The Tea Detective
Uncovering and Exploring the Facts About Tea
Tea Bags - Different Kinds
For Different Minds
The tea bag was discovered quite by accident in the 1900s when tea importer,
Thomas Sullivan sent out samples of quality teas to potential customers in an
attractive hand-tied silk pouch.  Caught by the convenience of the simple little
bag, it was used to steep the tea, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Even though tried and true
tea enthusiasts deny ever
using a
tea bag when brewing, statistics
show that today approximately 98% of the
tea brewed in the
U.S. use a tea bag, 96%
in the
U.K., and a substantial percentage
worldwide use one when
brewing their
morning cup of tea.

It's true that much of the bagged tea is
made from blends of lower grade
CTC (cut-
tear-curl)
or broken leaf tea often chosen
more for price than quality.  But that's not to
say that all bagged teas are inferior or poor
quality.  In fact, the opposite is true, as
more and more companies are making many
of their specialty and gourmet teas available
as bagged.
                                                  There's plenty to consider today when packaging tea, not just
                                                  the shape and style of the tea bag used, but also the material
                                                  it's made from, along with the production process itself.  Tea
                                                  companies must anticipate the needs and desires of the con-
                                                  sumer when choosing the type and style of tea bag to use.

                                                  Decisions have to be made on whether to use a single or double
chamber bag, with or without string and tag or whether the shape should be a round, square, or
rectangular paper cushion, or rather go with the pyramid shape that's become so popular in the
last few years.

The next consideration is what it should be
made from:  cotton muslin, gauze, non-bio-
degradable nylon, or silk or cornstarch
"soilon."  How should the tea bag be seal-
ed?  Should it be stapled, glued, or sealed
with ultrasound?

There are many different types and styles
of tea bags being offered today, with new
ones coming on the market all the time.  
Which will end up as fads and disappear
just as quickly as they appeared, and
which will have staying power depends on
you, the consumer.

         One of the latest styles being mar-
         keted is transparent gauze pyramid tea bags.  They have been on the market for a few
         years now and many people swear by them.  One specialty tea company that uses them
         is Adagio Teas, treating them as the interim step to using their loose leaf teas.

         Charles Cain of Adagio explains why they use the pyramid
         style tea bags; "We put 100% of our loose tea collection
         (210+ teas) into pyramid bags.  We believe that one of the
         best ways to grow the market is to first introduce the casual
         customer to better tea through tea bags.  We're much more
         likely to get someone to try
loose leaf tea if they've had an
         incredible tea experience.  We begin by speaking their lan-
         guage and earning their trust.  Then we try to convince them to switch to loose tea."

         Nick Gandon of Reginald Ames of London agrees.  "The pyramid bag looks great and
         combines the essence of high quality loose leaf tea with the ease of the tea bag-a
         perfect recipe."

                                                          When the first transparent pyramid bags came on the
                                                          market a few years ago, people were excited because it
                                                          was made from a material that allowed the consumer to
                                                          see the tea leaves inside.  It's remained popular and many
                                                          tea companies are switching to this format.

                                                          Ajay Kichlu of Chamong Tee Exports of
India uses several
                                                          different
types of tea bags in their packaging.  They use
         round pot bags without string and tag, as well as double chamber tea bags with string
         and tag.  Of course we all remember Lipton's advertising their "flo-thru" tea bag when
         it came out many years ago, then the newest innovation in tea bags.  It is still a popular
         format today, especially for
CTC blends.

         A recent innovation is the Tstix, a perforated foil tube or "tea stick," one of the latest
         packaging trends used for everything from honey to yogurt, milk, and tea to name just a
         few, and being marketed as the "new fashioned way to enjoy tea."  Another style of tea
         bag are pods, a compact little cushion similar to those used in coffee machines, but
         instead made for fast brewing tea machines.

         Above and beyond the shape and style of the tea bag is the
         main consideration of course: taste. What kind of quality and
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flavor do you get from the different tea bags?  Does the old Lipton flo-thru tea bag still
turn out the best cup of tea or does the pod and one-cup tea brewer beat it hands down?
Or do you dislike the string and metal staples on the old stand-by and instead prefer the
new fangled Tstix or the large see through pyramid packed with quality loose leaf teas?

The only way to find out is by sampling each, of course--and that's the fun part.  So, get
out there and try the different styles of tea bags until you find your favorite "cup of tea."  
Enjoy.