POLL: The great tea bag debate

I don’t drink teabags. This isn’t some posh thing: I just don’t like the taste of the tea that they produce, and I think all tea bags pretty much taste the same. If convenience is an issue and I have to use a tea bag, I take the whole 15 seconds required and fill a paper tea filter with my favourite loose leaf.

According to the UK Tea Council, 96% of the tea drunk in Britain is made using tea bags.I personally find it disheartening that the introduction of tea bags and their subsequent rise in popularity crushed much of the UK loose leaf market starting in the 1970s. However, I do not judge people for liking tea bags, as I know they are accustomed to the flavour of that tea and find it comforting. On the rare occasion that I do drink an industrially-produced tea bag, I just don’t view it as tea, because it tastes nothing like the tea I know (it is sort of like Cheese Whiz compared to cheddar).


Amongst smaller UK tea companies, there appears to be various philosophies about whether or not to offer tea bags. A few tea company owners like Henrietta Lovell of Rare Tea Company and Timothy D’Offay of Postcard Teas seem to be staunchly against using tea bags. Henrietta is on a worthy crusade to ‘debag Britain‘, and I heard Timothy on BBC radio one day ever-so-politely telling the announcer that there really was no excuse/reason to ever drink tea bags. Other companies, such as The Tea Co, PekoeTea, Chateau Rouge and Char, also do not sell tea bags.

Some UK companies, such as Canton Tea Co, Jing, teapigs and Brew Tea Co, have decided to carry both loose leaf tea and ‘premium’ tea bags. Their tea bags, which are not made out of paper but some type of plastic or organic material (Canton and teapigs use cornstarch bags, for example), are filled with full-sized loose leaf tea. I am guessing for those companies that started out strictly loose leaf  and decided to carry tea bags, the decision was two fold. First, they could grow their appeal to those customers who don’t want the ‘fuss’ of loose leaf teas but like nice tea, and they could increase profits. When customers pay at least £4 or £5 for a 15-bag box (and that is typically for an English breakfast blend, not nice green teas, which cost more), surely money is to be made.

It would be great to hear from you about the tea bag debate. Do you love them? Do you hate them? Or are you indifferent and drink whatever tea is available?  What do you think about ‘premium’ tea bags? I would love for you to participate in my poll or write some comments on this post. You can view the results once you have voted.


About teaxplorer

I grew up in the Midwest of the US and was introduced to tea at a very young age - unsweetened iced tea, that is! It was not until my early 20s, when I was seeking a lighter alternative to coffee, that I took tea drinking to a new level. I still remember my mother suggesting that I try putting milk in a cup of black tea (something that actually sounded a bit repulsive at the time, but I gave it a go). I quickly became tired of supermarket tea and started ordering teas from shops and companies all over the US. Throughout my 20s and now into my early 30s, pursuits in higher education studies, work opportunities and marriage have given me opportunities to live in the UK, Canada and Germany and travel around the world, which has sparked an even greater interest in tea and the culture of tea. This blog is my outlet to discuss my love of tea and show off some of my photos. All images and opinions on this blog are my own, unless stated otherwise. I retain copyright on all photographs, but please do not hesitate to contact me at teaxplorer@gmail.com if you wish to reproduce any of my images. Likewise, if you would like me to review and photograph any teas for you, please get in touch. I would be happy to hear from you. Thank you for stopping by my blog, and I hope you return many times! Happy drinking! Drew B (@teaxplorer)
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7 Responses to POLL: The great tea bag debate

  1. I am firmly in the no to tea bag camp. Loose leaf is always best. It is only a faff because people think it is, once you have got a decent infuser it is no more effort to brew loose leaf than tea bags.

  2. Kath says:

    The new pyramid silky tea bags as used by teapigs and canton tea are a great way of combining the quality of high grade tea with the facility of a teabag.

    I use loose leaf at home (mostly Canton Tea, with a little bit of teapigs) but I take decent teabags out with me for meetings with hot water urns, hotels etc. It’s better than having to drink whatever is on offer.

    Although taking a teapot to work may well be impractical, now you can have an easy infuser for a mug so you can make a real mug of tea easily, it’s no less convenient than teabags.

    I think this rather depends on your upbringing. My parents drank loose leaf (breakfast, earl grey, darfeeling and lapsang). My grandmothers did as well (one only drank breakfast, the other drank lapsang.

    People still don’t know that there is tea other than ordinary breakfast tea. An education programme is required. I used to take a large flask to the park (with small children) and share it amongst the parents who were curious. It’s a shame that you can walk into a coffee shop and ask for a whole range of coffees, but tea still comes down to which teabag would you like.

  3. maenosen says:

    I just don’t get why people think loose leaf tea is difficult. There are so many options for brewing individual cups of tea with loose leaf, it’s no worse than fishing a horrible tea bag out the pot or mug.

    I was raised on loose leaf tea. I dislike the waste of materials in a tea bag. I dislike the heavy over tannin taste of tea bags. I dislike the lack of depth of flavour of most commercial tea bags. I wince when at friend’s houses and they say, “oooh, you like tea, I got some special tea from Waitrose,” and they wave a box of tea bags at me. British politeness makes me smile and weakly go, “wonderful.” Then search out a house plant to pour the remains of the insipid cup down into the soil.

    Every time I have tried a teabag tea for “convenience” I have regretted it.

  4. Generally I do not use tea bags. Tea bags are always associated with low-quality tea in my mind. Having said that there are times, particularly when I travel, I get stuck with tea bags. In this situation any tea is better than no tea, right? As for pyramid tea bags, although it’s not substitute for loose tea it’s definitely better than traditional tea bags.

  5. I’m a total advocate for loose leaf tea and call the British teabag malady the ‘postwar teabag syndrome’. I very very occasionally drink bagged tea but that’s only for convenience on holiday or when having tea out and about. But I do search out cafe’s that serve the premium bags so its at least halfway decent. Like you I don’t consider the ‘commercial teabags’ as tea and if served that dose it up with milk and its simply a warm drink than. When I started Whittington’s Tea Emporium I had to make the decision to carry teabags or not. I would say about 90-95% of the teas we carry are loose leaf only and those that do come in teabags from Canton Tea Co or Adagio Teas are only there if we have the same tea in loose format as well. So just a buying option really. I made this decision partly for commercial reasons as you discuss in your article but also because I felt there was potentially a market for people wanting to get into tea but scared of loose leaf. However, we find that loose leaf sales are much higher than teabag and really, when you compare the value loose leaf is just so much better. £4 for 15 bags or 50g loose – I know which one I’d choose!Thanks for opening this debate Drew.

  6. Kurt says:

    I didn’t even like tea until I tried quality loose leaf tea. Until then I thought tea was an astringent, bitter drink that gave a slight caffiene buzz. Then I discovered that tea is a complex elixir that creates a state of heightened alertness and clarified reality, far more refined than the edgy caffiene buzz of coffee.

    I don’t even consider tea from a teabag to be the same drink as tea infused from loose leaf tea. It’s like the difference between a grocery store “watermelon” and a vine ripened watermelon (I’m in the US so for those in Britain you may need to insert some other produce that grows in the UK climate).

  7. Ashley says:

    I don’t mind tea bags. I did hate while living in China how they serve tea with the loose leaves and they get in your mouth when you drink it. lol

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