Interesting figures from The Guardian suggest that “we use about 55bn teabags in the UK each year – that’s about 370,000 tonnes of waste that mostly end up in landfill.” A troubling revelation, but one which contributes to the arguments for loose leaf tea over teabags just as much as superior flavour and quality. Not to mention the often-overlooked fact that preparing a loose leaf tea costs no significant extra effort.
The Guardian blogger also points out that the persistently pervasive teabag is an American contrivance that has only been seen on our own sceptred isle since the Sixties and, therefore, the bag is not so deeply entrenched in our culture of tea drinking as we might imagine. I, for one, gain a perverse satisfaction from ‘doing things the old-fashioned way’, with a teapot and the resulting richer brew!
It must be said, though, that the writer of that article made one or two sweeping generalisations which border on the apocryphal. For instance, the stated notion that leaves may be reused and taste just as good only applies to certain kinds of tea, such as rooibos. Whereas other varieties, such as Assam, do not tend to tolerate re-steeping. Conversely, there are teas (some forms of oolong spring to mind) which taste increasingly better with subsequent steepings.
Another blunder in that text concerns steeping temperature, the author seems to think that all teas are better brewed at 85°C. This is patently nonsense. Again the assertion takes no account of the variation in types of tea; where most black teas tend to brew best at boiling temperatures, some (such as Sencha) should be steeped as low as 60°C.