Loose leaf tea has been a favored drink for centuries. While tea bags are convenient and quick, they're often more toned down in flavor than loose leaf teas due to the grinding and crushing process used to create them. Loose leaf tea is more flavorful and less bitter. It also retains more health benefits due to the lack of pounding done over its leaves.
We scoured the internet researching what makes for great loose leaf tea and rounded up our 10 best picks. Our favorite is the Solstice Tea Traders's Favorites Tea Sampler, due to the wide varieties of oolong, green, black, and pu-erh tea in eco-friendly, reusable tins. Read on for our other choices, as well as a buying guide that's been reviewed by a professional tea sommelier.
I am a Certified Tea Sommelier and blogger at teacachai.com with a business and fashion background. Besides drinking tea, I enjoy creating tea-infused recipes, cocktails/mocktails, teaching workshops and sharing all about tea. I got into tea at a young age and have always been super passionate about it!
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If you take a mere glance at the world of loose leaf teas you will realize that there is a huge variety and selection of teas. From affordable black teas to expensive artisanal green teas, there is a loose leaf tea out there to suit any budget and taste.
With that being said, there are some factors to look out for when choosing which loose leaf tea to buy. Keep these points in mind to help you decide!
Historically, true tea leaves are actually harvested from the same plant: the Camellia Sinensis shrub. This is the plant that has the natural caffeine and heart health benefits everyone craves in their teacup. It creates white and black teas as well as oolong and green teas.
Every tea type has a whole world of different flavors within it that varies according to region, climate, terroir, and more. Just like wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux, France can have different flavor notes and aromas than a Cabernet from Napa Valley.
Black tea is probably the most popular type of tea around the world. From Kenyan black tea to UK flavors such as Earl Grey and English teas, this type of loose leaf leaves its mark in different cultures. Black tea can be bold like Assam tea or floral like the light Darjeeling tea. One thing all black teas have in common is their strong caffeine kick.
If you want to replace your daily coffee with tea, then black tea is the best choice. Besides a high caffeine content, black tea also contains theanine, which promotes a sense of calm. A mug of black tea will wake you up, but it won't make you anxious like coffee has the ability to do.
Green tea is also one of the most popular types of tea in the world. Green tea is well known for its many health benefits, like boosting metabolism and being full of antioxidants.
Loose-leaf green tea has a range of flavors and colors, from the yellow, toasted flavor of Chinese green tea to the darker green, more grassy flavor of Japanese green tea.
If you're interested in green tea, don't forget to check out Japanese matcha. This is a special green tea leaf ground up into a fine powder. Mixing the powder with hot water means that you consume the whole tea leaf, giving you a stronger flavor as well as increased health benefits.
Green tea, contrary to what many people might think, should not be bitter. It's a very sensitive tea to brew, so using boiling hot water or steeping it for too long can cause the tea to become bitter. Proper brewing can easily solve this (if not, it's just bad-quality tea!).
For Chinese green tea, I recommend steeping the leaves no more than three to three and a half minutes at a water temperature of 175 Fahrenheit (80 Celcius).
It's important to remember that green tea from China is completely different than green tea from Japan. They're even brewed differently!
White tea is one of the most delicate tea varieties due to its minimal processing. Certain types of white tea are harvested when the buds are still young and covered with fine white hairs. These young buds are handpicked and then quickly dried so the leaves do not oxidize like black tea leaves. This results in a very delicate and fresh tea.
Want to enjoy loose leaf tea but don't want a lot of caffeine? Then some types of white tea may be for you since they have very little caffeine. White tea also has a light, subtle flavor and is delicious as an iced tea.
White tea definitely has a fresh, fragrant, and delicate feel, but some types of white tea like silver needle can have higher levels of caffeine than you might think.
This is because this type of white tea is purely made of young buds, which contain more caffeine than the leaves. If you're looking for the subtleness and delicacy of white tea and want less caffeine too, try White Peony (or Bai Mudan).
Oolong tea is a variety of tea known for its full-bodied, sweet flavor. It's high in antioxidants, which can assist in weight loss, improving mental clarity, or reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. Oolong tea is great as an all-natural pick-me-up as well, as it has a fair amount of caffeine.
