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Tea is one of the most popular drinks in the world. There is an almost infinite variety of delicious tea compositions, so there really should be the right tea for everyone. Teas are healthy, tasty and connect people in relaxed gatherings. Whether as loose tea or in bags, hot or ice-cold - it is impossible to imagine our society without tea. In this article, we would like to tell you more about how loose tea conquered the world, where the world's most familiar names for tea come from, what the main varieties are, how they are prepared and much more. Take some time out, grab your favourite cup and enjoy an aromatic tea during reading time.

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Tea history: Where does tea come from?

Country of origin: China

Every now and then one comes across the supposed fact that loose tea has been drunk in China for 5000 years. It is extremely difficult to find a suitable proof of this, as there has only been a uniform way of writing the Chinese character for tea since the 8th century. Older texts use almost the same character with an additional horizontal stroke that makes it "bitter herb". This often makes it difficult to read out whether tea is meant. However, the earliest surviving records show that there was a tea tax as early as 221 BC under the Qin dynasty. Tea must therefore have existed as a beverage and regional commodity in southern China long enough and been popular enough to be taxed.

In the following centuries, the first techniques were developed to preserve tea for transport. This allowed the beverage from the southern Chinese regions to spread further and further throughout the country. At the same time, tea was prepared differently in the various dynasties. The Chinese tea ceremony distinguishes between three historical schools:

For example, in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), powdered tea was infused with hot water and mixed with a pinch of salt. This is called the "school of salted powdered tea."

In the following Song Dynasty (960-1279), the salt was omitted, but the tea powder was whisked with the hot water until foamy with a bamboo whisk. This art is called the "school of foamed jade."

It was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that loose tea in the form of whole leaves became the standard. Mainly oolong teas or pu-erh teas were used during this period. They are called the "school of fragrant leaf."

Tea in Japan

Tea also plays a major role in Japan's culture. Some of the best green teas come from Japan and sometimes there are also some delicious black teas from this country. In films and series, the complicated and conscientious traditional Japanese tea ceremony is often portrayed, which, with its focus on perfect execution, is sometimes difficult for the Western world to comprehend. It is certain that the Japanese first cultivated tea in their own country between 550-800 AD. Historians assume that Buddhist monks smuggled the tea plants from China. Zen monks then began to grow tea in their monasteries and develop the complex tea ceremony as an aid to enlightenment.

Tea trade with Europe

At the beginning of the 17th century, in 1610 to be precise, the Dutch East India Company began importing tea into the Netherlands. This was done exclusively by sea. However, this was always a long and arduous task, taking six to nine months per shipment. Moreover, tea that was transported by sea was not of very high quality. The salty sea air, musty smells from the wet wood and the smells of the other cargo such as spices or fish could easily be absorbed by fresh tea and then given off when it was brewed. Fish tea has rightly not made it to the present day. There was one good thing about sea delivery, however. The first Earl Grey was produced this way. This is black tea flavoured with bergamot oil. Whether this happened by chance due to careless storage on the high seas or was done on purpose to prevent other smells from being absorbed is not proven, however. We have Earl Grey teas with high-quality bergamot oil in our product portfolio for you.

The Dutch also supplied tea to the British and to Germany for the first time at this time. Shortly afterwards, the trade monopoly with China passed to the British East India Company. They held the monopoly for almost 200 years, which ended in 1834. In 1860, the British succeeded in cultivating tea in India for the first time, after a few years earlier a special variety of the tea plant had been discovered in the Assam region. This made the British independent of Chinese tea production. The Camellia Assamica plant and its derivatives are still preferred today for their strong flavour, especially for East Frisian and English black tea blends.

The Russians had it a little easier. They obtained their loose tea at about the same time through large trade caravans from Mongolia via the mainland. This tea was largely protected from the weather and aromatic cloudiness and was accordingly of higher quality.

Tea and Cha: Why there are only two main terms for tea

If you look at the dictionaries of the various languages of our world, you will inevitably notice that we only have a small handful of words for the term tea worldwide. On the one hand we have tee, thee, thé, tea, té and other variations of these, on the other hand we have chá, chai, chay, cay, shay and similar terms. There are very few exceptions to this, which mainly come from countries and regions that grow their own tea and have never been dependent on tea imports. For here lies the riddle for this linguistic development: in trade.

The Chinese character stands for the word Chá, which means tea in our language. The pronunciation Chá is Sinitic and is used that way in most of China. Traders who sourced their tea overland and via the famous Silk Road, one of the oldest and most famous trade routes in the world, which connected East and Central Asia with the Mediterranean. They adopted the word Chá into their vocabulary. More specifically, they adopted the term Cháyè, which means tea leaves. Hence, much of the world has the term chai for tea.

