The bag as a way to brew tea appeared only 120 years ago. Before that, tea leaves were wrapped in paper to transport and preserve their flavor and aroma. Such bags were known as early as in the 8th century in China during the Tang Dynasty. They were shaped into a square and sewn by hand.
In this article, we will tell you how tea packaging has evolved into a way to brew it. We will dispel several myths about the raw material and composition of tea bags, as well as give pros and cons of this product.
A brief history of tea bags
The tea bag appeared in 1903 in Milwaukee, USA. That’s when its creators, Roberta K. Lawson and Mary Mollaren, got a patent for their invention. It resembled a mesh pouch and was roomy enough to allow tea leaves to be fully unwrapped and extracted.
Afterwards, tea bags began to be made from a variety of materials. Salesman Thomas Sullivan of New York City distributed tea in sachets made of silk. From 1915 onwards, the Teekanne company started making teabags from a cheaper material called gauze. In the early 1940s, the American technologist Fay Osborne suggested the best option – hemp paper.
In 1930, William Hermanson patented the familiar tea bag. It consisted of a thermoplastic material – paper with the addition of plastic. Mass production of such bags entered only in 1953 at the suggestion of the British company Tetley.
As for raw materials, until the 1930s, tea leaves were sold exclusively in bags. Processing them was labor-intensive. The leaves were crushed and twisted to start the fermentation process, taking care not to damage them.
It was not until 1931 that William Mackercher invented a method of machine processing the tea leaves. Tea was deliberately torn and cut, and the resulting particles were shaped into small pellets. The raw material was easier to process and put into bags. Eventually tea production began on an industrial scale.
What a tea bag consists of
Manufacturers in the mass-market segment claim that the material for tea bags consists exclusively of organic wood fiber. However, its exact chemical composition is never stated on the packaging.
In 2020, scientists from University College Dublin concluded that paper bags often include different proportions of cellulose and plastic. The subject of their study was the products of six mass-market tea companies in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Of these, four of the samples were claimed to be paper, one was claimed to be nylon, and one was claimed to be biodegradable. Only the latter left no trace of microplastics in the brewed beverage.
Usually the composition of a standard paper bag looks like this:
- more than half is wood fibers;
- the rest is polypropylene.
As for the raw materials for the bags, they can be different. We tell you about that further on.
What kind of tea is used for sachets
It is a common opinion that the raw material for tea bags consists of dust and garbage. In fact, it is tea, which is grown on the same plantations as loose tea.
In most cases, tea bags contain inexpensive raw material. Whereas premium teas take buds and leaves from the tops of the shoots, bagged teas are made from leaves that grow lower down. Because of their location, they receive less sunlight and synthesize fewer of the organic substances that make up the flavor and aroma of the beverage.
According to the shape and size of fractions, tea in bags is divided into two categories:
Leaf – sorted recyclables, which are called “seeding” and “crumb”. It is labeled as F and D, respectively;
Pelletized, which is tea leaves that have been crushed and torn and then formed into pellets, and the smallest ones are packed in bags. They are labeled as “CTC. – from crush, tear, and curl.
Often, bags are filled not only with tea, but also with pieces of berries and fruits, dried flower petals and flavorings. The bags contain no dyes, as they are prohibited by SanPiN norms. In addition, the tea itself strongly colors the water, and the producers simply do not benefit from complicating the composition.
Pros and cons of this brewing method
The pros of bagged tea include:
- Ease of preparation. No accessories, tools, or special skills are needed to brew tea in bags. Also, this method of brewing helps to save time on cleaning.
- Availability. Bagged tea is available at any store near your home – it’s always easy to buy.
- Quick brewing time. The raw material particles in bags are smaller than in premium teas. The smaller fraction has a larger area of contact with water – as a result, it brews faster.
- Saturation of taste. This feature of tea in bags is also conditioned by the size of the tea fraction: more organic substances are extracted in the beverage. As a result, it is strong and full-bodied.
Of the disadvantages of tea in bags can be distinguished:
- Unknown origin. It is difficult to be sure of the quality of such tea, because there is usually little information about its production process. In the case of loose tea, details such as the region of production, processing method, availability of certificates of conformity are given.
- Inappropriate packaging. Often there is no individual packaging for tea bags. The boxes in which they are placed are also not hermetically sealed. The tea is in contact with the air, and its essential oils evaporate more quickly.
- Uncomplicated flavor and aroma. For tea connoisseurs, this is one of the most significant disadvantages. Because of the quality of raw materials and the characteristics of packaging, the bagged tea has fewer flavors and aromas.
- Non-ecological materials. Scientists suggest that the microplastics in tea bags can harm the environment and living organisms, in particular humans.
- Like any product, tea bags have their pros and cons. Whether you choose to drink it or not depends on your personal priorities.