Whole leaf teas or loose teas are the unbroken or partially cut leaves containing extra essential oils which enhance the taste of tea. Allowing better extraction of flavour, aroma and nutrients the tea makes a healthier brew with a more amplified taste
Loose leaf or whole leaf teas are also called orthodox teas as they are produced using the orthodox or traditional method. In this old-fashioned method of producing tea, the leaves remain whole or slightly broken. These teas magically unfurl when steeped in boiling water and render a wonderful cup of brew with superior aroma, flavour, and taste. These teas are also called loose tea because they are not packaged into tea bags. The most popular whole leaf teas are from the sprawling tea gardens in the district of Darjeeling followed by Assam and Nilgiris.
Loose-leaf teas are produced by the five-step method – Plucking, Withering, Rolling, Oxidation, and Firing. The leaves or unopened buds near the top three leaves are hand plucked. The fresh leaves are allowed to wilt to prepare them for further processing. Then they are withered evenly by gentle fluffing, rotating of the leaves. Post withering, they are rolled which is an essential step for flavour development. The rolled leaves are laid to rest to allow oxidation to take place. The leaves turn reddish-brown. Finally, the leaves are fired to dry the oxidized leaves to create a myriad of complex flavours.
With subtle and multi-layered flavour, high quality, and a distinctive taste, leaf teas are less likely to have a bitter after taste. The flavour and depth owe to minimal or no crushing of the leaves, due to which they have a larger surface area, thus keeping the essential oils intact.
Best Consumed in its naturally extracted form
Freshly extracted brew renders the best flavour profile in leaf teas. As they are delicate, the steeping time is comparatively lesser than other types of tea. Steep the tea leaves in a wide vessel to allow proper infusion of all leaves. The tea leaves should be able to absorb water and expand as they infuse. Extraction of nutrients, minerals, flavors, and aromas from the leaves is better when the water flows through the leaves.
Loose teas are famous for their complex flavours with a top, middle and finishing note, and a strong mouthfeel. It has a deep intense taste that would activate one too many flavour sensations in your tongue. This kind of complexity of flavours cannot be easily found in the smaller grades of tea or the dust tea.
More popular in the Western countries
As compared to India, tea lovers in the West are usually accustomed to orthodox tea and prefer to drink tea in its natural extracted form as a steeped brew.
Why should we use loose teas?
Loose teas have the most authentic and premium quality, taste, and flavour as they are made from fresh young leaves. They allow better extraction of vitamins and minerals, which in turn makes it a healthier brew. As they are more flavorful, they can be steeped a minimum of two times, hence it gives more value for money. Further, they reduce the amount of packaging material, hence they are more eco-friendly.