In the south of China is the province of Fujian, which was and still is one of the main trading points of tea. This is where the Dutch used to dock and buy their tea, which they then imported to Europe. The language used there is called Min Nan. Although it uses similar or the same characters in some cases, it is otherwise hardly comparable to Sinitic. The same character is pronounced Te there. This is how Dutch traders and other trading partners who sourced their goods in the southern Chinese coastal region came to call the product tea and carry this term into the wider world.

What is tea?

Tea by definition refers exclusively to the hot infusion drink of the processed leaves of the Chinese or Indian tea plant and its offshoots. The Chinese tea plant Camellia Sinensis, also known as the China seed plant to us, is the original plant on which the entire tea culture was founded. The Indian tea plant Camellia Assamica was first discovered in the middle of the 19th century in the Indian province of Assam and has been cultivated there and in many other areas of the world ever since. It is stronger, more robust and grows almost to tree size.

Apart from the original definition, however, for the sake of simplicity, all other hot infusions in which leaves, buds, flowers, roots, stems, fruits or seeds of plants are processed are also called tea. This is why we can offer herbal teas, spiced teas and fruit teas, which should actually be called infusions or tea-like refreshing drinks.

The different types of tea

A word about quality

In this section we would like to introduce you to the different superior tea varieties in more detail. The loose teas listed here, from green tea to Pu Erh, originate exclusively from the two tea plants and their cultivars (called cultivars). The fact that there can be such great differences in quality even within the categories is due to several factors. Firstly, there is the plant itself. There are a lot of cultivars that can still be assigned to one or the other original tea plant in their core, but perhaps have a more distinctive taste or are more modest in their cultivation conditions. The growing region also influences the quality of the tea. In general, it can be said that tea varieties grown on mountain slopes at altitudes of up to 2000 metres are of higher quality. This is due to the different weather conditions and the quality of the soil.

Harvesting and selection also play an important role. Machine-harvested tea is usually also processed by machines and sometimes does not retain the same purity as hand-picked tea. The highest quality varieties are often picked in the spring, where only the (un)opened buds and the youngest two leaves are used for these teas. Later harvests also pick older leaves, while machine harvesting can sometimes even include stems in the harvest. These must then be sorted out, as they simply have no place in tea.

Finally, the further processing of the tea also has something to do with the quality. Here, too, the leaves can either be rolled and broken up by hand or processed with machines using the crush-tear-curl method (CTC, for short). Depending on the leaf size, the plant parts used and other factors, there is a whole list of gradations here in which tea varieties can be categorised according to quality. Although this list is mainly used for green and black tea, it is also used for other teas.

Production and preparation

The secret of how a single plant species can become either green, white, oolong or black tea lies in its preparation. After the leaves are picked, they are usually laid out on large wilting mats to dry slowly and gently at a constant temperature in order to wilt them. This process can take eight to twelve hours or longer, drawing about 30% of the moisture out of the leaves. This makes them nice and supple and ready for the next step. Here the leaves are rolled with the help of a large roller, which ensures that the cell walls are broken open. This automatically initiates the next and most important step, fermentation. Through the broken cell walls, oxygen reaches the plant substances and reacts with them. This is also called oxidation and is responsible for the dark discolouration of the leaves. The degree of oxidation determines the type of tea. This will be discussed in more detail in the respective subsections.

If you want to experience the process first-hand, it is best to cut open an apple and leave it for a few minutes. This is the same principle - the juices of the apple react with the oxygen from the environment (oxidise) and turn the apple brown. The only difference is that this discolouration in apples is rarely referred to as an increase in quality.

The leaves are then gently dried to extract as much moisture as possible from them. Now the leaves are sorted according to size, quality and taste and then they can be packed.

By the way, filtered water is always recommended for preparing tea. The fewer substances there are in the water, the more flushed out plant substances, i.e. flavour carriers, it can absorb from the tea. In addition, some types of tea have a habit of reacting quite strongly with lime deposits or some minerals, which can lead to ugly brown stains or a cloudy taste.

Most types of tea can be brewed several times. Of course, a strainer is recommended for this. As a practical solution, we have a large tea glass with a removable strainer and lid. Simply pour in hot water, let the tea steep and then remove the strainer. For the next infusion, simply hang it back in the glass and let the following infusions steep a little longer. In this way, green, white and oolong tea can be brewed three to four times, each time providing you with new and exciting aromas and flavours. Black tea can also be infused several times, but the experience can diminish after only two or three infusions.

Let's take a closer look at the individual fermentation stages and the resulting teas:

Green Tea

Green tea is more or less the original form of tea. The name describes some of the best-tasting and healthiest teas in the world. In China and Japan, green tea is practically one of the national drinks. Some of the best green teas in the world come from Japan. Unlike other teas, green tea is not fermented. After the leaves have been picked, they are spread out on withered mats and then briefly heated. In China, a wok is usually used for this, while in Japan, hot steam is used. This ensures that the cell walls close immediately so that oxidation cannot take place. In this way, the green tea retains its full freshness and green colour. The leaves are then rolled and dried in a hot air oven.

