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Demystifying Loose Leaf Tea

In Tea by Brendan WayeLeave a Comment

We’ve all heard it.  We’ve all tried to explain it.  Sometimes the patron buys into your pitch about the merits of loose over bagged, but other times it can be like talking to a wall.

You know what I am talking about here.  You might be able to sell them on the

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quality and taste difference, but as for the convenience factor of loose versus bagged?  It can be a real crapshoot.

Although loose leaves have made leaps and bounds in the past few years in terms of popularity, it still surprises me every day when a self-professed tea addict arrives in our store looking for bagged tea (and I am not talking about high-quality pyramid nylon bags that pack loose leaf).

Yes, as scary as it may sound, these customers are looking for the generic, bleached paper sacks that house a substance that, in some cases, tastes no more like tea than coffee does.

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So, how do we emphasize the supreme benefits of loose leaf over off-the-shelf bagged tea?  Here is what I have been verbally communicating for the past decade and it seems to work more often than not:

  1. Quality.  On balance, premium loose-leaf tea is of significantly higher quality than most bagged tea.  Do you want to drink foul-tasting crud, or do you want to drink excellent-tasting full-leaf tea leaves?
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2. Freshness.  The unfortunate reality is that most tea bags purchased off the supermarket shelves can be almost two years old – essentially stale.  Most people have no idea what fresh teas taste like.  When presented with a taste comparison, they are literally blown away by the flavor profile of a fresh loose-leaf tea.

3. Lower cost per serving.  This always freaks them out a bit.  Here is the math (which you can do right in front of them): The average cost of 20 gourmet tea bags in a cello-wrapped box in the supermarket ranges from $4.99 to $6.99.  Let’s take the median of $5.99.  That is 30 cents a tea bag for about enough tea to make a 12-oz cup.  If you spent the same 30 cents and invested it in loose tea, you would end up with enough tea to make 2-3 cups of tea (depending on the type of tea as well).  If need be, I rip open a tea bag and dump it on a plate in front of the customer to show them how much tea they are actually getting for their 30 cents.  Then I show them 30 cents worth of premium loose leaf.

4. Environmentally Friendly.  That 30 cents you pay for the tea bag is contributing a hell of a lot of packaging to the planet’s landfills – just for the sake of convenience.  Think about it for a second. First, there is the cello wrapper on the box.  Next comes the box itself.  In the box are 20 individually wrapped foil or paper pouches.  And inside each pouch is a paper tea bag.  Attached to the teabag is a staple, a length of string, and a tag on the other end.  When you rip open the bag and dump the tea on a plate and compare it to 30 cents of loose leaf, the difference is quite startling.  On closer scrutiny, you’ll see that the actual tea in the bag is hidden behind four layers of packaging.  If all that packaging is not bad enough, the actual quality of the tea can be downright atrocious.

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