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What is Loose Tea?

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  • Written By: KN
  • Edited By: Lindsay D.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2016
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Loose tea is really just tea: dried leaves or fruits for steeping in hot water, except without the bag.

Tea historians say that people started drinking tea more than 5,000 years ago. As the story goes, at that time in China there was an emperor named Shen Nung, who was a learned man and a scholar of the sciences. Because he believed that water was made pure by boiling, he insisted that all water be boiled before the members of his court could drink it.

One afternoon, as the court members were traveling, a leaf from a nearby tree flew into his cup of boiled water. Curious, he allowed the leaf to remain in his cup, and he saw that the leaf infused his water with a light brown color--and a refreshing taste. Since then people in China, then Japan, and now all over the world, enjoy a nice cup of tea.

Loose tea was the only type of tea available for many centuries. Ancient books have been discovered that explain what kind of tea leaves were preferred, how people of the time prepared loose tea, and the methods used to strain the loose tea leaves from the tea.

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Ironically, the invention of the teabag was an accident. A tea merchant, tired of shipping loose tea in the bulky and heavy metal tea tins, devised a packaging innovation-he packed his loose tea into silk bags that weighed less and could be compacted for shipping. When he heard back from customers requesting he send them loose tea in his convenient teabags, a new concept was born. By 1904, teabags were commercially successful around the globe.

The convenience of the teabag--making such things as tea strainers or tea balls unnecessary--made it extremely popular. While avid loose tea fans do have to develop the knack of removing the loose tea from the pot or teacup, many consider the technique an integral part of the tea drinking rituals and traditions.

Sales of tea in teabags still make up 94% of today's tea market, but the trend may be changing. Because some of the tea used in tea bags is tea siftings or broken leaves, tea lovers have gravitated back to the quality of loose tea to enjoy the full flavor. Types of teas fall into three basic categories: Black, Oolong, and Green.

Loose tea, as opposed to tea made from tea in teabags, will likely remain the choice of true tea connoisseurs. And besides, trying to see your fortune through a teabag makes it kind of tough, doesn't it?

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discographer
Post 3

I love drinking loose tea but I don't like using a loose tea infuser. I've been using the ones that go directly in the cup. The small tea pieces and dust always get through the infuser and end up in my cup and I manage to burn my hand while trying to get it out. It also scratches the inside of cups. I know they also have tea pots with infusers but I hear those cool down way too quickly and you end up drinking cold tea.

What other options are out there? Any suggestions?

burcinc
Post 2

We mainly drink loose tea in the Middle East. Tea bags are available in stores but are not really preferred. The main reason is that we drink so much tea during the day that we would have to go through many tea bags, especially for a family of four. Also, our brewing method of loose tea is different. We make tea in a two piece teapot. The bottom contains water and is boiled first. When the water has boiled, it is poured to the top teapot which holds the tea. The pots are kept over low heat on the stove. This makes the flavor of the tea to settle and become stronger. The teapot usually has a built in strainer so the loose tea doesn't pour into the tea cup. Otherwise we just place a strainer on the tea cup before we pour the tea.

somerset
Post 1

Got this great green tea recipe in a recent visit to China: place a pinch of tea leaves (3 to 4g) in a tea cup or mug. You can always adjust the amount to your taste, more tea leaves means stronger tea. Boil enough water and let it cool for 3 minutes so the water comes to the right temperature (85 to 90 C). Pour the hot water over the tea leaves and steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Don't cover. The tea is ready to drink (careful - it is hot). You can refill your cup with hot water 3 to 4 more times to enjoy your tea throughout the day!

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