Loose leaf tea had been the way to go for a long time and was widely accepted by tea lovers and connoisseurs all over the world. However, in the recent century, the tea bag was introduced in markets and was claimed to be easier to use, faster and more modern. As the world that was moving into a faced paced lifestyle, it struck the fancy of many and became the tea bag that we all know today. Like many other useful things that we know of today, the invention of the tea bag was also by accident!
History of the tea bag
The story of the discovery of tea bags takes place In the early 1900’s , where a tea importer named Thomas Sullivan invented the tea bag that we know, completely by accident. Sullivan used to ship his tea samples to potential buyers for them to try. During those years, tea was expensive and thus, these samples were shipped in small metal tin. In an attempt to make his packaging cheaper, Thomas Sullivan replaced the metal tins with hand-sewn silk muslin bags which looked like little sacks; When these samples were sent out, a large number of his patrons assumed that these little sacks were a new method of steeping and infusing tea and thus used the bags by putting them directly into hot water. They did not realize it was meant to simply be packaging. Most of the consumers were pleasantly surprised with how easy and simple this made the brewing process and allowed for a much easier cleaning up process since tea leaves did not have to be shifted and this little sack could simply be thrown away.
The customers that received these samples placed unusually large orders and Sullivan was extremely happy with the result of his free sample campaign. When the people received their new orders, they were confused since the tea bags were missing and the tea had arrived in its usual tin. This prompted them to write to Sullivan, and that was when he realized that he had chanced upon a wonderful discovery! He then began producing more and more of these new "tea bags," and following his lead, so started others.
Tea bag timeline
Early 1900’s - Thomas Sullivan popularized the tea bag. Other tea bag producers began experimenting with different materials, such as cheesecloth, gauze, cellophane, and perforated paper. Paper fiber was chosen out of all others. Hand-sewn bags were replaced by machine-sewn ones.
1930 - Later, William Hermanson (one of the founders of Technical Papers Corporation of Boston) invented heat-sealed paper tea bags.
1944 - the shape of the tea bag was changed from the "sack" style of bag to the currently common rectangular style of tea bag.
1952 - Lipton Tea company patented the so-called "flo-thru" bag, which has four sides instead of two and which.
1992 - Tetley launched the round tea bag in 1992.
1997 - The pyramid tea bag shape was invented by Brooke Bond (the parent company of the United Kingdom’s PG Tips).
In recent years, "tea socks" have become popular amongst some full-leaf tea drinkers. They are large, tea-bag-like infusers that are made of similar materials and are disposable. They can be filled with the tea leaves of one's choice and then folded, clipped or tied shut for infusing, then removed and thrown away after the tea is brewed.
What are tea bags made from?
Tea bags are most commonly made of filter paper, cotton muslin or "silken" food-grade plastic (such as nylon or PLA/Soilon). They can be sealed with glue, a staple or folded shut, sealed with heat or ultrasound. Environmentalists prefer silk to nylon because of health and biodegradability issues. Lately, biodegradable and compostable fabric has been a trend considering the environmental issues in the world.
types of tea bags used (different shapes)
Traditionally, tea bags did not deviate from the standard square or rectangular shape for maximum efficiency. In recent times, however, many companies have improved on this simple design to create tea bags that function better when it comes to infusion and steeping of the tea and also look pleasing to the eye. Two of the most common designs today are the tetrahedral bag and the circular bag. These designs give tea 50 percent more room to move than a flat tea bag does, encouraging better infusion, and is similarly suited for mugs and teapots rather than small cups, The tetrahedral bag has a tag attached, while the circular tag is dropped and fished out using a spoon. Either way, both these bags are made with bio-degradable material, making them both functional and environment friendly at the same time.
Pros of Using Tea bags
There are some obvious pros of using and producing tea bags.
- Convenience and ease of use is a big factor since this allows one to make tea on the go. The cleaning process is also extremely easy compared to that of loose leaf tea preparation.
- If one is making a spice/herb/flower blend with a mix of dense and fluffy ingredients, it's easier to evenly mix and portion your tea with tea bags than it is with loose-leaf tea blends.
Cons of using tea bags
Many tea connoisseurs do not approve of the use of tea bags. There are a couple of reasons behind their dislike for the same.
- Firstly, tea bags restrict the amount of space that tea leaves have in which to unfurl during the steeping process. This means that whole-leaf teas will likely release only some of their flavor and nutrients into the cup or pot and that much of the nuance and benefit found in high-quality tea will be lost when it is steeped in a tea bag.
- Early in the history of tea bags, tea vendors realized that their usual tea leaves couldn't fully expand in tea bags. So, they started to break or chop the leaves so that they would have more surface area exposed to water and to infuse more fully, despite the limited infusion space. This move toward more broken leaves eventually resulted in the use of many broken grades of tea and the development of CTC tea. These teas are (generally speaking) inferior to whole-leaf teas in all aspects but one—the ability to infuse quickly and fully in limited space.
Whether you prefer the convenience and simplicity of using a tea bag or you like to brew loose leaf tea, it is important to note that both can be amazing and unique experiences!
Do you prefer tea bags or loose leaf tea?
Tell us in the comments below!