Green tea is also the basis for many delicious flavours such as jasmine tea or rose petal tea. During the withering process, the loose leaves are collected in so-called withering troughs instead of on a withering mat, with jasmine flowers mixed in. These already give off their flowery aroma during the first wilting process. Depending on the variety, the process can be repeated several times before the jasmine flowers and the green tea are then processed together. For a very extraordinary experience, we recommend the Dragon Pearls. For this, jasmine blossoms are lovingly wrapped by hand in several layers of green tea leaves and then dried. When infused, the pearls open and release an intense, freshly flowery aroma as well as the valuable essential oils of the jasmine blossoms. It is best to try the tea for yourself.

At GAIWAN we always write the optimum amount of tea, water temperature and infusion time on our products, but it is often possible to remember a few standard specifications. When preparing green tea, the water temperature is the most important thing to consider. This should not exceed 80°C during infusion. Since green tea is unfermented, it does not need a high temperature to break down the cell walls and release the plant substances. On the contrary, too hot water can cause too many bitter substances to be released at once. If you have ever had a green tea that tasted too bitter, it was probably simply because it was brewed with water that was too hot and then left to steep for too long. Generally, 3-4 teaspoons of green tea to a litre of hot water are sufficient and the infusion time for the first infusion should be about two to three minutes.

Yellow Tea

Yellow tea is a particularly rare variety, as only a few producers have mastered its production. It is produced exclusively in China and mainly by monks who have not yet lost the traditional knowledge of its production. The secret is that the hand-picked tea leaves are wrapped in a special cloth before being briefly heated in it. This process is repeated at regular intervals over several days and is called "men huan", which means "golden seal". It gives the tea a golden yellow colour and allows the flavours to really soak into the tea, making it taste more mature. Yellow tea is most similar to green tea and should accordingly be prepared in the same way.

Caution: Due to its rarity, yellow tea is quite expensive and unfortunately not immune to shabby traders. In Europe, one occasionally comes across traders who sell green tea as yellow tea. In Korea, on the other hand, there is another kind of yellow tea, but it is neither related to the Chinese version nor prepared in a similar way.

White Tea

White tea is one of the finest teas in the world. Just like yellow tea, there are only a handful of varieties, each of which is picked by hand and processed with special care. There are own cultivars such as Da Bai and Da Hao, which are used exclusively for white tea. The tea is only picked on a few days in spring. For Yin Zhen, also known as Silver Needle, only the unopened buds are used. These are still covered in fine white hairs - hence the name. As the bud has not yet ripened, this is an extremely mild tea that is highly prized among connoisseurs.

We have Pai Mu Tan in our assortment for you. This white tea is picked directly afterwards and consists of a bud and the two youngest leaves. This gives the tea a more intense aroma and a fuller flavour, which is why it is even preferred by some tea enthusiasts.

White tea is between green tea and oolong tea in terms of fermentation. Green tea is not fermented at all, which means that oxidation is prevented as much as possible. White tea, on the other hand, is broken extremely gently to cause minimal oxidation before it is finally dried. The result is pure tea enjoyment...

...as long as the tea has been prepared correctly. Here, too, similar conditions apply as for green tea. The water temperature should not exceed 80°C, three to four teaspoons to one litre of water are sufficient and the brewing time should be three to four minutes for the first infusion.

Oolong Tea

Oolong tea is the middle ground between green and black tea. While green tea is not fermented at all and black tea is fully fermented, oolong teas offer the golden mean, so to speak. Oolong tea also forms a balanced mixture of both types in terms of taste. Sometimes it tastes grassy and mild, sometimes full-bodied and a little more tart. Depending on the degree of fermentation, oolongs can be further categorised. Up to a fermentation of about 45 percent, one speaks of a green oolong. These are also more oriented towards green teas in terms of colour and taste. Above that, up to a fermentation of around 70 percent, they are considered dark oolongs and are more oriented towards black tea in terms of colour and taste. Anything above 70 per cent fermentation is then considered black tea.

There are delicious oolong varieties such as Butterfly of Taiwan, which has a wonderful smoky aroma and is comparatively dark. We also have an excellent oolong jasmine tea in our assortment. A personal recommendation of the author of these lines is our Himalaya Rose Petal Oolong. As the name already promises, you are caressed by a fresh rose scent when you open the package, which also accompanies the tea in an extremely fine and flowery taste. An absolute delight.

For Oolong tea, there are specially bred cultivars of Camellia Sinensis. These have larger leaves. In contrast to green teas, riper tea leaves are picked and processed for this purpose. To better control oxidation, the tea leaves are carefully shaken, rubbed or twisted in large drums after wilting. The correct preparation of Oolong tea is an art in itself.