As it represents only two percent of the world's teas, Oolong tea is considered rare. However, due to its wide array of flavors, it's definitely worth getting into. Oolong tea leaves change in flavor, aroma, and body as they're oxidized, or exposed to the air to dry. Depending on how oxidized your Oolong tea is, it could taste light and floral or full, rich, and even a bit smoky.
Oolong is the tea type with the widest range of flavors. The degree of oxidation can range from 8% to 80% depending on the variety and production style.
This variety in oxidation generates very different tea styles within the same category. Lighter oxidized Oolong can be very delicate, light, and fragrant, while darker oxidized Oolong can feel toasty, darker, and fuller-bodied.
Some loose leaf tea flavors you may know and enjoy are actually a blend of different tea types. Blended tea leaves offer new flavors and aromatic nuance, as they often include herbal ingredients or even spices. One famous example of this is Chai, which is black tea blended with cinnamon, cloves, a dash of pepper, and other spices.
Tender leaf herbs and fruits also make excellent tea blends. For example, green teas blend beautifully with mint, peppermint, or chamomile. Black teas, on the other hand, are often blended with dried fruits. Earl Grey, for example, is actually a blend of black tea and a type of orange.
While black, white, green, and Oolong teas all come from the Camellia Sinensis, they can taste and smell different depending on where they're cultivated. Tea plants are bred and treated differently based on cultural tastes or the farmer's own desires. For example, the Chinese market for green tea often prefers a light, fruity flavor profile, whereas the Japanese go for full-bodied, hearty tastes.
Another thing that influences the different flavors within a type of tea is the environment the tea tree is grown in. Soil acidity, air humidity, and sun exposure are some of the big ones. Tea sommeliers call the environmental factors that influence these differences "terroir". As the terroir of Kenya is quite different from that of England, you'll find that Kenyan black teas vary in flavor from English black teas.
Once you've tried a couple of loose leaf teas from different countries or regions, you may begin to pick up your personal preferences in regards to flavor, body, and aroma. This will help you pick the best tea or blended tea for your needs.
If you’re not sure what kind of tea would suit your tastes or you’re an avid tea collector, consider a sampler set. There are plenty available online! You can explore flavors you might not usually purchase or compare the subtle differences between blends.
You’ll get less of each type, but companies often sell the teas individually as well. So you can find your favorites and order more later. These also make a great gift, especially for holidays in winter or for the birthday of a tea fanatic!
I always recommend buying samplers, getting a tea subscription, and buying smaller samples of tea when wanting to explore more and learn about tea. The best way to learn about tea and discover what you like best is by trying as many different varieties as possible.
It can become expensive get frustrating to buy larger quantities of tea only to find out you don't like it, so going for samplers and subscriptions is a great way to start.
Unfortunately, many major tea farms are linked to poor working conditions and even child labor. If you want to take action on this issue, try looking for a tea brand committed to fair-trade practices. This ensures you're supporting a tea farm that pays its workers fairly and doesn't exploit vulnerable communities.
Furthermore, if you're worried about possible pesticides or chemical fertilizers in your tea, consider certified organic products by accredited certifying agencies such as the USDA. Any loose leaf tea with a certified non-GMO label is guaranteed to be grown with natural fertilizers and pest repellants.
When browsing loose leaf teas online it is important to check out the reviews left by other buyers. While you will definitely want to see what other people thought of the flavor of the tea, you should look out for reviews that mention leaf size, smell, and color. In herbal teas such as fruit teas, color and scent are important indicators of quality as well.
Generally, other users' reviews can be a good indicator of the tea's overall quality. With tea in general, most reviews will refer to the taste, flavor notes, body, and aroma of the brewed tea.
But if you want to make sure you're buying a good quality tea, stick to trustworthy and reputable vendors. If you're newer to loose leaf tea and don't know where to look, search for the online tea community on social media and ask around!
