Steep Stories

of the Lazy Literatus

Regarding Tea Sachets

In more informed tea circles, it is common knowledge that teabags are crap. Those little bags of ass-flavored tea usually contain the dust left over after the good, loose leaf tea was packaged. The taste of an average black tea from a bag is rough and bitter, like licking a chalkboard. (Yes, I’ve tried that.) But what about sachets?

travel mug

Even the word sounds snobbish. The definition isn’t any better: “A perfumed bag used to scent clothes”. However, sachets (sans perfuming or clothing) have been adopted by many tea producers and vendors to package whole leaf tea in a convenient way for undiscerning consumers. Let’s face it. Not all of those that are curious about loose leaf tea want to go through the trouble of using a strainer.

The issue for most orthodox tea drinkers isn’t the idea of a filter bag, but rather the material – and the fact that said sachet may prevent whole tea leaves from properly . . . uh . . . breathing. (Their language, not mine.) Many loose leaf tea drinkers believe that confining the leaves to a foreign material while brewing affects the flavor.

I, honestly, never had an opinion one way or the other. Granted, I preferred brewing tea loose leaf – even so far as to just put leaves in a mug, no strainer. However, there were plenty of teas out there that were duly sacheted I liked. One of my favorite outfits, Smith Teamaker offered consumers the option of loose leaf or sachet, and I flip-flopped between the two.

But it was high-time I finally saw for myself if there was really a difference between the methods. Did sachets negatively influence the experience? I needed a good example to go on. Luckily, I received an oolong from an organic tea garden in Bangladesh, and it happened to come in biodegradable sachets. Perfect for just such a side-by-side comparison.

Teatulia was started in the early 2000s in Northern Bangladesh. It was the first – and so far, only – organic tea garden in the country. They were also among the first farm-direct outfits on the scene. I had the pleasure of trying some of their wares several years ago. Of particularly noteworthiness was their white tea. However, I had no idea they had an oolong among their wares. When they contacted me recently, that was the tea I selected to drench myself in. Er . . . for science.

I brewed a bag once for a work shift, but didn’t pay much attention to it. On a second go-around, I wanted to brew it loose.

oolong loose

I’m glad I did because it gave me ample opportunity to see the leaves up close. They looked similar to Teatulia’s black tea. Many of them were lighter in color – tippier, even – betraying their semi-oxidized process. The aroma also possessed a fruitier lean. Some chocolate also showed up in traces on a whiff.

Teatulia recommended putting one sachet in an 8oz. cup of boiled water for two-to-three minutes. I went about two-and-a-half to be on the safe side. For once, I wasn’t feeling totally rambunctious with my brewing.

oolong brewed

The result was a bold, copper-brewed liquor with an aroma of malt and nuts. The taste initially began with a bitter prologue, but that smoothed out to something floral, sweet and burly! Like getting a hug from a honey-dipped flower on steroids. The finish was all sorts o’ nuanced. I couldn’t pick up on anything specific, other than a gurgle of delight. It reminded me of some of the oolongs from Nepal I’d come in contact with.

But now I had to do some serious business.

side by side

Which method was better? Loose leaf . . . or sachet? Would there be a noticeable flavor difference between the two? Did the leaves really need to breeeeaaaaathe?

Short answer: No.

side by side brewed

Was there a flavor difference? Not a damn one.

Granted, there might not have been a difference because both the leaves had originally been sacheted. Results may have differed if I had acquired some straight-up, loose leaf oolong to properly compare. That and the cut of the leaves was fairly small, thus allowing for ideal brewing by either method. A tea brewed from larger, whole leaves in a sachet might produce different results. But as I see it, there was no glaring detraction from the sachet. No trace of “silk” on the palate.

My subjective, semi-informed verdict: A teabag is bad, but a sachet is okay.

sachet okay

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lazyliteratus

Tea blogger, professional cleaner of toilets, amateur people watcher.
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15 Comments

  1. I like that you did this comparison! Such a great idea. While I go for loose leaf most of the time, I think the sachets are a decent option for those who want a “convenient” way of drinking tea but also not from tea dusts you find in teabags.

  2. I love this Mythbusters take on tea sachets. Every niche hobby has some snobbery and it’s nice to see whether it’s warranted or not!

  3. Profile photo of Xavier

    It depends on what is inside, on the quality of the sachet, if there is enough room for the leaves…
    It depends on a lot of things but it is nice to see that you are trying to see if myths are myths or something more.

  4. Hmmm….I have to admit I’ve never tried a tea sachet, but it does sound like it might be a nice alternative.

  5. Profile photo of Robert Godden

    Sorry, Geoff, I was five paragraphs into what I thought of this, when I decided I might as well turn my thoughts into my own blog post. Most likely published this Sunday.

  6. Great post! While I definitely have a strong preference for loose leaf, sachets are an unavoidable convenience sometimes. I keep a tea wallet in my purse and teas like this one are perfect for stowing away in their for emergency purposes.

  7. Margo Hutchinson

    Loose leaf seems to last longer but I am lazy at times and so use the other a lot. Just depends on what I have available at the time. But those in a bag are portable.

  8. I appreciate the experience of the loose leaf brewing (and you can’t really do small pot style easily with a sachet) – however, when I travel, sachets are a life saver. For example – on a long flight!

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