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.

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!

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!


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

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!

It’s-still-summer Pink Grapefruit Sorbet

We technically have until September 21, even if you too have turned on your heat and taken those jackets off their hangers…possibly with some sadness.

But don’t be sad! Fall is more than just pumpkin spice lattes. And this sorbet is all about reclaiming these last 2 weeks of ‘summer.’



3 cups water

3 tbs loose-leaf Pink Grapefruit tea

¾ cup sugar

In a small saucepan bring the water
to a boil. Add your tea leaves and remove pan from heat. Cover pan and steep
tea 5 minutes. Strain tea
through a fine sieve into a bowl, then add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Chill tea, covered, until cold and
freeze in an ice-cream maker. Enjoy!                        

Maracuja Orange Tea Pops

Tea pops are the perfect summer treat!

Where it’s hot, they keep you cool.

Where it’s not (ie, Vancouver), they keep you happy.

Basically, it’s always a good time for a tea pop.

Here’s how to make them:

Simply cold brew a jar of Maracuja Orange for 6 hours or more in your fridge. (Place 2 heaping tbs of loose-leaf tea into the jar, fill with cold water, shake, cover and place in your fridge. Give it a little shake every hour or so.) Once it’s finished brewing, shake it and pour through a strainer into another jar. Add 2 tbs simple syrup, shake and pour into your favourite popsicle molds. Place into the freezer and wait patiently.


Berries Galore Pineapple Shrub

This drink takes a little more prep, but it will be well worth it when you’re sitting in the sun holding this.



Servings: 8

  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • 1 pineapple, peeled, cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 6 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 2 tbs Organic Berries Galore
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 5 sprigs mint
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced into wheels
  • 2 cups tequila (optional)
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice


  • Bring sugar and 1 cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add pineapple, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let
    sit 30 minutes to infuse syrup with pineapple flavor. Strain into a small
    bowl; stir in vinegar. Cover and chill shrub until cold, about 30 minutes. Cover and chill pineapple pieces until ready to use.

  • Meanwhile, cold brew Berries Galore: place 2 tbs tea into a 1-Litre jar and fill with cold water. Cover, shake and place in the fridge for 3-4 hours.
  • Set aside 8 slices jalapeño and 8 pieces pineapple for serving. Stir mint, lime wheels, tequila (if desired), lime juice, remaining jalapeño and pineapple, 1 cup shrub, and 1 cup tea in a large
    pitcher and chill at least 1 hour.

  • Serve in ice-filled rocks glasses garnished with
    reserved jalapeño slices and pineapple pieces.

To Darjeeling and back

Text and photos by Del Tamborini

Have you ever wondered about the journey tea leaves take to get to our cups?

the moment the leaves are plucked off the bush, until they reach us in
tidy little packages ready for consumption, many different steps have to
be followed exactly right to ensure the highest quality tea is

On a recent trip to Darjeeling, India’s Makaibari Tea
Estate, we were fortunate to be invited to experience the intricate and
fascinating tea production process.

Darjeeling tea is frequently
called the ‘Champagne of Tea’, for its refinement and delicate
complexity. Furthermore, like Champagne, Darjeeling is a ‘controlled
appellation’, meaning only tea produced in Darjeeling can legally bear
that region’s name.

Although some of the distinctiveness of
Darjeeling tea can be attributed to terroir – a particular combination
of soil, precipitation, sunlight, and other factors that contribute to
the unique character of a given tea – the chain of events starting from
the plucking of the leaf is equally important in creating the tea
masterpieces for which Darjeeling is renowned.  


proper pluck is essential for making a high-quality tea. While plucks
vary depending on the tea to be manufactured, the ‘classic’ pluck is two
leaves and one bud. (The workers pictured are selecting exactly this
pluck.) Plucking is labour-intensive and challenging. It must be done
with great speed but also a high level of discernment – care must be
taken to select leaves of the proper size and age, and to maintain the
integrity of the leaf during the plucking. In many tea countries, tea
plucking staffs are composed almost exclusively of women, as they
possess a degree of manual dexterity men often lack.

the pluck, the leaves are gathered in large bamboo baskets and returned
en masse to the estate’s central tea factory, where they undergo further

The next step is withering, done in long, shallow
troughs, to reduce the moisture content of the leaves and make them more


After the wither,
the remainder of the process varies according to the particular type of
tea being produced, but for black teas – the bulk of Darjeeling teas
produced – the next step is rolling. This step’s purpose to break the
cell walls of the leaf and enable the leaf to oxidize, and it is a
heavily mechanized process – the rolling machines we saw were nearing a
hundred years old, from the British colonial period!


the rolling is done, the oxidation process begins. The rolled leaves
are placed on shallow metal trays to allow maximum exposure of the
leaves to oxygen, and left there until they have oxidized to a
predetermined level. The leaves are now nearly finished!


oxidation, the leaves still retain a significant amount of moisture, so
to make sure they don’t become mouldy during their journey to us, they
are placed into enormous electric dryers. The dryers
reduce the leaves’ moisture content to 2-3% (any lower and the leaves
would become too brittle and break), at which point they’re removed and
immediately packaged in large paper sacks.


sacks are then sent to your favourite tea retailer, where they’re
broken down into smaller packages. Finally, the leaves make it to you
(hooray!) to fulfill their ultimate purpose – to provide you a delicious
cup of tea!

Healthy Homemade Tea Jello!


We made jell-o! Well I guess technically jelly but that doesn’t sound quite as exciting. It was surprisingly easy, delicious and is a really healthy snack. Here’s what we did:

Cold brew 1 litre of Strawberry Mint (see cold brewing instructions here)

Pour the strained tea into a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of gelatin (we used this one) and bring to a low simmer. Stir in 1-2 tbs honey and stir until completely combined.

Turn off the heat, let it cool and pour it back into a big jar, cake pan or little molds. Let it sit in the fridge overnight. Enjoy!

Tea for kids!

If you have a little one at home (or
more than 1), you know that anything you eat or drink is literally up for
grabs. We have learned to quickly scarf down desserts and throw back glasses of
wine. And kombucha. She loves kombucha! This, along with our goal of exposing
said little one to different flavours in her food, materialised into: letting
her drink our tea.

While this usually looks like just giving her sips out of
our mugs once the tea has cooled, we sometimes succeed at proactivity and cold-
brew an herbal tea overnight in the fridge to let her drink on its own or in a
smoothie. (See cold-brewing instructions here.) As evident by the big smile on
his face, her best little friend Tom who lives next door has been loving this
month’s Baked Apple Rooibos! His parents brew it hot and then let it cool
before putting it in his sippy cup for him to enjoy. Rooibos is particularly
good for kids because it’s so high in vitamin c and antioxidants, and also
great for digestion. So go ahead and brew a pot! You might even get to drink
some this time.

Lazy Cold Brewed Tropical Coconut Oolong

This is actually how we cold brew any tea, but cold brewing is perfect for this kind of tea as it brings out all the flavour with none of the astringency.

Step 1: Measure one tablespoon per 500ml mason jar.

Step 2: Add cold water, filling the mason jar. Tighten lid firmly and shake
well. Place in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours to a maximum of 10 hours. We loved this tea after 5 hours, but cold brewing forgives both impatience and forgetfulness.

Step 3: Remove from fridge. Feel the excitement.

Step 4: Strain the leaves as you serve the tea. Enjoy! Celebrate your awesomeness.