Click to purchase
Organic Mint Green Tea
Best Black Tea for a Bold Taste
Positively Tea Company
Organic Masala Chai Loose Leaf Tea
Best Black Tea for Caffeine Lovers
Earl Grey Aromatic Loose Tea
Best Green Tea for Health Benefits
Loose Leaf Fruit & Rooibos Tea Sample Pack
Best White Tea for a Sweet Taste
The Tao of Tea
German Chamomile Flowers
Best Oolong Tea for Oolong Enthusiasts
Best White Tea for Subtle Flavor
Pure Rooibos Red Herbal Tea
Best Green Tea for Floral Tea Lovers
U.S Wellness Naturals Store
Premium Organic Japanese Sencha Loose Leaf Green Tea
Best Black Tea for Spice Lovers
Solstice Tea Traders
Classic Teas Variety Gift Box
Best Tea Sampler for Loose Leaf Beginners
100% Organic Gunpowder Green
Best Tea Sampler for Green Tea Lovers
The Double Bergamot Early Grey Tea by Stash is the best black tea for those that love bold tastes. It is produced on the Kopili tea plantation in Assam, a state in northeastern India, and has a full, powerful taste. The leaves are infused with extra bergamot oil to enhance the citrus notes. Being a strong black tea, the caffeine content is high, perfect for that morning pick-me-up.
Some reviewers remark that the flavor of the double bergamot is not as strong as they hoped. However, many other customers find the extra bergamot oil included strengthens the taste and smell of the earl grey tea. This product also offers the option to order a one-pound bag for those that can't get enough of the taste!
Positively Tea Company's Assam TGFOP Tea is the perfect product for caffeine lovers. Black teas produced in Assam, India, the product's namesake, are noted for their strong, bold flavors and have about 80 milligrams of caffeine. This tea is a wonderful breakfast tea, giving you the same energy as coffee without the jitters or crashes. The flavor is smooth, sweet, and complex, a nice change from the bitterness of coffee.
A few reviewers state that the flavor was not notable and that their packages contain twigs and but no tips. Many other reviewers love the taste of this tea and drink it without milk, cream, or sugar. They also appreciate the 14-day return policy and that it can be purchased in a four-ounce or one-pound bag.
The Gunpowder Green Tea by FGO is the best product for health benefits. Like all green teas, this tea is packed with antioxidants, increases immune health, and promotes a healthy heart. This green tea is rolled into pellets, which retain its freshness, smoky flavor, and health benefits. This brand of tea has more caffeine than other green teas, giving you a natural energy boost.
Some reviewers state that the taste is rather weak and that their tea is full of stems. Despite this, most customers enjoy that the flavor is distinct enough to be an everyday beverage without being overwhelming. The reviewers also love that the resealable bag keeps their tea fresh.
Davidson's White Peony Tea is the best white tea for sweet, nutty flavor enthusiasts. This tea, like all white teas, has a light flavor but this tea also possesses a unique chocolate undertone that can be appreciated by advanced tea drinkers and novices. This tea also has high antioxidant levels and other health benefits like green teas.
Because the bud and first two leaves of the plant are harvested to make white peony tea, you may often find broken leaves in the middle and bottoms of their bags. Despite this, many reviewers love the sweet, mild, nutty taste of this tea and appreciate that they can purchase it by the pound.
This tea is the perfect product for oolong enthusiasts, as the leaves were grown in the Anxi District of Fujian, China, which is famous for the tea. The 40 percent oxidation of this product makes it dark with medium-high caffeine content and it has a toasted aroma and a sweet, powerful grainy taste. The whole leaves are rolled into pellets to preserve their taste and freshness and can be steeped more than once.
Some reviewers say that the tea does not have enough notes of green tea in it and that the flavor was too subtle. However, many reviewers prefer the complex tastes in each cup and point out a vast number of different undertones in the tea: nutty, buttery, chocolate, grassy, and more. Customers also love the beautiful tin container.
Vadham Imperial Himalayan White Tea is best for tea connoisseurs that appreciate subtle flavors. Harvested in autumn from the foothills of the Himalayas, this tea is very lightly oxidized to create its incredibly sophisticated taste. Each cup has a sweet, mellow floral flavor and is bursting with antioxidants and flavonoids.
Some reviewers state that they received dry, brittle leaves and that the notes of flavor were not as strong as they had hoped. Many other reviewers enjoy the tea's light color and floral, fruity taste. They also love the beautiful resealable packaging and that a percentage of the company's profits goes into the education of children in India.
Numi's Organic Jasmine Green Tea is the best product for floral tea lovers. The tea is grown in Hunan Province, China. This province has rich soil and ever-changing daily temperatures which produce this smooth, fragrant product. Then, the jasmine flowers are laid over the leaves three times so the tea picks up the flower's scent and flavor. The whole leaf is included for a fuller flavor profile.