For the preparation, 90-100°C hot water is needed. Due to advanced oxidation, the hotter temperatures are needed to flush the polyphenols out of the tea. The brewing time varies depending on the infusion and personal taste. There is hardly a tea variety with a more varied taste than oolong. Once you have acquired a taste for it, you will embark on a long and enjoyable journey into the wide world of tea diversity.

Black Tea

If you let the tea ferment long enough, it will turn black. However, if you take a closer look at black tea, you will actually see more of a brownish or reddish colour. Only the leaves are dark brown to black, sometimes even slightly bluish. In many parts of Asia, black tea is therefore also called red tea because of its reddish colour, which in this country is mostly applied to tea such as rooibos or fruit tea.

Black tea is the most commonly drunk variety in many countries. The English are known to enjoy their black tea with milk, and in Turkey Çay with sugar or honey is available on every corner. In Germany, black tea is the most popular type of tea, accounting for over 70% of all purchases. We are known for our strong and aromatic East Frisian blends, which are often enjoyed with milk and rock candy. There are a variety of well-known black teas such as Darjeeling, Assam or Ceylon, named after the respective growing regions, which are either enjoyed pure or used in delicious blends. Earl Grey, a black tea refined with high-quality bergamot oil, is considered a delicacy worldwide. Furthermore, black tea is used as the basis for an unmanageable variety of teas. A wide variety of flavours are added, of which black tea with vanilla is still one of the more classic varieties. You can mix it with fruits like our Apple Cinnamon black tea, or with spices like our Black Energy tea. We even have caffeine-free black tea for you in our assortment. There are hardly any limits to your creativity.

Black tea is always prepared with bubbling hot water, as lower temperatures are not sufficient to flush out the majority of the plant substances. Here, too, 3-4 teaspoons of tea to one litre of hot water are sufficient. The infusion time should be between 3-5 minutes for the first infusion. Further infusions are possible, but often black teas lose their flavour more quickly than green tea or oolong, for example.

Pu Erh Tea

Pu Erh tea is considered by many tea connoisseurs to be the royal class of teas. This type of tea differs from all other types in a few ways. Pu Erh tea is exclusively plucked from wild growing tea trees. It is pressed into a mould and then left to rest and mature, sometimes for years. In this way, a gentle fermentation takes place. In ancient China, Pu Erh tea was even used as a means of payment, which was weighed against gold. Today, Pu Erh tea is once again considered an investment with a high increase in value, which is often collected rather than actually drunk. Similar to good wines, there are different vintages, with age driving up the price. The oldest and most valuable varieties mature for 150 years or more. Genuine Pu Erh tea, which is permitted to bear this name, comes exclusively from the Chinese region of Yunnan, more precisely from the Pu'er prefecture.

Pu Erh tea is called real black tea in China because it is usually very dark and thicker than normal teas. Pu Erh is divided into green Pu Erh and dark Pu Erh tea, the former being pressed into shape and stored without fermentation. The other variety is processed in a special way, which, among other things, can even artificially accelerate the ageing process. In this context, the terms Shou Pu Erh (fast ripe, artificially ripened) and Seng Pu Erh (naturally ripened) are used.

Because Pu Erh tea is so varied, this type of tea can take on extremely diverse tastes. Some varieties taste slightly earthy or bitter, but leave a subtle sweet aftertaste. They can taste flowery or fruity or have a distinct herbal note. They all have a camphor note in common. Dark Pu Erh tastes rather soft and low in acidity.

Loose tea or tea bags - which is better?

Coffee drinkers and tea connoisseurs have one popular topic of discussion in common: the method of preparation. Coffee drinkers enjoy their dark hot beverage from the French Press pot, the sinfully expensive fully automatic coffee machine, the good old filter machine or even the top-mounted cup filter. Then there are the capsule or coffee pad machines, which tend to be laughed at or even scorned among fragrant lovers. Tea drinkers don't have quite as much choice here. Tea is bought either as loose tea or in tea bags, the latter often being equated with coffee capsules among self-proclaimed connoisseurs. But are tea bags really as poor in quality as is often claimed? Let's take a look at the culture of tea preparation.

Tea Bags

Tea bags have only been around since 1908 and were developed more by accident than design. The tea merchant Thomas Sullivan wanted to send small samples of tea to his customers, so he packed the quantity for one cup in small silk bags. The customers took the bags as they were, concluded that this was how the tea should be prepared and dipped them completely into the hot water. This was revolutionary, as before tea preparation basically required a second teapot to strain the loose tea leaves and decant the tea. The original form of the tea bag was born. After the initially positive reception by the tea-drinking public, however, the first imitators soon appeared who, however, did not pack high-quality tea samples in their tea bags, but rather low-quality herbs and literally crumbly waste in order to save costs. The tea bag quickly fell into disrepute that it or its contents were of inferior quality. This argument has persisted to this day.

