Tea is the go-to drink for many. From herbal teas, which offer a multitude of traditional benefits, including detoxifying the body, sleep aids and relaxants, stamina and focus, and teas that just taste so darn good, to those that more traditionally just satisfy a craving. Tea drinkers mean business.
And, the business that is becoming more popular with tea fanatics is quality loose tea brewed using a tea strainer.
There are plenty of reasons why we see a recent emergence of loose leaf tea brands. Yes, loose tea looks more inviting with the attractive coloured petals, leaves and herbs used to create the master crafted infusions. But that can’t be the only reason tea strainers and loose tea is a raging trend right now. Could it?
Our team at Bondi Beach Tea Co. have gathered up our best researchers to put this conundrum to bed (or to tea cup actually). It seems using a tea strainer to brew loose leaf tea has a swag of benefits. Read more about these later.
The history of tea
Loose leaf tea brewed in tea strainers has been enjoyed for thousands of years. Here are some of the various origins of tea drinking.
Chinese tea origins
China is noted as one of the first known cultures to consume tea. According to legend, tea was discovered by accident when the leaves fell into boiled drinking water intended for Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung, way back in 2737 BC. And now over 4500 years later, an estimated 3.5 billion cups of tea are consumed daily across the globe .
Japanese tea origins
The Japanese began their love affair with tea after Japanese Buddhist scholars visited China in the Tang Dynasty. They brought seeds back with them on their return to their home country. The Japanese also adopted their famous Japanese Tea Ceremony from China.
The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a spiritual ritual to promote harmony, purification and respect between those who participate and bring tranquillity. The tea was originally considered medicine for physical and spiritual health.
Matcha green tea is used in the traditional tea ceremony.
The proper behaviour when you receive a cup of tea in a Japanese Tea Ceremony is:
European tea origins
The Portuguese were the first Europeans to record their efforts with drinking tea. This is likely due to their missionaries and merchants who spent their time abroad in Asia, bringing tea home as gifts.
The Dutch were allegedly responsible for introducing tea to Europe commercially. But, due to the expensive price put on tea, only high society were able to afford to drink the luxury beverage.
British tea origins
The tea swirling Brits did not always favour the flavoursome beverage. It was Charles II whom married Portuguese princess Catherine of Braganza, who took to drinking tea to keep up with his wife’s already favoured taste. The British society followed and tea soon became a beverage of choice.
However, in Britain tea was not always so accessible due to its high price tag and escalated taxation. Illegal smuggling and trading was a huge issue in the country. The British government finally reduced taxes, which made tea more affordable, and smuggling was phased out over time.
There is some debate about who actually conceptualised the idea of the tea bag. Some sources will tell you it was New York merchant, Thomas Sullivan, who developed the idea in 1908. He shipped samples of his tea to customers in silk bags. Making the assumption that the tea was supposed to be brewed in their silk constraints – the idea of commercialised tea bags was born. We found this information broadcast on many of the major tea chains’ websites.
However, further delving into the question we found a more evidential scenario.
As TIME published - it was seven years earlier to Sullivan’s invention when a patent was filed by Roberta C Lawson and Mary Molaren for a tea leaf holder. Their application stated that a bag was required to hold tea leaves together so they did not float into the drinker’s mouth. The design was constructed of stitched mesh fabric to allow the water to circulate through and infuse the leaves.
Regardless of who actually gave us the idea, nowadays it has been adopted by plenty of tea companies who are raking in the tea bag tradition.
So, we understand the conveniences of using a tea bag, but we are not convinced this method is any more convenient than using a tea strainer. Moreover, tea bags can be detrimental to your health. BOOM – there’s the clincher!
Here is what we have uncovered about some potential health risks with tea bags. This following information might be enough to make you want to re-think your tea brewing method of choice.
Chemicals lurk in plastics; it is part of their makeup. Moreover, more recently, it was discovered that chemicals bisphenol-A (or BPA for short), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates leach into food and drink promoting potential health risks. The main health risk being endocrine disruption . The amount of exposure primarily comes down to the temperature of the liquid.
