The beginner’s guide to loose leaf tea

Trista Laborn

When I started drinking loose leaf tea it transformed my world. I began looking for different types of loose leaf teas and was quickly overwhelmed and stepped back from the world of tea because I didn’t know what to do first.

What is loose leaf tea?

I first learned about loose leaf tea from my mom. She is a nurse and is always teaching me about health and wellness. I began to do research and found that loose leaf tea is soo much better than the store brand.

Loose leaf tea is actual loose tea leaves that are not in bags. The tea bags you commonly see in the stores don’t have as much of the tea leaves as the actual loose leaf tea in itself. What’s in the tea bag is finely chopped tea dust in a small bag. Just like you see in a bag of chips when it been finely crushed at the bottom of the bag, is what you get in a store-bought tea bag.

This is the black store brand tea bag vs loose leaf tea

Green tea store brand tea bag vs Green loose leaf tea

Why does it matter?

In a tea bag, you are not getting the full benefits of the tea and what the tea leaves have to offer. For example, getting a store brought chamomile tea to relax is not as beneficial when you get a chamomile loose leaf tea, to actually experience the benefits and properties of the chamomile flower. The examples below give a visional and comparison of what a store-bought black & green tea bag vs loose leaf tea looks like.

Which tea do I start with?

For the first time loose leaf tea drinkers, I like to recommend a fruity type tea. Where you can actually see the berries and the tea leaves. Trying out a Fruity type of loose leaf tea will get your palate used to drinking loose leaf teas, then eventually you will have the taste to try different types of teas.

Once you start with fruity teas you will start to see and taste what you like and don’t like and go from there. Herbal teas have a purpose whether its relaxation, energy-boosting, helping with sleep, stomach problems, you need more iron, etc. Herbal tea is a good start to trying loose leaf fruity teas. Then you can try white, black, green, matcha, etc type of teas.

What’s the difference?

There are 8 different types of teas in the market today (and counting): Black, Green, White, oolong, Puerh, herbal, Yerba Mate and Matcha. I’m just going to talk about the basics and the difference between each one.

Black tea: The most popular of teas. Black tea is what Sweet tea is made from and is consumed the most. The black tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis plant. Most of the teas are made from this plant but are oxidized differently. Black Tea is Highly oxidized, meaning its out in the sun longer than the other teas, because of that it is steeped longer than the rest of the teas. This is a common tea you will see in English breakfast tea, Early grey, chai, etc. This tea is mostly good in the Morning for a more BOLD taste to get your morning started.

Green Tea: Green Tea is the next popular tea for its health benefits in high antioxidants. Green Tea is made from the same plant as mentioned above but is oxidization is minimal than the black. The difference in color shows that in the time its been out in the sun (Oxidation). Green tea is highly known for Jasmine tea, which is combined with Jasmine flowers and green tea plants and Matcha, which is a Green tea powder. More on that later.

White Tea: White Tea is the least Oxidized. Because of the least amount of oxidation, White tea has a more delicate flavor and it's highly known for lowering blood pressure.

Herbal Teas: Herbal Tea consists of Herbs & Spices. If it doesn’t contain leaves from the Camellia Sinensis plant it is considered an herbal tea. It is also considered to be caffeine-free, except for Yerba Mate (which I will explain later). Herbal teas you may have heard, that are common are Peppermint, Chamomile, lavender, etc.

Oolong tea: This is one of my favorites. Oolong tea falls between the black and green plants in how it’s oxidized. It is put in the sun more than the green but less than the black tea. There are actually many different types of Oolong teas, there are dark and light Oolong teas that you can try.

Pur’reh Tea: Comes from the same plant but the leaves go through a different oxidation and fermentation process to give it a unique flavor. It is commonly used as a substitute for coffee because of its high caffeine content.

Yerba Mate: This type of Tea comes from South America and it highly recognized as an energy booster. That is how I heard of Yerba Mate because of its High Caffeine, depending on how strong it made. Yerba Mate has 85mg of caffeine and coffee has 100mg of caffeine. This is also great as an energy booster and coffee substitute but this type of tea has an as strong earthy flavor.

Matcha Tea: Matcha is a green tea powder that is made from green tea and has different types of grades. Ceremonial, Premium, and Culinary. Ceremonial Matcha has a smoother taste and is the highest grade of matcha and great for whisking. Premium is the 2nd highest grade of matcha and is great for lattes, smoothies, and other recipes. Lastly, Culinary is the 3rd highest grade and its made with smoothies, baked goods, and other recipes, plus its less expensive. Matcha is a really great choice in sweet teas, it does have a sweet and creaminess to it that I love. Matcha has a lot of health benefits as well.

What tools do I need?

To get started with drinking loose leaf tea, you already have. I thought I had to have a fancy teapot, with infusers and tea gadgets. This overwhelmed me. I realized everything I need for loose leaf tea I have, a pot, and strainer. That’s it. Nothing too fancy. 

I bought a hot water kettle at a garage sale for $2 and having that to boil water, made my life easy.

Here’s how to steep Tea:

Use your water kettle and heat up the water, if you don’t have a water kettle then you use a different pot to boil water. (If this is the case, you are using 2 pots, I know it a lot but trust me, you will thank me later).

Use a pot to put the tea in, so that the tea can have room to steep, is the Secret to a good cup of tea.

Once the water is done, pour the water in the pot with the tea leaves, let it sit according to the tea packaging. Here is a website that will help you know how long tea should steep, depending on the type of tea you have.

Then get your favorite cup, with the strainer and pour the tea over the cup with the strainer.

Now, you have tea. You just made yourself loose leaf tea, without all the fancy tea gadgets. I do this method when I’m at a friend or family house and it works every time.

If you don’t have a hot water kettle, get one. Not just for tea but for oatmeal, soups, this is very handy. You can get a teapot and heat the water on the stovetop, but get one that you can plug up and heat, this is very handy.

So, what’s next?

Go out and get some loose leaf tea. Start with your grocery store or you can order from Amazon and find the flavors you like. Start with Fruity type loose leaf teas. Trying out different teas is fun and a little adventurous because you will find some that you won’t like, but don’t stop there. Keep trying different teas to see what your body will respond to and how you can train your palate from something different. Happy Steeping!



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