take the loose-leaf plunge

Earl Grey tea leaves in the shape of a heart beside a cup of brewed tea

How did you get into tea drinking?
If you’re anything like us, it was probably a slow process that started with, say, a cup of Sleepytime tea your mom made for you or Twinings Earl Grey. Bagged tea is easy to brew, has a consistent taste and is cheap and easy to mass produce. Read: you deserve better than someone’s stale, broken-up tea leaves! Here’s why it’s time to go loose leaf and ditch the tea bag for good.
  1. The leaves in most tea bags are actually the ‘dust and fannings’ from broken tea leaves. Seriously?? Do you really want to drink something called a fanning?
  2. Finely broken tea leaves (which is what’s needed to fit them into a tiny bag) have lost most of their essential oils and aroma. Yay for boring tea with no flavour or scent!
  3. When steeped, these fine tea leaves release more tannins than loose leaf tea or whole leaf tea, resulting in more bitter or astringent brews. If you’re simply dumping sugar and milk into your tea until it tastes palatable, go for it. But if, like us, you want to enjoy the complex flavours in your tea and be able to drink it however you like, brewing loose leaf will give you more flexibility in terms of how much tea to use to adjust for the desired flavour and astringency.
  4. Tea leaves need room to expand for full flavour. This is why you may be no stranger to the whole dunking, swirling, squeezing process of brewing tea bags. Save yourself the finger workout and let your tea leaves unfurl to their full potential! This can also be really pretty, especially with loose leaf tea blends that contains whole, real ingredients.
  5. Tea bag tea is typically produced industrially (often overseas) in huge batches, only to sit on the shelf for months or (gasp!) years before they make it to your sad tea pot. Show yourself and your tea pot some love and brew some fresh loose leaf tea. Your taste buds will thank you.
A disclaimer: Recently in the tea industry, there has been a big push by micro blenders to create a whole leaf tea bag with room for the leaves to expand. So don’t give up hope, tea bag lovers! There is a middle ground alternative coming soon.

Contest: What’s your favourite tea from 2017?

Our American and Canadian tea subscription friends tasted 47 teas in 12 tea boxes last year.

Last year, our loyal subscribers from the United States and Canada savoured 47 different teas delivered in 12 tea boxes and we’d like to know what were your favourites.

From Seattle to Raleigh, Vancouver to Toronto, you tasted the best teas the world had to offer. The creamy, smooth and decadently floral Organic Lavender Cream, the strong blend of straight Ceylon and rich Assam teas in the 1894 Select Orange Pekoe, and the sweet and tart Fruit Basket. We know you had many great teas last year, and it’s easy to forget what you had, but don’t fret! We keep an archive of what we delivered last year. 

I’d love me a free tea box

Let’s hear what you enjoyed the most. Tell us which tea you liked best and why, and we’ll rank the entries. If your favourite tea appears in the top five of the list, we’ll send you a free tea box!

Limit of two entries per subscribers. Closing date is Feb. 2, 2018.

Enter the contest here.


An introduction to Tea Sparrow

Tea Sparrow was born of our family’s love for tea. Tasting it, smelling it, sharing it…Yum!

To us, Tea Sparrow is a fun flight of fancy in a box, with some of our most playful and passionate conversations taking place over these blends. We have quested and befriended tea sommeliers, blenders and farmers in the pursuit of truly great tea experiences. With no affiliation to blenders, we have tasted hundreds of teas, chosen the blends that inspire us, and shared them with you.

We do this by having our team of tea connoisseurs and sommeliers sample and score the teas for look, region, aroma and of course, taste. We take pride in delivering a variety of world-class blends to your door every month.

We have created this blog to share our journey through the beautifully complex international tea industry. We started our project back in January of 2012. So we’re going to start our blog post retroactive to that date and then quickly bring us to speed.

So, welcome to the Tea Sparrow family! We would love to hear about your favourite teas and tea experiences, and would be tickled if you shared with us here or at www.teasparrow.com

Michael Menashy and the Tea Sparrow Team


Enchanted Forest morning smoothie pick-you-up

Were you just wondering how you could liven up your morning smoothie AND harness the power and nutrition of this month’s green tea?

We thought so!

It’s so easy:

  1. The night before, cold brew your Enchanted Forest tea by placing 1 tbs in a 500mL (pint) mason jar, add cold water and a lid, shake and refrigerate until morning.
  2. Wake up.
  3. Make your morning smoothie as you normally would. We personally love:
    • pineapple
    • cherries
    • kale
    • lime
    • ginger
    • blueberries

    …but it’s your smoothie, so let loose!

  4. Put a tea strainer above your smoothie glass and pour the tea through, straining out the leaves to add the tea to your smoothie to your taste. We love a 1:1 ratio of smoothie to tea.
  5. Throw a tablespoon of hemp seeds on top if you are feeling adventurous!
  6. Drink your tea-spiked smoothie and rock your day!

Rooibos Chai Milk Tea

It’s time to get our fall on, tea drinkers. The leaves are crunching under our feet, the days are getting cooler, crisper and shorter. The perfect reason to drink tea!

