Difference Between Loose Leaf Tea, Tea Sachets, and Tea Bags

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There’s a big difference between loose leaf tea and tea bags! See how loose tea, tea sachets, and tea bags compare and why one is better than the others.

Loose tea, tea sachets, and tea bags.

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Loose Tea, Tea Sachets, and Tea Bags

There’s a big difference between loose leaf tea, tea sachets, and tea bags and it’s easy to see once you put them side by side.

Loose tea, tea sachets, and tea bags all contain rolled dried tea leaves. The more of the whole tea leaf (bigger pieces) you can see, the better the quality of tea.

Loose leaf tea (top in the photo) is usually made up of whole, unbroken tea leaves. Once the tea leaves are brewed, the leaves will unfurl and you should be able to see the shape of the leaf.

Tea sachets (middle in the photo) contain a mix of whole and broken tea leaves inside a pyramid-shaped bag.

The tea inside tea bags (bottom in the photo) are little tiny bits of what was once a whole tea leaf.

When you open up a tea bag, it’s hard to tell that the small bits and powder were once a leaf.

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Loose tea is the highest quality tea

Loose Leaf Tea
  • Loose tea is usually whole tea leaves.
  • The essential oil in the leaf is where the flavor of the tea comes from.
  • Whole tea leaves have the most flavor.
  • For the best tasting tea, go with loose tea.
  • Loose tea brewed in water has the most room to expand and unfurl, giving you a better tasting tea.

Tea Sommelier’s Tip: Don’t use a tea ball to brew loose tea since there isn’t enough room for the tea leaves to unfurl. The bigger the infuser, the better the tea will steep properly.

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Tea sachets contain good quality tea

Tea leaves in Tea Sachets
  • Tea sachets with their pyramid shape are filled with a mix of broken and whole tea leaves.
  • When tea leaves are broken, they lose most of their essential oils, resulting in a less flavorful tea.
  • The pyramid shape allows more room for the tea to expand, leaving a more flavorful tea.
  • For convenience and good quality tea, use tea sachets.

Tea Sommelier’s Tip: Tea sachets are handy for making tea lattes and other drinks where tea is mixed with other ingredients like milk or sugar.

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Tea bags contain the lowest quality tea

Tea in Tea Bags
  • Tea bags are filled with small broken leaves and tea dust.
  • Since tea bags have tea that are in such small pieces, the essential oils are mostly gone.
  • It’ll taste one-note and will lack depth of flavor.
  • For convenience only, use tea bags.
  • No expensive teas (higher grade) are put into tea bags.

Tea Sommelier’s Tip: Tea bags are great for making drinks like chai frappuccinos where a lot of other ingredients are added to make the drink. When you add more than 3 or more ingredients to make a drink, you can use tea bags without worrying about quality.

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  1. Thank you, Jee, for explaining the difference between the three ways tea is packed! I made a more informed decision on what to buy (sachets vs bags). Being used to the flavour of an English Breakfast Tea in sachets, I think I would have been disappointed had I bought the tea bags instead. Thanks again, and have a great day!

  2. Hi, can cold brew method unfurl loose leaves tea?

    Is it ok to wrap my loose leaves tea in a tiny piece of cheesecloth tie with thread and drop it in the container for cold brewing?

    1. Hi p, yes, cold brewing will unfurl the leaves. It’s best if you give the leaves a lot of room to unfurl so if you can use bigger pieces of cheesecloth, that would be better than smaller pieces.

  3. Does the steeping time differ between loose tea and tea in a sachet providing it’s the same kind of tea being used?