Loose leaf tea is starting to becoming a huge trend everywhere (or was already popular). With many tea stores setting up shop, it is becoming more mainstream. Here are 9 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 blooming tea 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 currency 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 normally is 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 tanninmore 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 obviously 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 popular method included grinding tea leaves into green powder by using a stone mill, and then whipping the powder 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 finally adopt the American invention of the tea bag. 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, in order to have real tea, it must come from the camellia sinensis plant family. There are 6 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 true tea, although it can certainly have many health benefits.