Yes, you have read it correctly. By purchasing high quality loose leaf you will end saving money in the long run. Buying boxes of teabags might feel like it is the cheapest way to enjoy your favourite beverage. I believe otherwise.
How is this possible?
Let's do the math! Note that I will be comparing Japanese teas in this article since this is what this blog is about. You can also have a look at the teabags you usually buy (if any) & check how much a similar good quality loose leaf tea does cost in your area & how many times they can be infused.
An average box of Japanese green teabags costs around 4 euros online, this will vary depending on the region you live in. The box I am talking about contains 20 teabags, the total weight is 40 grams, which means each teabag contains 2 grams of an average quality tea. So you have 20 teabags, you will use one teabag per cup unless you really like strong tea then you will have to use two instead one. There is so much flavour you can get by using only one teabag. Now, for 4 euros, you get 20 cups (or 10 if you need to use two of them) which translates into 0.20 cents per teabag. Since the tea is usually of low or average quality, each teabag will allow one infusion max. You could of course try to make a second brew. However, by my experience it does not taste so good. I cannot remember how many times I have tried to only regret it the moment my lips have touched the brew.
Now, let's think about loose tea. A 100 grams pouch of a good quality Japanese loose leaf sencha costs around 14 euros. Divided by 100 grams, we get 0.14 euro per gram. Since each teabag contains 2 grams, 2 grams of loose leaf sencha would cost 0.28 cents. Now, we need 3 grams of loose leaf to make a decent brew so this sets us back 0.42 cents. Please remember I am talking about average numbers here since there are so many options available in the market. Plus the offers are completely different from one country to the next one. Also, I am aware that are companies selling super cheap black tea teabags in bulk in some countries.
The amount of times we can brew the loose leaves vary depending on their quality paired with your ability to make the most out of your brew. Let's say that on average we can obtain 4 tasty hot brews for every 3 grams. Since 3 grams of loose leaf are 0.42 cents, divided by 4 brews we get 0.105 cents per round as a result. Cheaper than using a teabag per round per brew. By using 3 grams of loose tea, we can drink 4 cups of tea for just 0.42 cents. Whereas if we use teabags, we need to use 4 teabags, 1 per brew, which equals to 0.80 cents. There is a difference of 0.38 cents. And the quality of the loose leaf tea is way higher than the tea inside the teabags. So 100 grams of loose leaf at 3 grams per brew makes 34 brews. 4 rounds per brew equals to 136 cups of tea. Whereas 20 teabags at 1 brew per teabag, 1 brew per teabag equals to 20 cups. In order to get 136 cups we should buy 7 boxes which amounts to 140 teabags at 4 euros per box it amounts to 28 euros in total. Almost 30 euros to be paid in order to get the same amount of cups than when using good quality loose tea. For 28 euros we can get 200 grams of good quality sencha or 272 cups on average. I have heard that some people likes to brew the leaves a fifth time. And others like to brew them cold once they have finished with the hot brews. But even if we were paying a similar amount of money for both, loose leaf tea quality is generally speaking superior. With some exceptions.
But teabags are so convenient you might say!
I see why many people would choose teabags. They are easy, they are handy, they are widely available, they are convenient. Also, they are what we know since long, what we are used to since childhood. It brings back memories. And we can buy one pack today & another one when the first one runs out so we don't make the whole investment at once.
I hear you! Loud & clear but if you think about it for a bit teabags are more expensive in the long run. And not only that, they offer lower quality & generate lots of waste. From the tag, to the thread, to each single envelope, to the teabag itself & the cardboard box. Even if they were all together in a single pouch, they are still individual teabags & often times come in a plastic pouch. If you live in a country like Sweden where the recycling system is highly sophisticated, you still have to use your time to separate all the waste & dispose each single bit of it in the right place. This takes time, you just cannot throw the whole teabag in the organic waste bin unless all the parts can be composted. Or you will get a hefty fine. It's true that nowadays more & more teabag companies are going to great lengths in order to ensure their packaging is eco friendly. Still, how much extra money are you willing to pay for average quality tea just for the convenience of using a teabag? Who wouldn't say yes to saving money while sipping on higher quality teas? I said yes several years ago & I haven't regretted my decision. It is one of the best things I have done for my health, my wallet & also for the environment.
So what are the advantages of using loose leaf teas?
It is much more cheaper in the long run. They also tend offer higher quality generally speaking. However, be aware that not all the loose leaf teas in the market are of the highest quality, so it is important to get yours from reliable sources where you can be certain the leaves are well preserved & stored so the tea is not stale when you purchase it. I recommend you to read my eye opening article about tea storage if you haven't yet.
They offer more cups for your money than the average teabag box. Plus they are usually packaged in a single pouch, so they do not generate as much waste. While it is true that the majority of tea pouches are made of aluminum covered with other materials such as plastic, there are more manufacturers these days that think about the environment & produce a much more eco friendly packaging. The downside of it is that these are usually way more expensive than the traditional materials since their usage is not so extended yet. Smaller companies like mine might have a hard time starting to use these new materials even if we would love to due to our limited budget. It doesn't mean that I do not keep this in mind, I do so I can implement it as soon as it becomes possible.
Since I cannot change the way my suppliers pack their teas unfortunately (to change this at a root level will take time), I can actually move onto having my own brand so I can use more environmental friendly packaging. This is not possible with all the loose leaf I currently source, I still hope it becomes the standard in the tea industry in the near future. I will not go much deeper on this topic here. The reason? I want to write a dedicated article on tea packaging & recycling in the future.
Also, high quality tea leaves can be used as an ingredient after having enjoyed the brew. Not all of them of course but kabusecha, gyokuro & shincha spent leaves can be eaten in a salad, lightly fermented or in a cake for instance. There are endless possibilities.
But above all, by stopping in your tracks to prepare a cup of tea using loose leaf, you can enjoy the moment, you can make it your daily ritual. Preparing a cup of tea the proper way is in a sense a way of light meditation, a way to be present & to enjoy the moment. A moment that will not repeat the same way the following day. You know, ichi go ichi e (一期一会).
But doesn't brewing tea leaves take way longer?
Some of you might argue that by using loose leaf tea you can save money but you cannot make a quick brew so it is a waste of time.
Using loose leaf to prepare some tea doesn't take much more longer than preparing a cup of tea using a teabag. Specially nowadays when we have controlled temperature kettles so we can get the water heated at the desired temperature for our brews. It's just a matter of adding the leaves to the teapot, adding the right amount of water, waiting for the right amount of time & serving the tea. It takes me less than 2 minutes to prepare a memorable brew. It comes naturally with the practice, it becomes a habit. So with just a bit of initial effort & time investment you can also easily enjoy loose leaf teas at home or on the go. In conclusion, if you are all up for healthy living & are also conscious about the environment, choosing loose leaf teas is the way forward. Less teabags, means less waste so you are contributing to keep the environment squeaky clean. Plus you are also saving money that you could use to invest in something else like in getting those beautiful brewing tools you always wanted to have. Or more loose leaf tea. There is always the need of having more tea at home, it is never enough. What are your thoughts on this topic? Share your comments below!
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