The worst place to buy tea is the supermarket!

A theorem is obvious if a proof instantly springs to mind. Quality versus Quantity. Enjoyment versus Necessity. Craftsmanship versus Mass Production. Sustainability versus Exploitation.

Loose leaf Artisan Tea versus Commercialized Teabag "Dust".

Today, I proofed the obvious, and cupped a so called “premium, fresh and full flavoured black tea” –  teabag from the supermarket against an Indian Assam Dejoo, a Chinese-Yunnan Fengqing and a Taiwanese organic Jinxuan Black.

Guess what I found… this is what you get for under 20 cents per cup: RUBBISH. rubbish in a bag! Pesticide loaded, bitter tasting, bad for the consumers, bad for the workers (in every sense), bad for the environment, Rubbish!

OK, I hear you saying: 'but what did you expect?'

And you’re right – what can someone expect from a “cheapo” commercial tea from the supermarket (and, unfortunately, this is all you get there). Tea is still the second-most consumed beverage in the world after water. It is not Coffee, and (thankfully) it’s not Coca Cola and the likes. Most of the tea leaves, however, end up as fannings/dust in a teabag – easily available at the grocery store; and usually present in nearly any household pantry.

So, what makes people buy so much "rubbish"?

Certainly, it’s not the taste! But wait, a little milk and POW! teabag tea becomes somewhat drinkable. Milk, almost magically, decreases bitterness in the cup because milk proteins bind with the bitter components in the tea (tannins). Some people add lemon juice to counteract the bitterness (which also prevents iced tea from getting cloudy); some add sugar and some prefer honey. Bottom line, you gotta add something to make this teabag work for you.

Teabag Blog Post
Left: Commercial Teabag Fannings Right: Various types of quality loose leaf tea

But back to the question: Why do so many people drink rubbish? Availability? Convenience? The health benefits!  don’t forget tea is packed with polyphenols (antioxidants), minerals and vitamins. It is thirst quenching; and will help us focus and concentrate with its unique combination of Caffeine and L-Theanine; it just feels good sometimes to have a cup of tea….YES, all true. But…

...why sacrificing quality over quantity?

Why drinking tea that lost all its spirit, craft, tradition, and character (and, perhaps, is loaded with pesticides). It’s like drinking $8 wine from the “bag” just to get drunk; or having instant coffee just for the “thrill”.

Is it the money?

Hopefully it’s not just the money… Look at it this way, spending 20 cents or less for an awful drink versus 50 cents or more for REAL tea, that is balanced and delightful, has a natural sweetness, is ethnically produced, has all the benefits for body, mind and soul, and leaves you with a smile throughout. Plus, lets not forget that you easily get a second and third brew out of a good loose leaf tea…which renders the money statement useless in the end.

Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.
-Chaim Potok

Imperial Da Wu Ye

This all leaves us with How about Convenience – isn’t a teabag a little bit more handy to brew?

No. I guarantee it is not difficult to put some leaves in a cup with water and strain the liquor. Then use the same leaves to steep another cup, and so on…all you need is a strainer, or a lidded cup (gaiwan), or just the back of a spoon to keep the leaves in the brewing pot. No burning your fingers when wringing out a bag, no mess, no ugly “thing” sitting on a saucer waiting to be thrown out.

Let’s give it a go! There’s a lot to win.

Really, there’s a LOT of magic in a cup of Artisan loose leaf tea.

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