This is a family recipe for milk tea, adapted here for this month’s Organic Rooibos Chai.

in a medium saucepan, over high heat bring to a boil:

1 cup milk

½ cup water

As soon as it starts to boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer the milk/water mixture. Add:

1 tbs Organic Rooibos Chai

Simmer this for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, strain into a tea pot, add 1 tsp sweetener and enjoy!


Bubbly Summer Merlot

What better invitation for a summer cocktail than this month’s green tea? Grapes, apples and marigold flowers + crisp green tea = your latest excuse to do nothing. Here’s how it’s done.

1. Cold brew your tea! We hope by now you’re familiar with this wonderful process, but in case not: place 2 tbs loose-leaf tea in a 1-litre jar, fill with cold water, cover with a lid, shake and place in the fridge for a few hours, or until you remember you put it there. Setting a timer is work and the antithesis to cold-brewing.

2a. Non-alcoholic option: simply strain the leaves out of your tea and mix 1 tbs simple syrup, ½ cup cold-brewed tea and 1 cup soda water. Add a slice of lime, pour over ice and enjoy!

2b. Alcoholic option: Strain the leaves out of your tea. Mix 12 oz cold-brewed tea with ¼-½ cup Prosecco (or bubbly of your choice) to taste, 1 oz gin and 1 tbs simple syrup. Add a slice of lime, pour over ice and enjoy!


Blueberry Rooibos Sangria

Did someone say summer cocktails? We have been having so much fun experimenting with iced tea! This recipe is just our spin on this summer drink but feel free to experiment and let us know how it goes!

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1. Cold brew 1 litre of Blueberry Rooibos tea (2 tbs + 1 L of water in a mason jar, cover, shake and place in your fridge for a couple hours before straining).

2. Muddle some fresh mint with ¼ cup simple syrup at the bottom of a pitcher. (Boil equal parts water and white sugar until sugar dissolves, set aside
to cool. Simple syrup will keep in a jar in your fridge until your next
cocktail.)

3. Add whatever fruit you’d like to use (cut up oranges, berries, pineapple, etc).

4. Add tea, a bottle of wine, up to 2L of carbonated water (optional) and ¼ cup of brandy (also optional).

Stir and enjoy!


Pear Green Tea Sangria

It’s spring! Well…practically…depending on where you live. We decided
that this weather and this month’s green tea were the perfect reasons
to make tea sangria.

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We used this recipe from Minimalist Baker and swapped out half the wine for cold-brewed Organic Pear Green tea and it was delicious! Feel free to play with the ingredients or use your own sangria recipe, and let us know how it turns out!

Ingredients

  • ½ pear, cored, skin on, chopped into small pieces
  • ½ orange, rind on, sliced into small pieces, large seeds removed (plus more for garnish)
  • 3-4 Tbsp brown sugar
  • ¾ cup orange juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/3 cup brandy, plus more to taste
  • 1 ½ cups dry Spanish red wine
  • 1 ½ cups cold-brewed Organic Pear Tea
  • Ice to chill (~1 cup)

Instructions

  1. Add pears, oranges and sugar to a large pitcher and muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon for 45 seconds.
  2. Add orange juice and brandy and muddle again to combine for 30 seconds.
  3. Add
    red wine, cold-brewed tea and stir to incorporate, then taste and adjust flavour as
    needed. Feel free to add a bit more brandy, orange juice and brown sugar. Stir to
    combine.
  4. Add ice and stir once more to chill. Serve as is, or with a bit more ice. Garnish with pears if that’s your thing.
  5. Store
    leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours, although it’s
    great when fresh, and even better enjoyed in the sun with your feet up.

Chamomile Hot Toddy

‘Tis the season! We’ve already had several colds pass through our home…don’t let this happen to you. Make this, alcoholic or non, and enjoy good health all season long. 

Serves 2.

Fill a small saucepan with 3 cups of water, 2 tbs loose-leaf Organic Chamomile and about a thumb of ginger, sliced. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Strain into 2 mugs and add honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to taste. If making it alcoholic: add 1 oz whisky per mug.

Enjoy!


Juniper Rooibos Peach Punch

Juniper Rooibos Peach Punch! Because…why not?

It’s fall, it’s raining, it’s cold. We have tea. Try to make this hot and let us know…we have a sneaking suspicion it might be lovely.

Brew or cold-brew 2 cups of this month’s Juniper Rooibos and pour into a large jug or jar. Add 2 cups peach juice (the real stuff), a slice lemon, a handful of fresh mint leaves, and 2 peaches thinly sliced. If you want to make it alcoholic, you can add up to 1/3 cup of vodka. Drink it hot or iced! Enjoy!


Pomegranate Crisp Rosh Hashana Punch

Happy Jewish New year, tea drinkers! We dreamed up this punch to have at our Rosh Hashana dinner next Sunday night, because pomegranates are awesome but also hard to find, messy and not easy to seed!

Although completely worth all the challenge. Don’t ditch the real pomegranates. Just supplement, people.

Step 1: Cold brew 1 litre (or 1 quart for our American friends) of Pomegranate Crisp. Savour the deliciousness, but only a little. Your guests deserve this too.

Step 2: Sweeten with honey-water (add a bit of boiling water to 2 tbs honey for every litre) and stir. Add 1 cup of apple juice, or adjust to your liking.

Pour it on ice, garnish with some sliced apples or pomegranate seeds and enjoy!