Chai 101 – Whole-Leaf Tea vs Tea Bag?

As you have probably guessed, we only use whole-leaf tea in our blends and no tea bags. ‘Whole-leaf tea’ means tea that’s mostly made of whole and unbroken leaves. 

Teabags are mainly made from the opposite, and utilise lower grades such as dust and fannings. Dust and fannings are smaller pieces of leaves. So, the most obvious difference between whole leaf tea and tea bags is the size and the shape of the leaf. 

The problem with fannings

Tea leaves contain flavour compounds like tannins and essential oils which give aroma, body, and flavours. Just like coffee beans, when you roast and grind them they lose their freshness pretty quickly; tea leaves are the same. So when tea leaves are cut and broken into little pieces, they lose their compounds and dry out very quickly. If they dry out, they are not going to be as flavorful as they are when first harvested.  

The reason why you should buy and drink whole-leaf tea

The particles get smaller when the tea leaves are broken and cut. This means that the bitterness of the tea leaves will become more prominent earlier. 

When you steep tea in a teabag, the infusion is limited by the size and the shape of the bag. Packing whole-leaf tea into a standard tea bag won’t create a flavourful tea. The tea industry has been filling tea bags with smaller (broken) particles of tea so the surface area increases and quick infusion becomes possible. This makes the process easy and cheap enough for an average cuppa.  

More recently, tea companies have been coming up with bigger and more spacious teabags with better quality tea leaves, to allow the leaves to expand more than in traditional teabags, thus creating a better brew. Despite innovations in tea bags, many of us stick with whole-leaf or loose-leaf tea instead of tea bag option. Why?

 

1. The ritual 

Tea is more than just a beverage; it is ritual during which we can slow down and reflect. We know a lot of Prana Chai lovers love not only the taste and aroma of our chai but the time they take to brew and pour into the cups. The whole experience counts!  

2. Better taste 

Despite all of the innovations in teabags, nothing can beat the fresh taste and aroma of chai brewed from loose-leaf tea. Flavourful tea needs plenty of room to dance and express the best possible flavour profile! 

3. Artisanal approach to what we consume 

As more of us grow to love specialty coffee and local food that we know comes from reputable sources, the same applies to chai and beyond. We don't want to just consume standardised products and want to know more about the impact on the earth and in society that we make by consuming certain products. 

*Some types of tea (including Matcha) are broken during processing. 

So....what's your opinion now?