We can refute this argument at least in a few points. Today's tea bag production does not contain bad tea or waste per se, but mainly tea solutions optimised for tea bag production. There are a handful of large tea bag producers here in Germany alone, and their production volume is almost unmanageable. Just for fun, go to your local supermarket and look for the tea shelf. How many brands do you find there? How many different types of tea do you find and how many packs are there in a row? Now just go through in your head how many supermarkets you know in your area and multiply these numbers. Sounds like a lot? Try extrapolating how many supermarkets of all known larger and smaller chains there are in your town alone. If you want to calculate this further, after a short search you will find that Germany alone has over 12400 communities and towns - all full of corner shops and small and large supermarkets that all have these tea bags in their shops. Many of the manufacturers also deliver abroad, so the production load increases even more. This production is not a one-off, but is constantly maintained.

If you add it all up, you come to the conclusion that not all tea bags labeled Ceylon can actually contain 100% Ceylon - if only because they cannot obtain enough Ceylon tea. For black tea in particular, they sometimes mix together what is available at the moment, making sure that a predominant percentage corresponds to the advertised tea on the packaging.

However, this does not mean that the packaged tea is of inferior quality. In principle, the teas purchased, if they were sold loose and in leaf form, can really be of high quality. But tea bags almost exclusively contain so-called fannings (leaf remnants about 1 mm in size) and dust (sifted tea powder). These leaf remnants are so small that they contain only a few plant substances, which in turn means that bagged tea has to steep much longer than loose tea to have enough flavour.

Many of the teas advertised in bags also contain flavourings. Again, it is not the bad intention of the supplier, but technical limitation that is the reason. Let's take a strawberry-blackberry tea as an example. Both types of berries are not available all year round for seasonal reasons or are disproportionately expensive in this case. It would even be technically possible to grate them sufficiently small to fill them into tea bags, but the bag machine puts a spanner in the works.

Fruits are known to be full of fructose, which would quickly cause the small fruit particles to clump together during this procedure. This would not only look unappealing, but would also clog up the machine. As a solution, manufacturers take a neutral tea blend as a basis and add natural or artificial flavours and colourings. This gives strawberry-blackberry tea a delicious colour and fruity taste, and it can be reliably portioned into the tea bag by a machine.

Nevertheless, tea bags are more popular than ever around the world. Even in the countries where tea originated, they are exported in rough quantities. The tea bag as we know it, the so-called double-chamber bag, was invented by the German engineer Adolf Rambold. He developed the bag in 1929, but a few decades later the patent was revoked, allowing other manufacturers to produce these bags as well. Especially in Japan, for example, herbal teas in bags are very popular, as mainly green and black tea is produced there. And who can blame them? The country with probably the most complex tea ceremony is also becoming increasingly fast-paced. So a little bag of fresh tea comes in handy every now and then. Nowadays, tea is often drunk in a similar way to coffee - as a tasty drink for in-between times, which you can also drink while you are busy with other things. With tea bags, one is independent of tedious tea preparation procedures. Simply use the cup, the bag and the hot water in the correct order, and you're set.

In summary, it can be said that the tea quality of tea bags is not inferior to that of loose tea. However, it is subject to machine limitations and a high production volume that has to be maintained, so you have to accept occasional sacrifices. Tea bags generally have a longer brewing time than loose tea and can rarely be brewed a second time, as the already small amount of tea has released all its aromatic substances during the first brewing. In addition, bag teas, especially the fruity varieties, are often flavoured and do not contain actual fruit.

In addition, the content of the tea bag is usually deliberately optimised for the demands of the target group: The preparation should be simple and reliable. While we recommend a water temperature of 70-80°C for certain loose teas like Japan Bancha, boiling hot water can always be used for bag teas. In a restaurant, water from the steam nozzle of the espresso machine is also used. With many Darjeeling teas such as the Seeyok, the infusion time of two minutes should not be exceeded, otherwise the tea becomes undrinkable. With bag teas, the infusion time does not have to be observed so closely, so that even double the infusion time does not overturn the taste. The undemanding and thus convenient preparation of the bag tea is achieved by foregoing many nuances of taste that the comfort-loving consumer likes to do without.

Loose Tea

Tea has only been known and popular in the western world for a few hundred years. In many cases, the country's own tea culture was first established via the aristocratic houses and middle-class families until the trade was so mature that tea became affordable for ordinary citizens as well. Loose tea has always had a reputation for extravagance, refined taste and conviviality. Those who drank tea took time to enjoy it. Preparation was part of the ritual and still is for many tea lovers today.

