“If you’ve been exposed to loose leaf teas, you’ll never go back to bags again, no matter the price differential,” says ipsedixit. The price tag on a bag of high-quality, loose leaf green tea may look steep compared to a box of tea bags, but tea bags just can’t compare. The difference is like “sort of quaffing a first growth and chugging wine out of a box,” says ipsedixit.
Also, despite the high price tag on a bag of really good tea, it’s actually quite economical in terms of price per serving. “You can make a cup of tea using only two grams of leaves, so the price is really not as much as it seems,” says Jemon. “Most of the time, a decent tea should only cost a few bucks per 100 grams, which equals 50 cups.” Not to mention that if it’s whole-leaf green tea, you can steep the leaves several times and get good tea each time, says Bat Guano. “I’ve done it as much as five times. Some people say the second or third steep is the best.”
Be aware, however, that unless the market is a very busy place, the tea on the shelves can be quite stale or flat, says liu. These days, you can order extremely fresh, high-quality tea online. liu likes tea purveyors Hibiki-an and Zencha, both based in Japan. And “be sure to brew your green tea at a low temperature (maybe 140°F for some very good tea),” says liu. “Also, use a good, fine-mesh screen to filter out the tiny leaves. You will find lots of information on the Japanese tea sites.”
Want to hear more? James Norwood Pratt talks about tea—and parallels between tea appreciation and wine appreciation—in Obsessives: The Proper Cup of Tea.
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