What is the Difference? Loose Leaf Tea Versus a Tea Bag

All tea, black, green, white, or oolong are all from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. These teas all have varying degrees of antioxidants and amounts of caffeine. It all depends on the way the leaves are fermented and processed.

Herbal teas are in a class by themselves, they are from many different plants and generally are caffeine free, with many differing health benefits.

After Camellia sinensis tea leaves are harvested, it will depend on the processing, fermentation and packaging of how the final products taste; such as a robust black or a fresh green taste.

Tea Processing

Tea leaves are laid out to dry, after drying they are separated and picked by quality:

  • 1st quality leaves are more whole leaf or large pieces of leaves, from the top of the drying floor; these are your bulk or loose-leaf teas. They are still green in color, have the highest amounts of antioxidants and lower in total caffeine.
  • 2nd quality leaves are smaller pieces of leaves, lower in antioxidants, less green color and used for both loose or bagged tea.
  • 3rd quality tea leaves are really what is left over after the main leaves are processed, its bits and pieces and even dust left from the previous picking. They are always used for tea bags, and browner in color indicating the lowest in antioxidants and are higher in caffeine.


Green Teas are only lightly steamed, so their green color is preserved, their polyphenols or antioxidants are high.

Black teas are fermented or withered, become more oxidized, and the leaves are brown. These have higher caffeine level and lower polyphenols amounts 

Loose Tea Brewing versus a Tea Bag

Brewing loose tea gives you the ability to let the ingredients move about more freely, allowing for better absorbability, for the best flavors and aromas versus in a small closed tea bag.

Loose tea does need to be filtered or the use of an infuser device. Use of loose tea leaves can be brewed up to 3-5 times bringing out different flavors. Tea bags can only be brewed once or twice. 

Tea Leaves in Summary

All teas still are beneficial to health, no matter how they are processed.

Many tea connoisseurs prefer the loose tea since they know the quality and taste is higher.

Some may actually prefer the tea bag. It is the easiest to use, less time for brewing, especially good for traveling and work.

The real art of loose tea making is a soothing and spiritual practice.

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Cindy Burrows, B.S., M.T., Herbalist and is a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant helping individuals with health programs to improve life and happiness. She is a writer, speaker and owner of several businesses.


Written by Cynthia Burrows