Tea/loose leaf tea
I had a question about Green Tea. With regards to teabags vs. loose leaf tea, most everyone says that loose leaf tea is always better, both in terms of taste and quality, with loose leaf tea having much more catechins/antioxidants and EGCG. How true is this? I've heard that most tea bags have fannings, which are a lower quality tea, and thus less antioxidants. One site I did run across though alluded to the fact that with tea fannings though, there was more surface area contact with the water, since fannings are so small. This would stand to reason that you would actually be getting more antioxidants from tea bags since more tea leaf is in contact with the water. I've also heard teas from China are cheap, whereas ones from Japan are good quality, and to only buy teas from Japan. I am most concerned about getting the most antioxidants, which I'm guessing is from loose leaf tea. Would you still get more catechins/EGCG from a lower grade (say B) loose leaf tea as opposed to a more expensive tea bag? I've also heard that you could re-use/make multiple infusions of loose leaf tea. Don't you lose a whole lot of antioxidants doing this? Lastly, what is the best method to brew loose leaf tea, metal ball, infuser, etc. Thanks very much for your help.
Hello, and thanks for your questions! As you pointed out, the fannings used in teabags are much, much smaller than loose-leaf tea. This does offer more surface area contact during steeping. However, the antioxidants offered in the tea are lost long before you ever steep it. The tea needs to be crushed down to fit into the tea bags, and it also needs to be dried out a lot more than usual to prevent spoilage, as brewers of bagged tea are a lot less likely to have air-sealed containers in which to store their tea. However, the process of crushing and drying the teas and herbs removes a lot of the nutrients. The same is true with loose leaf teas as well, which is why the more heavily processed dark teas are less nutritious than the lighter teas. Bagged tea, however, goes through more processing, so it loses more of its nutrients. As to whether lower grade loose-leaf is more beneficial than expensive bagged tea, that really depends on the company. Some companies will charge more for their teas based on the quality, but there are a variety of other factors than can affect the price as well. For example, from what I've seen, Starbucks charges more for their tea based on appearance and blend. As to re-using loose leaf tea, you can definitely brew multiple batches with the same set of leaves. After the first, though, the quality will start to go down in terms of taste and nutrients, just like brewing two pots of coffee without changing the grounds or using the same teabag twice. When I brew loose leaf, I use a device that strains the leaves out of the water after brewing is finished, kind of like a french press. I like it because it allows for more direct contact with the water, but it's a little more expensive. If I had to choose a different tool, I'd probably go with a basket infuser simply because it allows more space for the leaves. I hope this answers your questions, and don't hesitate to ask if you have any more!