Loose tea is still the more popular way to enjoy tea worldwide. Many countries have developed their very own tea culture, sometimes with their own tea-making equipment such as the Samovar in Russia or the Çaydanlık in Turkey. The Chinese preparation, which also finds favour among tea lovers around the globe, includes a large set of pots or Gaiwan (a lidded bowl with a saucer, as seen on our logo - to distinguish it, the tea brand GAIWAN is therefore written in capital letters), the kettle, several bowls and other vessels for the aroma or the sight of the leaves, the matching strainer, additional spoons and tongs and even more. The traditional Japanese tea ceremony is a science in itself. In Britain, there is the famous five-o'-clock tea and other tea times when certain teas are served with certain snacks in silence or in convivial company. At that time, coffee houses were also equipped with tea bit by bit or were completely converted into tea houses and - since women were generally not admitted to these houses - special tea gardens were opened where tea could be enjoyed by women in the open air while listening to sweet music.

With the development of the tea bag, tea could now not only be purchased even more cheaply, but could also be prepared much more quickly and easily. This was advantageous for those who did not want to do without their tea, but could not take enough time to prepare it. We have found another practical solution to this time problem of preparing tea with loose tea: Our large tea glass with removable strainer and lid. The high-quality, rustproof and dishwasher-safe strainer made of sanded stainless steel sits perfectly on the 500 ml (usable volume) glass with handle and can be filled with loose tea. The open top leaves enough space for the loose tea to unfold, which is great for the aroma as well as for the eye. A good example of this is our Butterfly of Taiwan oolong tea. At first glance, the loose tea takes up little space in the strainer, but when you pour hot water over it and let it steep for a few minutes, the leaves unfurl and fill a good half of the strainer, while the aromatic scent spreads stimulatingly through the room. When the tea has steeped enough, place the strainer on the lid. This is particularly practical if you want to infuse the tea several times. To do this, hang the strainer back in the cup and pour hot water over it again.

Loose tea has a few advantages in terms of taste and appearance, which come from the fact that it does not have to be processed by machine. An important difference to bagged tea is the fact that you can use real fruit. Of course, there are also loose teas that are fruit flavoured, but loose fruit teas usually consist of dried fruit pieces, such as our delicious Fruity Melon tea. These not only taste more natural, but also look tasty in the cup. Loose tea is often not only put together for an optimal taste, but also for the eye. Coloured flower petals are mixed in with the one or other black tea as accents, such as our Earl Grey Blue Star. In this case, it is also a feast for the eyes.

Another advantage of loose tea is that you can prepare it exactly according to your own preferences. Tea bags contain a machine-determined, unchanging amount of tea that is exactly enough for one cup and one infusion. If you like your tea stronger, you either have to let it steep for ages or squeeze a second bag into the cup. Loose tea, on the other hand, can be portioned and steeped exactly as you like. There are always recommendations for brewing on the packaging, but each person is individual. Some like their black tea so strong that the tannins settle like a film in the entire mouth and throat area, while others prefer a softer preparation. In addition, loose tea usually consists of larger plant parts than bagged tea. There are different leaf grades and quality characteristics here, but it all boils down to the fact that high-quality loose tea can be brewed several times without any problems in most cases, presenting you with different aromas and nuances of flavour each time.

The bottom line

Bagged tea and loose tea can hardly be measured in competition with each other. Apart from direct quality, most preferences are always of a purely subjective nature. It's not for nothing that people say "you can't argue about taste." You can, but it rarely results in a conversion or change of mind.

Loose tea and tea bags are often preferred for different reasons. Some love bagged tea because they have never tried loose tea and thus could not form any judgement about the other preparation. Others prefer bagged tea simply because it is uncomplicated and quick to pour.

For a few years now, so-called pyramid bags have been on the market. These are larger and thus allow for larger pieces of leaf or real fruit. The contents of the pouch are more visible, so that higher-quality ingredients must be used for the sake of appearance. But even with this pouch, the contents have limited room to move and develop. In addition, the bags are often made of organic plastic and can therefore emit microplastics.

For many people, tea is a luxury food like any other, to which no further attention is paid as long as it tastes good. Their answer to the question "tea?" is always "yes, please" and not "in a bag or loose?" Some types of tea are simply only available in tea bags - or at least you don't have to search for them forever.

Loose tea, on the other hand, is mainly preferred by those who want to enjoy tea consciously. Tea can be so versatile and varied. There is a suitable tea for every mood and every situation, for every food and often also for the most diverse ailments. Especially in today's fast-paced world, where everything always has to be done immediately, food and drink are best to-go or quickly delivered to your home, gobbled up while you watch the news or answer work emails because you don't have time for a proper break, it's simply important to occasionally treat yourself to just that break. It's not for nothing that fitness and health blogs are mushrooming everywhere, yoga classes are on every corner, etc. With a carefully brewed cup of fresh, loose tea, which you can watch unfold its leaves and whose soothing and relaxing essential oils you can inhale while steeping, can provide exactly this well-deserved peace and balance.