A team from the University of Cincinnati found that when the same new and used polycarbonate drinking bottles were exposed to boiling water, BPA was released 55 times more rapidly than before the plastic’s exposure to the hot water .
So, what does this mean for tea bags?
Some tea bags are manufactured from plastics like nylon, thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene. According to some information we located from the US Centre for Health, Environment, and Justice, the toxicity of plastic tea bags has not been supervised.
"Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential.
Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.
There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the 'glass transition' temperature (Tg). That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point."
It is worth noting that water’s boiling point is 100 degrees Celsius. The glass transition point (Tg), in the case of PET, is about 76 degrees Celsius. The breakdown point of nylon is even less than PET .
"If the question is, 'As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?' 'the answer is yes,” said Doctor Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
In basic terms, whilst the plastics used in tea bags are generally the safest against potential leaching, the molecules contained in the bag material may still break down and leach when steeped in boiling water. And, because this is the recommended method for brewing tea, it could be reason to be cautious.
And, paper tea bags could be just as risky. These tea bags are commonly treated with epichlorohydrin, which hydrolyses to 3-MCPD when put in contact with water. This is a carcinogen linked with processing of food and has been implicated in infertility and suppressed immune function. 
Are these really risks you want to take when brewing up a cuppa with a tea bag?
Quite simply, we recommend the best way to brew tea is by using a tea strainer. This will avoid any potential risk associated with tea bags as a whole.
You should always opt for organic loose leaf tea wherever possible. Organic teas are not grown with the help of any pesticides that could have further health implications.
There are various types of tea strainers for loose tea. Which one is best generally comes down to personal preference. You can get tea strainers for specific use with a mug, infusers for tea pots, and for those who need a tea strainer for loose tea on the go.
But, for this exercise we have researched the web and done our own product testing to come up with three of the best tea strainers to brew loose leaf tea for an individual cup.
Firstly, you need a tea strainer for loose tea that confines most of the tea leaves. No one wants a mouthful of leaves while they are sipping up a storm. Secondly, you need a tea strainer that allows enough room for the tea leaves to expand and the water to flow around the leaves to steep them effectively, enhancing the flavour.
Of course, we would rate our tea strainer for loose tea in this list as number one! Backed with a lifetime guarantee, it is made with 100% food grade silicon with a design inspired by the tea leaves themselves.
The stainless steel cage fits one teaspoon of tea, as recommended for all our natural herbal tea blends, and comes with a base for a no-mess finish. It rust-free and easy to use with a flexible, heatproof stem. The cage design floats in your cup allowing the water to steep the leaves without escaping. Easy to clean – just pop the used leaves into the bin, wash it in clean water, and leave it to dry.
Shop our tea leaf strainer for loose tea here.
As the name suggests – this tea strainer for loose tea is a little bit posh. The royal-looking tea strainer is designed to sit atop your tea cup. It is patterned after the tea strainers historically used at the Empress Hotel in Victoria BC, Canada. The fine mesh strainer comes with a drip bowl for minimal mess.
See more of the Empress here.
We couldn’t go past this little guy. Brewing the perfect cup of tea is all about taking it easy, and the sloth epitomises this very ethos. Made with heat-resistant silicone, you just hang this little dude on the side of your cup and wait for him to work his tea brewing magic. No drip tray with this guy, however, the idea of it is just too cute to pass.
Check out the Slow Brew Sloth Tea Infuser here.
Brewing loose in a tea strainer is a crafted art that puts the fun and the health back into a cup of tea.
Let us raise a cup to the past as we salute natural herbal teas, in our opinion, that are far more superior brewed in a strainer.
Bondi Beach Tea Co. has a range of natural herbal, loose leaf tea renowned traditionally for a variety of benefits. Shop our full range of Bondi Beach Tea Co. loose leaf tea blends and tea strainers online here.
4, 5. Mercola: Plastic and cancerous compounds in tea bags
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