DRINKING LOOSE LEAF TEA: WHAT IS IT AND HOW TO PREPARE IT

tea scene with fresh baked muffins

WHAT IS LOOSE LEAF TEA?

Loose leaf tea -- does that sound intimidating? It's really a lot less complicated than you might think.

While tea bags come already portioned out for you, with loose leaf tea you scoop the tea yourself into a reusable tea infuser, such as a mesh ball infuser or a basket infuser, which essentially serves as the tea bag. You can also use a teapot that has a built in mesh strainer, or set a strainer such as this one over your cup and strain out the leaves as you pour the tea. Once you get in the rhythm of it, you may find it takes no more time than making a cup of tea from a bag.

So what's the difference then? You may ask. Why go for loose leaf tea?

1. It tastes better.

Tea stores best together in bulk, not in tiny amounts with air circulating around it. So loose leaf tea stays fresher longer and has fuller flavor.

2. It's environmentally friendly.

Not only does it require less packaging but it makes it easier to compost your tea leaves as well.

3. It creates a ritual.

While the water is heating up, you take out your mug and spoon your tea into your infuser. You're given a moment to just focus on the now, to see and smell the tea leaves as you wait to hear the water start to bubble.

HOW TO ENJOY LOOSE LEAF TEA - STEP BY STEP

Here's a quick and easy guide:

STEP 1. CHECK DIRECTIONS AND HEAT WATER 

Check your tea for directions on serving size, steeping time and water temperature. Black and herbal teas generally take boiling water, but oolong, green and white teas are more sensitive, so you will want something between 160 and 190 degrees. If you don't want to fuss with a thermometer, watch or listen for the tiny bubbles just starting to form a simmer

STEP 2. ADD TEA TO INFUSER

Spoon in the amount of tea per directions - typically ranges from a teaspoon to a tablespoon for one cup - into your tea infuser and place it in the cup. Tea strainer, tea steeper, tea infuser - whatever you want to call it - the best ones are easy and straightforward to use, and eco-friendly to boot.

STEP 3. ADD HOT WATER AND STEEP

Let the tea steep, generally for 3 to 6 minutes, based on the directions or your preference.

Green, oolong and white teas typically take shorter steep times and you can infuse them multiple times (e.g. steep 3 minutes, set aside infuser, drink tea; repeat, steeping slightly longer each time). Black and herbal teas can steep longer, 4 - 5 minutes for black teas, 5+ minutes for herbal teas. For the most part, herbals don't don't hold up as well to a second steep but also don't get bitter, so you can steep them as long as you want.

NOW ENJOY YOUR TEA!

Remove tea infuser, unless you have a mesh ball infuser and like it strong, then you can keep it in. (If you plan to resteep your tea, you can set the tea infuser on a small plate or dish to save for the next round). You can drink your tea plain, but you can also add a spoonful of honey and/or a squeeze of lemon to fancy it up. Black tea and rooibos tea are also commonly taken with a splash of milk. That's it though, just sit back, drink your tea and enjoy!

Looking for loose leaf tea online? Check out our online shop here.