So we don't want to express a final verdict at this point. Bag teas definitely have their justification, because tea, no matter how it is prepared, is always better than no tea. If you are in a hurry, a small bag is the practical and time-saving solution. Alternatively, you can use our large glass with strainer and lid, which even has the advantage that loose tea has a shorter brewing time than bagged tea. However, if you simply want to switch off and treat yourself to some time out - just you, your tea and perhaps a good book - then loose tea and the procedure that goes with it is certainly the right choice for you.

Is Tea healthy?

The most important thing to say first: none of what we write here about the health aspects constitutes health advice in any way. We are simply sharing the information we know. If you want to drink tea specifically for a health reason, we generally recommend that you seek the opinion of professionals such as holistic health practitioners or doctors.

The internet is full of questions like "Is tea healthy?" or "Which tea is good for weight loss?" These questions are perfectly valid and, like everything else on the web, controversial. Some sites swear by the healing effects inherent in all teas because traditional Chinese medicine has been using them for thousands of years, while other sites declare it all to be made-up hokum that at best has a placebo effect because there are few verified studies on it. The truth, as so often, lies in the middle. So in this section we look at the possible health benefits and drawbacks of frequent tea consumption.

The tea plant has a decisive advantage for us: all the ingredients are stored in a highly water-soluble form. Around 30% of the active ingredients dissolve in the infusion and enter our bodies, where they are well absorbed by our bodies. In contrast, many other plants have to be eaten so that we can absorb their active ingredients in sufficient quantities.

Teaeine or caffeine?

In our society it has become very easy to get caffeine. On every corner there is a shop offering coffee in all sizes and preparation methods, in the supermarket you can find both cold latte drinks and bean-to-cup coffee to brew yourself, as well as soft drinks containing caffeine. Few consumers are aware that chocolate also contains caffeine, as cocoa powder contains caffeine. The darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine concentration.

In recent years, more stimulating tea drinks have appeared, usually offered chilled. These often contain mate, matcha, guarana, guayusa or a combination of all these ingredients. They promise a natural, long-lasting and healthy wake-up kick without caffeine. People like to refer to the teaeine, which is supposed to have a similar effect to caffeine, but one that lasts longer. However, this is only half the truth.

Chemically speaking, teaeine is exactly the same active ingredient as caffeine. There is no difference in the chemical composition - teaeine and caffeine are the same. Nevertheless, it is also true that this active ingredient in combination with tea and also many herbal plants has a different mode of action than caffeine from the coffee bean. This has to do with the production of the respective raw materials.

How does caffeine work?

Coffee beans are roasted over a long period of time. This causes them to lose most of their tannins, which normally bind the caffeine. As a result, the coffee takes effect much more quickly in the body and is fully absorbed in an average of 30 minutes. People who are not used to coffee often feel nervous, shaky and over-excited from the sudden excess of caffeine. But the both good and bad news is that the effect also wears off just as quickly once the caffeine has dissipated. This leads to the infamous caffeine crash, a sudden drop in energy, which can affect people in different ways. Some just suddenly feel floppy and tired, others suddenly become irritable.

In contrast, tea is prepared much more gently and also has a longer-lasting effect. The process of fermentation is slow and gentle, the final brief heating merely seals the cell walls without completely roasting the leaves. A large part of the tannins are thus retained in green, yellow, white, oolong and black tea. The tannins bind the caffeine and must first be broken down by the body. This is a process that takes several hours, during which small amounts of caffeine are continuously released into the blood. As a result, the caffeine in the tea makes you feel more relaxed and focused over a longer period of time without feeling nervous. Since the caffeine dissipates just as gently as it is absorbed, there is no sudden sharp drop.

The same happens with guarana and other plants that contain caffeine. This is why organic energy drinks are so widespread these days. They harness the natural properties of tea to keep you pleasantly focused.

Which tea has more caffeine?

There is no general answer to this question, as the caffeine content also depends on the respective cultivation, but also on the cultivation and harvest. Our delicious Japan Bancha, for example, is a light green tea with a subtle bitter note that has little caffeine. The Japan Sencha, on the other hand, tastes softer but also has significantly more caffeine. Both teas come from the same plantation, but the Sencha is harvested in spring, the Bancha only afterwards. The younger the shoots and buds are, the more caffeine they contain. Green tea like matcha, for example, has more caffeine than coffee, but this is rather uncommon.

In black tea, some of the caffeine has already been lost through fermentation. If you compare the pure figures, a cup of black coffee contains around 120-150 mg of caffeine. A cup of black tea contains on average only 20-50 mg of caffeine. That's handy for recharging your batteries in the early afternoon for the last few hours of work. Matcha can even contain 250 mg of caffeine per cup.

