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by David Sautter

When it comes to the age old question of “Coffee or tea?”, the typical response is coffee. People need that caffeine buzz. It’s like asking if you want a super charged SUV or a hybrid for your next road trip. The SUV gives you the initial boost that you’re looking for but eventually you’ll run out of gas and need to fill up. The hybrid just keeps on cruising steadily. Lame example? Perhaps, but it gets the point across. When it comes to your health, tea trumps coffee time and time again.

Not all tea is created equal though. For the Tea Curious out there, a trip to the grocery store can be as difficult as shopping for craft beers. (I challenge you to find me a micro brew enthusiast that doesn’t spend an hour debating on IPAs or Pale Ales.) There seems to be hundreds of flavors AND types of tea. You look around at the labels then you notice the phrase “Whole Leaf”. Great. Another option. Take a breath and keep reading. All will be cleared up.


There are two types of tea out there: whole leaf and bagged. Let’s break down the differences.

Whole Leaf Tea:
– Sold by weight
– More cost effective
– More nutritional value
– No fillers, additives, or artificial flavoring

Bagged Tea
– Sold by number of packets
– More expensive
– Less nutritional value
– May contain additives and additional flavoring

There are exceptions where certain companies offer whole leaf tea in bags. A great idea if you feel like paying the ridiculous price that comes with it. Bagged tea may be convenient but it is a waste of money. Plain and simple. What you are paying for is the dust or remnants (think bottom of the barrel) of whole leaf tea. I’m all about not wasting but when companies are scooping up the leftovers and putting them in a bag for you to buy, something just isn’t right. Convinced? Good.

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Now let’s review the benefits of whole leaf tea.

1.) Whole Leaf Tea & Nutrients
Tea is an amazing source of antioxidants, especially catechins. Catechins have been praised as the wonder antioxidant famously found in green tea, but it’s not the only one. (Green tea just has a great P.R. guy.) So long as the leaves are in tact, tea can offer the high levels of this and other nutrients. When the leaves are chopped up or when you are just drinking the tea dust, you are depriving yourself big time. Catechins decrease dramatically when the leaves are separated. That means you’d have to use multiple tea bags just to get the same amount of nutrients from one serving of whole leaf tea.

2.) Whole Leaf Tea & Flavor
Essential oils are trapped within tea leaves, giving it the aroma and flavor that you’ve come to love. Chopped leaves or dust has lost so much of its essential oils that the flavor is nearly gone. Hence, why you see many tea brands putting additional flavoring in the tea. Why bother drinking tea if it is void of nutrients and flavor? You’re just drinking hot water at this point.

3.) Whole Leaf Tea & Price
Just in case you missed the rant above, allow me to repeat: whole leaf tea is cheaper than bagged tea! Let’s say you visit a new indie health food store and you walk over to the tea isle. There is nothing but whole leaf tea which you must measure out (just like produce). You see the price tag on this organic tea: $24.99 per pound. You scream, curse environmentalists, and run out of the store, smashing into several racks along the way. Why did you do this? All because of the idea that you are going to pay $24.99 for tea. First and foremost, whole leaf tea is sold by weight. Do you have any idea how much tea you would have to buy to equal one pound? Put it this way, assuming you drink one cup a day, you wouldn’t have to buy tea again for almost a year. Per cup, the average bagged tea is equal to $0.25 to $0.30 where whole leaf tea is $0.10 to $0.15.

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Now that you’re converted to whole leaf tea, here are a few pointers to consider.

– Bag your own whole leaf tea. A set of empty tea bags is a couple dollars and will last you months. Buy the whole leaf tea, fill the bag half way, and seal it with your girlfriend’s hair straightener. Inexpensive and convenient.

– When buying whole leaf tea, I’d recommend buying just enough for a few servings of each tea. That way you can try all of them and learn what you prefer. If you are feeling creative, mix different types of tea to see how the flavor is.

– If you want to take a more traditional approach to tea, invest in a on-the-go tea strainer. It’s a metal mesh tea holder that strains while allowing all of the oils and nutrients to be absorbed into the water. Great idea if you want to avoid the bags.

Now that you’re ready to build a Japanese tea room in your house, you’re going to need to get out and stock up. Don’t make it a chore though. Have fun with it and don’t be afraid to ask the cute girl with dreadlocks for help. You’re welcome for the idea.

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