Loose Leaf Herbal Infusions like our Lemongrass & Ginger are better for you and better for the environment
Herbal tea has grown in popularity in recent years. The surge in demand has been met with a surge in supply that means there are more herbal teas out there than ever before. Some are good; some are not so good, which can make it tricky to find the right one for you. We believe there are a number of reasons why loose leaf herbal teas are the best you can buy – in short, they are better for you and better for the environment. To help you find the right one for you, we’ve put together this guide to loose leaf herbal teas and how to prepare them.
Just before we get into the benefits of loose leaf herbal teas, there’s something important to note here about terminology. ‘Herbal tea’ can be a bit of a confusing term. Strictly speaking, ‘tea’ only refers to an infusion of leaves from the Camellia sinensis tea plant, but the drinks that are typically identified as herbal teas – such as chamomile or peppermint or rooibos – are not actually tea varieties. They don’t come from Camellia sinensis and tend to be caffeine free. That’s why it’s better to call chamomile and other such drinks ‘herbal infusions’ rather than herbal teas. (You might also see herbal infusions called ‘tisanes’ which works for us too.)
Why loose leaf herbal tea is better?
Whether it’s teas or herbal infusions, loose leaf offers many advantages over bags, including benefits to both the drinker and the environment. For the drinker, loose leaf gives you the best chance of enjoying the perfect cup of tea. Quality examples of herbal infusions such as chamomile or rosebuds tend to use whole flowers, while the finest peppermint or lemon verbena should comprise only whole leaves. These whole flowers and leaves need space to infuse properly – space you don’t get in many tea bags. At JING, we know that tea bags are sometimes the convenient option (if you’re on the move, for example) so we use pyramid-shaped bags that maximise the space for our loose leaf herbal infusions, but we would recommend going for loose leaf formats wherever possible.
That’s not just because loose leaf makes for better infusions. It’s also because we believe loose leaf teas are better for the environment. Tea bags have traditionally been sealed using plastic, which makes them tricky to dispose of in an eco-friendly way. Some tea businesses, including JING, have replaced the older oil-based plastic in their tea bags with a plant-based alternative called PLA . If it is thrown away correctly, PLA is significantly better for the environment, but it is still not perfect. Loose leaf is currently the only guaranteed plastic free format for herbal infusions.
Because loose leaf requires less packaging, there is another benefit to the consumer. It uses fewer materials, so loose leaf costs less to manufacture. That cost saving is often passed onto the consumer, so you will tend to find that, per serving, loose leaf herbal infusions offer better value for money than bagged equivalents.
Preparing loose leaf herbal tea
Many people imagine it takes extra effort to brew loose leaf tea or herbal infusions. We think it can be as straightforward as infusing a tea bag – in fact, you could even say it has some advantages. With loose leaf, you have total control over the quantity of leaves you use: if you want a stronger or lighter infusion, it’s easy to tweak the amount – because the leaves are free, not trapped in a bag.
Other than that, the process of preparing loose leaf infusions is very similar to what you would do to make a regular cup of tea. The crucial calculations are simply the amounts of tea, water and steep time, and the temperature of the water. All of our loose leaf herbal infusions come with easy-to-follow instructions that include our recommendations for all four. It is not usually necessary to boil water because loose leaf herbal infusions tend to prefer lower temperatures. You can find out everything you need to know about the importance of water temperature here.
The only other thing you need is some teaware to suit loose leaf infusions. Glass and ceramic are the best materials for a tea pot. Unlike metal, they do not conduct heat away from the water and thus inhibit the infusion or taint the flavour. On top of this, glass allows you to see and appreciate the leaf as it infuses – often unfurling or dancing around the pot – and to see the bright, alluring colours of the infusion.
To optimise that infusion, the tea pot also needs to be big enough to give whole leaves and whole flowers space to unfurl and move in the water. Check the strainer on your tea pot – it is often too small to allow this. There is one other consideration here: ideally, the volume of the tea pot will match the total volume of cups you want. For example, if you’re making two 250ml cups, your tea pot should be around 500ml (with a bit of extra space for the leaves to absorb some water). Doing this will give you a full, balanced flavour when you pour the whole infusion out and also means you won’t leave any leaves in water, so they can be re-infused up to two or three more times.
All of this guidance applies whatever loose leaf type of tea or herbal infusion you are preparing. Finally, if you want to make the very best of your quality loose leaves, we suggest using filtered or softened water. Soft water brings out the best flavours because it has a lower mineral content that is less likely to impact the taste than the higher concentrations of calcium and magnesium found in harder water.