Vitamins, minerals and trace elements

Loose tea in all its forms has a considerable range of interesting ingredients. To list them all here would go far beyond the scope of this article, so we will approach the subject in a more general way.

Tea has been used for many millennia in traditional Chinese medicine as a remedy for all sorts of things. In many countries, it is part of the culture and a healthy lifestyle to drink several cups of tea a day, although opinions vary widely on how much tea should be drunk. In some countries, such as China and Japan, mainly green tea is drunk. Other countries like Turkey and England are known for their black tea consumption. In this country, due to the lack of real tea, mainly herbal extracts were used for various healing effects. Almost everything that blossoms in our forests, fields and roadsides has been tried out over the past centuries and recommended according to the healing effects observed, long before scientists were able to determine the chemical constituents of the plants. There are herbal teas for relaxation, against colds or gastrointestinal infections, against sore throats or for a better sleep. Some of the herbs have several positive properties and are thus used in a wide variety of herbal tea blends.

Fruits, on the other hand, often have fewer specific health benefits, but are mainly rich in vitamins and minerals. Here, however, a problem arises that is often overlooked: In order to make fruit tea and herbal tea a safe food, they have to be infused with 100°C hot water. This temperature kills any microorganisms that may still be alive - and at the same time destroys many of the vitamins and trace elements. The amount left over is so insignificant that it has little effect on a full-grown body. You couldn't drink such large quantities of tea to make a significant difference with it. So what remains is a delicious, aromatic and refreshing hot drink.

For a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals, freshly squeezed juices, whole fruit or delicious smoothies are definitely the better choice here.

Real tea from the tea plant, at least in the form of green tea, has the advantage that it does not have to be brewed at 100°C. The lower temperature leaves vitamins and minerals intact so that they can be processed in the body. However, matcha is the best, because the plant pieces are completely pulverised, infused with water and drunk. In this way, the body absorbs the most trace elements.

Essential Oils

The tea plant, as well as most herbs, have a large number of essential oils. Camelia sinensis alone contains over 300 different essential oils. They are one of the reasons why tea smells so aromatic. Well-known examples of herbal teas with a strong content of essential oils are lemon balm and peppermint. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine holding a hot cup of freshly brewed peppermint tea. Can you smell the distinctive, refreshing and relaxing fragrance? Do you notice how you relax just thinking about it? That is one of the many ways essential oils work - physical and mental relaxation. Other oils improve concentration or have an invigorating effect. It is not for nothing that an entire medical science was developed around essential oils, the so-called aroma therapy. Depending on the complaint or situation, other oils can be used for relief or improvement.

Secondary plant substances

The very thing that nature developed to protect plants from predators has a lot of health effects for humans: the so-called secondary plant compounds. The best known of these are the tannins, the bitter substances (flavonoids) and the catechins.

As already mentioned, the tannins are responsible for the slow breakdown of caffeine, but often also have a soothing effect on the mucous membranes in the gastrointestinal tract and throat. The various substances can be attributed all kinds of positive properties, the exact listing and differentiation of which could take several years of study. Briefly summarised, catechins are mainly good because they act as antioxidants and can not only protect against oxidative stress and cell decay, but also have antiviral, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Green tea contains the highest amount of catechins of all teas. Whether this is the secret of the high fitness of many Asians in old age is anyone's guess. However, it could have contributed to it.

Loose tea - a word in conclusion

In conclusion, we would like to leave you with the following notion: It is undeniable that tea has health-promoting properties. Tea has been recommended and used for ages as a support for various difficulties, to strengthen the immune system as well as for general well-being. This is true for green and black tea as well as for all kinds of herbal teas, whose effects are as diverse as there are herbs. Most of the knowledge about the usefulness of herbs has been gained through centuries of observation and is often recommended in alternative medicine, herbal medicine and also as grandmother's home remedies. So far, however, the numerous effects have been insufficiently researched in science. It is a laborious process to conduct studies on whether valerian, for example, can really help with falling asleep or cayenne pepper with a cold. This is the reason why all sites on the net that deal with herbs, teas and other potentially health-promoting substances are not allowed to make definitive claims. It is actually forbidden to express healing promises unless you are a certified doctor or alternative practitioner of some kind. So we cannot promise you here that you will become healthy by drinking our teas regularly. But we can promise you that we will always strive for the best possible quality and the most wholesome aroma for you. Our goal is to offer you tea to enjoy.

Choose your favourite teas from our huge assortment. Create a pretty little tea kitchen at home with a selection of delicious teas from GAIWAN, ideally stored in our large glass tea caddies. Make it a habit to drink a cup of tea every day in peace, without a thought for work or any problems. Even if we can't promise you physical health, carefully taking time out from everyday life, just you and your cup of tea, will certainly have a positive effect on your attitude towards life. We wish you only the best.