9 Interesting facts about loose leaf tea

October 22, 2018

Loose leaf tea is starting to becoming a huge trend everywhere (or was already famous). With many tea stores setting up shop, it is becoming more mainstream. Here are nine interesting facts about loose leaf tea that you can show off to your friends.

1. Loose leaf tea has been the norm for thousands of years. Up until the early 1900's, tea was always brewed in loose leaf form, until an American merchant accidentally discovered it could be brewed in small bags. However, brewing loose leaf tea still stayed the norm in many regions of the world. Some connoisseurs even think tea bags were the worst invention of the 20th century, but that may be going a little overboard.

2. Tea bricks, containing leaves, were a form of currency in the past. Using tea as money was prevalent particularly in Asia. Nomads of Siberia and Mongolia even preferred tea bricks as their form of currency instead of coins. These bricks could be used for money, eaten as food, or brewed.

3. Loose leaf tea is typical of much higher quality than leaves in tea bags. Tea bags usually contain what are known as fannings and dust, which have been crushed and have lost most of their essential oils. The bags can also release tannin more quickly into the water (not to be confused with tannic acid), which can make the flavor more bitter. With loose tea, the full leaf with all of its oils has room to expand and release its full flavor, aroma and health benefits.

4. There are loose leaf teas that blossom like a real flower when brewing. These are called blooming teas. The leaves are hand wrapped together around dried flowers and then appear to bloom flowers during the brewing process. You want to brew these creations in glass or in a clear container to enjoy and view this process.

5. Loose tea leaves were not always steeped like they are today. Prior to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), tea leaves were not steeped at all. One previous method included taking compressed bricks of leaves and softening them by fire, and then grating the particles into boiling water. Another favorite way included grinding tea leaves into green powder by using a stone mill and then whipping the dust into hot water with bamboo whisks. It wasn't until the Ming Dynasty that the leaves began to be steeped or soaked in hot water like today.

6. Some loose teas are aged over time, just like wine. Unlike other types of tea which are best consumed right after production, pu-erh tea, for example, can be aged for up to 15 years or longer. It is considered to be a post-fermented tea, meaning exposed to beneficial bacteria, microflora, and oxygen over time, which changes its chemical nature and taste.

7. The UK took its time to switch from loose leaf tea to tea bags. Up until the 1960's, only 3% of tea in the UK was brewed using tea bags, while the rest was brewed in loose leaf form. It took a while for the UK to adopt the American invention of the tea bag finally. Now, the UK brews roughly 96% of its tea with tea bags.

8. Loose leaf tea only comes from one plant family. While this fact also applies to tea bags as well, to have real tea, it must come from the camellia sinensis plant family. There are six main types of tea, which depend on processing and where grown. These include white, black, green, oolong, yellow, and pu-erh. Herbal tea is not technically a pure tea, although it can certainly have many health benefits.

9. Loose leaf tea infusers have started to become trendy again. In the 19th century, tea infusers took off in popularity in Britain. At the time, many were made from silver, so they also served as an ornament along with a utensil. Nowadays, there are some different ways to brew loose leaf tea, but using an infuser is coming back into style with many being produced in numerous shapes, designs, and colors. You can find ones shaped like animals, flowers, people, and more