There is a myth that ‘teabag tea’ – ie. dust and fannings – are bad. Many are the experts who reject teabags as being the worst of the crop. The reality is that there is good and bad tea regardless of the grade (density/size of the made tea). The same batch of freshly harvested tea leaves will produce small, medium and large leaf grades. They can be equally good or equally bad, but quality is not determined by leaf size.
Whilst there can be no doubt that good, fresh and single origin orthodox leaf tea, brewed correctly in the teapot is the best way to enjoy tea, there are some very good teas in teabags also.
This image is of our Seasonal Flush Uva, a complex and very sophisticated high grown tea. This tea can be packed and enjoyed equally in our Luxury Leaf bags (special triangular teabags, made of a biodegradeable material) as in leaf form. Of course presenting this in conventional paper teabags would be difficult due to the volumetric dosing used in most teabag machines and the absorption of some part of the flavour by the filter paper material.
Much as we would like everyone to take 10 minutes from their day to savour the experience of tea to the full, by using leaf tea, there are times when we all need a shortcut. For those times, good teabags do exist. In the early days of the bag unfortunately many packers used inferior tea, siezing the opportunity of hiding poor tea inside this new fangled way of packing tea. That is to be expected and as with any product there is an honest way and a less than honest way of going about making tea.
Good quality small leaf tea – yes, including the Dust Tea that is so reviled – offers excellent, strong liquors. I had the pleasure of tasting a delicious Mattakelle Fannings a week ago, and what an experience – a rich, malty tea with body, character and strength like few others I have enjoyed. That was a small leaf tea, strong because of its size and density which allows greater interaction with the water and hence a thick liquor. The same can never be achieved in a larger, Pekoe style leaf for the siomple reason that the larger leaf with its smaller surface area has less contact with water and therefore a milder liquor.
Teabags need good, small leaf both because even, Fannings and Dust Teas are compatible with the dosing systems on teabag making machines and because the strength of the liquor overcomes the 5-10% barrier that even the best filter paper causes in teabags. Brewing it right is quite another matter and often we hear from customers who complain that their tea is weak; upon investigation we often find that they either use one bag to more than 250ml of freshly boiled water, or do not allow the tea to brew properly. In the UK the average brewing time is 37 seconds! That’s OK if you would like to add a tinge of mcolour to your water with CTC tea, but it is certainly not OK for the preparation of good quality traditional tea, either in leaf or teabag form.
If you enjoy tea, and would occasionally like to have a quick cuppa, give the teabag another chance. Find a good, fresh and single origin (unblended) tea, brew it right and the results may surprise you.