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Bagging Up the Art

To the artisan drinker, tea bags are the cruelest thing to happen to tea.

When they were introduced – by accident – in the early 1900s tea would change forever.

A New York tea dealer called Thomas Sullivan began sending out tea samples to his clients in small silk bags, with no explanation.

Clients thought that the entire bag was supposed to be immersed in the hot water, such as with the use of a metal diffuser.

This sparked a revolution in how tea was consumed and produced.

Feedback from Thomas Sullivan’s clients told him the bag was too thick and the silk mesh too fine, and did not allow the water to penetrate and the tea to infuse in the water.

Following this he produced the first tea bags in 1908.

They soon became popular in the United States but it took Great Britain another half a century or so until they got on board en masse.

By the mid-80s tea bags were used by 68 per cent of tea drinkers. Today: 90 per cent of tea drinkers use them.

The use of tea bags is often shunned by specialty tea drinkers who prefer to see their leaf, smell it and watch it steep.

They love the art of tea.

This, to a degree, has been partially lost by the process of finely chopping tea leaves (often of very low grades) and putting them in a bag.

Tea bags are easy to use, leave little mess and are extremely portable.

But they also turned drinking tea from a ceremonial act to a convenient one.

Also, some argue that the quality of tea has become compromised.

Producers can use stalks, crushed leaf dust and whatever they want if it is inside a bag for no-one to see.

This is why some people say that you might get a cup of tea from a bag, but you will never get the true experience of tea.

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