Is Loose Leaf Tea Really Better?

If you have tea lover friends, chances are they’ve been preaching to you the awesomeness of the loose leaf tea movement and why you should join us (if you haven’t still). But come to think of it, is loose leaf tea really better? Is it even fair to compare loose leaf tea with their teabag counterpart when they are obvious of different grades?

With these questions in mind, we set out to search for the answers with a little experiment using a 2019 Dian Hong for its pleasantly sweet and fruity notes. In this investigation, we will compare the same tea brewed two ways: Tea #1 in its original loose leaf form, and Tea #2 is the exact same tea but grinded. To ensure the quality of the teas will stay as identical as possible and to avoid any burn from frictional heat, we used a Portex ceramic tea grinder to gently hand-grind the Dian Hong for this experiment. 

Comparing Dian Hong - Loose Leaf vs Grinded Tea Leaves

Both teas are then brewed with 100ml water in 90c, with 4g of tea leave for 15 seconds (This is also the gongfucha method for brewing our Dian Hong in Vol 3). To be honest, we weren’t sure if there would be any major difference in such a short brew but we always welcome a little challenge.

Comparing Dian Hong - Loose Leaf Tea vs Grinded

Loose Leaf vs Grinded Tea - Visual, Smell & Taste Comparison

Even with just a 15 seconds brew, we noticed major contrast in color between the two liquors. Tea #2, the grinded version, was a tone darker than Tea #1 (as shown above).

The aroma from the two teas were also distinctively different: Tea #1 gave off a familiar sweet aroma while Tea #2 was a bit malty to the nose.

Much to our surprise, the grinded tea did not tasted as bitter as we had anticipated. Both teas have the familiar Dian Hong fruitiness but the grinded version clearly has a sour taste to it. The loose leaf tea also has more depths of flavour with a smoother mouthfeel. Comparatively, the grinded version seemed more one dimensional and flat.

The difference in taste became more obvious as we re-steeped the teas. The loose leaf version got more flavorful on the 2nd and 3rd steeps as the tea leaves slowly opened up, while the taste of the grinded tea got weaker after the initial infusion.

Does loose leaf tea really taste better?

The Verdict - Should You Switch to Loose Leaf Tea?

If you are looking for a delicious straight tea to appreciate, loose leaf tea is clearly the winner. Not only does loose leaf tea smell and taste much more complex, the bonus of being able to witness the whole tea leaf unfurling and coming back to life is another enjoyment for our senses.

So if you still haven’t tried loose leaf tea, what are you waiting for?