A few reviewers state that the jasmine flavor is not as strong as they would like or that it is chemically produced. Many other reviewers love the subtlety of the jasmine's taste and fragrance infused with the green tea. They also love the medium caffeine content - great for a small energy boost!
This Masala Chai Tea is the best tea blend for spice lovers. Whole chunks of cardamom, ginger, black pepper, and cinnamon are mixed in with the leaves, creating a potent, spicy mix. You can even use this tea to homebrew your own chai lattes! This full-bodied, brisk tea is grown in Sri Lanka and is also called Ceylon tea. Each cup contains about 50 milligrams of caffeine, but the caffeine level can increase depending on steeping time.
Some reviewers say that the flavor of the black tea overpowers the spices. Most are satisfied with the spices' flavor and remark that the loose leaf tea is better than the chai teas and lattes made in coffee shops. They also thoroughly enjoy the high caffeine content of this blend.
Solstice Tea Company's Favorites Tea Sampler is the best option for people who are new to loose leaf teas. The set includes three varieties of oolong, black, green, and pu-erh tea. Some teas are whole leaves rolled into pellets, which provides a fuller flavor profile than cut or broken leaves. The only additive is vanilla extract, so drinkers can appreciate the taste of each tea without other herbs or spices.
Some reviewers remark that the black teas are not that different from store-brand black teas and that the green teas have better flavor. However, most customers love the distinct flavors of each tea, and that the reusable tins that they are packaged in make this set a wonderful gift for loved ones as well.
Tiesta's Slenderizer Dry Flight Sampler is the best set for green tea lovers who want to explore a range of other flavors. This tea sampler includes seven unique blends with different flavors: smoky, floral, fruity, and citrusy. Each pouch produces six to 10 cups. These teas also improve your health by boosting your metabolism, suppressing your appetite, and providing antioxidants.
A reviewer notes that, while the green teas taste great, they do not experience any slenderizing effects. Other reviewers find that with a cup a day, they definitely experience extra energy and reduced appetite. They also love the natural ingredients included in each tea and the company's generous 30-day return policy.
Here are some common questions about loose leaf teas. We've answered a few ourselves and had some help from Daniela as well.
Most tea sommeliers will tell you they prefer loose leaf teas over tea bags. When it comes to loose leaf teas, Daniela says, "Loose leaf tea is so much better than tea bags for so many reasons. The most important ones are that the quality is almost always superior to what is used to fill tea bags, you also avoid generating unnecessary waste, and the ritual of making loose leaf tea can be a very mindful and relaxing experience.
The equipment needed to make loose leaf tea is minimal and you can easily follow the instructions on its packaging for what amount of leaves to use, what temperature to brew it and how long should you steep it for."
Experts recommend two grams of loose leaf tea per eight ounces of water. Most mugs hold between eight and 12 ounces, so you may need another pinch of leaves if your mug is particularly large.
Some loose leaf teas are sold in their own bags, so you may not need to worry so much about measurements depending on the brand you buy. If you select a loose leaf tea that's not offered in a bag, we recommend using a kitchen scale the first couple of times to ensure you can eyeball the right tea to water ratio.
When they're initially harvested and processed, tea leaves are actually dried for flavor and for preservation. This means that your loose leaf tea can't go bad in the sense that it'll make you sick. However, if you store your tea incorrectly or leave it unused for too long, it will begin to lose its flavor and become unpalatable.
Loose leaf teas often come with expiration dates. So long as you drink your tea within that given timeframe, it'll taste as intended. If you don't manage to finish your tea before then, however, the worst you can expect is a cup of tea that tastes a little less satisfying.
Loose leaf teas require a few more tools and preparations steps than simple tea bags. Check out our links below for more tea-related items!
If you're still unsure about where to start looking for your next cup of tea, check out Amazon's best-selling products below.
No. 1：Stash｜Organic Mint Green Tea
No. 2：Positively Tea Company｜Organic Masala Chai Loose Leaf Tea
No. 3：FGO｜Earl Grey Aromatic Loose Tea
No. 4：Davidson's｜Loose Leaf Fruit & Rooibos Tea Sample Pack
No. 5：The Tao of Tea｜German Chamomile Flowers
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