Loose Leaf vs Tea Bags: What’s the Difference?


From a steaming mug of earl gray on a winter morning to a refreshing glass of sun tea in the summer, tea is always a welcome sight. It can warm and wake you, calm and cool you—indeed, there’s a tea for every mood.

However, there’s more than one way to brew a perfect cup. Whether you’re experimenting with tea for the first time or you’re a daily tea drinker, you may be wondering which method is best. Should you plunk a tea bag into your cup each morning? Or is loose leaf tea better?

Tea bags and loose leaf teas may contain the same ingredients, but they differ in several ways—and not just in their packaging. So, make a cup of your favorite chai, and join us as we explore the differences.

Preparation Methods

Perhaps the biggest difference in loose leaf tea vs tea bags is the way they’re sold and prepared.

As the name suggests, loose leaf tea comes loose in a container. As such, it takes a few extra steps when it comes to knowing how to make loose leaf tea:

  • 1. Spoon some tea into an infuser or French press.
  • 2. Pour hot water over the tea.
  • 3. After steeping, strain the used leaves or remove the infuser from your cup.
  • 4. Wash your tea accessories when finished.

While it may take an extra minute or two, some people find the ritual of preparing a cup of loose leaf tea from scratch to be a calming and enjoyable process.

Tea bags, on the other hand, are individually portioned into small, single-use pouches. To prepare a cup of tea, all you have to do is drop a tea bag into your hot or boiling water and discard it after a few minutes.

A bonus tea tip: If you prefer the convenience of tea bags but love your loose leaf as well, you can always spoon some of your favorite loose leaf tea into a fillable tea bag.


When it comes to the loose leaf vs tea bag debate, flavor can be a point of contention. Some argue that the freshness and quality of most loose leaf teas make them taste better, especially when you understand how to store loose leaf tea properly, to maintain the quality. Others believe that because the tea inside tea bags is more finely ground, it releases more flavor.

Because taste is subjective, it’s hard to pick a winner. With that said, we can at least share what we know about tea and flavor:

  • Loose leaf tea – Because it goes through less processing, loose tea can be higher quality, more fresh, which can make for a stronger, fuller flavor profile. This freshness can also add more nuance to the flavor of loose teas, as seasonality and quality of ingredients all affect the taste.
  • Tea bags – Some tea bags—especially mass-produced ones—often have a milder flavor, as the tea within them may have been dried long ago. It’s also worth noting that the tea in mass-market tea bags is often tea “dust,” which can impart less flavor than full tea leaves.

Flavor Variety

A trip down the coffee and tea aisle in the supermarket can have your head spinning. When looking at all the different flavors of tea, you might think that tea bags offer more variety. With so many varieties of black tea, green tea, herbal tea, and tea sampler packs, it can be hard for a tea lover to choose just one.

However, because of the DIY approach you can take with loose leaf tea, your options are endless. You can easily mix and match teas, herbs, and other ingredients to create your own signature tea blends.


At first glance, tea bags might appear to cost less than loose leaf tea. A pound of traditional tea bags will typically go for a few dollars less than a pound of loose tea leaves. But, as with all products, you get what you pay for.

Loose leaf tea can be more expensive, but you’ll be rewarded with a higher-quality cup of tea. Plus, if you buy your tea in bulk, you may find it’s more cost-effective in the long run.

Keep in mind that loose leaf tea may require you to invest in a few tea-making accessories before you can start brewing. The startup cost is often negligible, though—a small mesh tea ball or tea infuser for steeping can cost under $5.

As you dive deeper into the world of loose leaf teas, you may decide to spend more and upgrade your steeping setup. Even still, your purchase probably won’t need to break the bank. Accessories like a glass tea maker mug or a French press for tea can be fairly affordable and can last a lifetime.


Which Type of Tea is Right for You?

Ultimately, the choice between loose leaf and tea bags comes down to personal preference. If you’re stuck in the middle of all the flavorful tea options, don’t worry—you can incorporate both into your tea routine. But how do you decide where to start?

You might prefer loose leaf tea if you:

  • Want a hands-on approach to tea brewing
  • Prioritize freshness and flavor
  • Don’t mind purchasing a few extra tea accessories

Meanwhile, bagged tea could suit you if:

  • You want an easy, reliable way to make tea
  • You often brew tea on the go
  • You prefer a process with minimal cleanup and accessories

Loose or in Bags, the Perfect Cup of Tea Starts with Starwest Botanicals

When deciding between loose leaf tea and tea bags, the most important factor is the quality of the tea. At Starwest Botanicals, we’ve been sourcing top-shelf teas for more than 45 years—and we provide plenty of flavorful options for both loose leaf teas and tea bags.

Whether you’re looking to restock your favorite blend or buy tea in bulk, we have something for everyone—from Assam tea to Yerba Maté.

However you brew it, find the perfect tea with Starwest Botanicals.


The Spruce Eats. Why Is Loose Leaf Tea Better Than Teabags? https://www.thespruceeats.com/teabags-vs-loose-leaf-tea-766321