Whether you're a tried-and-true tea lover or just looking to switch up your morning coffee routine, loose-leaf teas are a great addition to any kitchen. By skipping the pre-packaged tea bag, you can enjoy a better-tasting, higher-quality cup of tea, all while avoiding chemicals and synthetic ingredients and cutting down on wasteful packaging.
Below, we'll explain what loose leaf teas are and how to brew them, what differentiates tea bags from loose-leaf, and offer recommendations for the best loose leaf tea to add to your daily routine.
What is loose leaf tea?
Loose leaf tea does not come pre-packaged in individual tea bags. Instead of simply unwrapping and dunking their bag, tea drinkers will need to portion out a tablespoon or so into an infuser, French press, or tea ball. While it does require a bit more effort to brew, loose leaf tea offers superior flavor, aroma, and health benefits.
Loose Tea vs. Tea Bags
While loose tea and tea bags may seem similar at first glance, the grades of tea used differ slightly. Unlike the small, dust-like tea used inside most bags, loose leaf tea typically uses higher tea grades like a whole leaf or broken leaf. Additionally, a loose leaf tea is less compact than the tea inside most store-bought bags, creating a full-bodied brew with better flavor, aroma, and health properties.
Regardless of whether you're brewing oolong tea, white tea, earl grey, masala chai, or anything in between, choosing loose leaf tea offers a number of advantages:
- Less Wasteful— Between the bag itself, the wrapper, and the cardboard package, the single-serve bags can be incredibly wasteful. By contrast, loose leaf tea varieties create less waste, as they require little packaging and are typically brewed using reusable options like pyramid infusers.
- Fewer Chemicals— Grocery store variety tea bags often contain synthetic ingredients or are bleached to create an even appearance. Using loose leaves reduces the chance of steeping chemicals into your cup without your knowledge.
- Better Flavor and Aroma— Because loose leaf tea is made using higher grade leaves and larger pieces, it releases more essential oils during steeping. As a result, your tea will taste less bitter and smell more aromatic.
With that being said, there are a few cons that come with switching to loose tea:
- Requires Additional Effort— Instead of simply dropping in a bag, you'll need to portion out the loose tea leaves into an infuser or use a strainer after steeping.
- Messy— Between the scooping and the filling, using pyramid infusers can get a bit messy, especially when you're first getting the hang of things.
- Not Travel-Friendly— While it's easy to toss an individually wrapped tea bag or two into your purse, backpack, or carry-on, loose leaf tea isn't quite as easy to take on the go.
Can loose tea expire?
When stored correctly, loose leaf tea has an incredibly long shelf life. Instead of going bad, teas simply lose their flavor and aroma, leaving behind a stale, bitter taste with fewer antioxidants and health benefits than the fresh stuff. While brands are required by law to put an expiration or 'best before date, most teas can still be used well beyond it.
How to store loose tea
Proper storage is key to extending the shelf life of your favorite teas and keeping it tasting fresh for longer. Tea should be stored in a dark, cool, dry place (such as a kitchen cabinet or pantry shelf) in an airtight container. Keep the lid screwed on tightly between uses to slow down oxidation and deterioration.
The Best Loose Leaf Tea
Best Sampler Kit
Not sure what type of tea to try first? Start with a sampler kit that provides plenty of options to choose from. This Heavenly Tea Leaves Organic Loose Leaf Tea Sampler Set contains nine of their best-selling teas, herbal tisanes, and tea blends with approximately ten servings of tea per can (for a total of ninety servings). Plus, the eco-friendly gift box option makes the perfect gift for tea lovers.
The Heavenly Tea Leaves Organic Tea Sampler Set includes nine flavors of organic loose leaf teas and herbal tisanes: English breakfast tea, passion green tea, ginger jazz, turmeric chili chai herbal tisane or turmeric ginger herbal tisane, green tea, berry herbal tisane, jasmine green tea, earl grey tea, herbal cleanse tisane or refresh herbal tisane. Each of the gourmet blends is certified USDA organic and kosher.
Best Black Tea
While Anthony's Organic Loose Leaf English Breakfast Tea is ideal for making your morning cuppa, it's equally suitable for making infused desserts, sun tea, and kombucha starters. It's certified organic, gluten-free, and vegan.
In addition to rich flavors and a pleasantly malty aroma, breakfast teas are packed with potassium and manganese that may help to reduce blood pressure, rev your metabolism, and support bone and heart health. Plus, a single cup offers around 40-50 mg of caffeine.
Best Green Tea
When it comes to green tea, it doesn't get much better than the full-bodied flavor and earthy aroma of Numi Organic's Gunpowder Green Tea. Within hours of being picked, the certified organic, fair trade tea plants are gently steamed and rolled into tight pearls that unfurl to release a potent green tea flavor and matcha-like scent as they steep. The convenient resealable pouch helps keep the pure green tea leaves inside fresh until your next morning brewing, tea party, or afternoon pick-me-up.
Best Chamomile Tea
Looking for a bedtime tea that can help you unwind? Try this certified organic chamomile tea from US Wellness Naturals. It contains only 100% chamomile flowers sourced from Egyptian Al-Fayyum planes with intense sunlight that creates plants rich in essential oils. As a result, the floral tea offers superior flavor, aroma, and antioxidant levels that can be used for tea drinking, bath products, beauty rituals, and creating homemade essential oil blends.
The resealable one-pound bulk bag is made from a BPA-free multi-layer polymer and Kraft surface that helps preserve freshness during storage. In the right conditions, the chamomile flowers will stay fresh for up to two years.
Organic India's Original Stress Relieving and Energizing Loose Leaf Herbal Tea contains a blend of three potent herbs— Rama, Vana, and Krishna Tulsi (holy basil)— that relieve stress, rejuvenate the mind, and energize the body without caffeine. The blend's main ingredient, Tulsi, is a powerful healing herb rich in antioxidants and adaptogens that support a healthy immune system.
Thanks to its mild, earthy flavor, the Organic India Tulsi Original Herbal Tea Blend is perfect for sipping throughout the workday or enjoying alongside a mid-day meal. Plus, you can drink easy knowing the blend was grown sustainably using a regenerative agriculture method that supports small family farmers in India.
Best Chai Tea
While Frontier Co-Op's Organic Fair Trade Chai Tea is great on its own, it tastes equally delicious with a swirl of milk and honey in a vanilla chai latte or steeped into a spiced dessert. The chai tea blend contains oxidized and fermented black tea leaves combined with aromatic Indian spices, including black pepper, fresh ginger, fennel, ground cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon. Unlike many tea companies, all of Frontier Co-Op's teas and tea blends are fair trade certified, organic, and made without chemicals or artificial additives.
Best Fruit Tea
This Very Berry Citrus Herbal Tea from the Positively Tea Company has a sweet, herbal flavor profile with hints of fruits and berries. The delicious herbal tea is made with an all-organic blend of hibiscus, rosehips, apple pieces, black currant, strawberry, mixed berry leaves, safflower, lemon verbena, and lemon myrtle. It's naturally high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and contains no caffeine, additives, preservatives, or colorants.
Once you've polished off this one-pound bag, try one of the Positively Tea Company's other delicious caffeine-free flavors like peppermint leaf, lavender chamomile, hibiscus tisane, coco berry mango, or herbal detox. Like the Very Berry Citrus Herbal Tea, they're made using organic ingredients and a sustainable production process.
Best Guayusa Tea
Guayusa, a superfood leaf found in the Amazon rainforest, offers a unique balance of caffeine, polyphenols, and L-Theanine that provide sustained energy, mental clarity, and focus to power you through the day. RUNA's Clean Energy Organic Guayusa Loose Leaf Tea provides a clean energy source without the synthetic ingredients and sugar-packed inside traditional energy drinks. So unlike coffee or soda, there are no jitters and mid-afternoon crashes, just natural caffeine to power you through the day.
But RUNA's Guayusa tea isn't just good for you; it's good for the planet and the people who produce it. As a Certified B-Corporation, all RUNA products are made using organic, fair-trade certified ingredients that positively impact both your health and the health and happiness of the workers and the environment.