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.
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!
These are some of the best teas that can be found online. Each tea variety offers different flavors, aromas, and health benefits. Keep your tastes and what you want from your tea in mind when you choose which tea you want to sip on!
*Please note that these products were chosen by our writers after extensive research. They are not necessarily affiliated with or recommended by Daniela Titiun.
Positively Tea Company
The Tao of Tea
U.S Wellness Naturals Store
Solstice Tea Traders
Double Bergamot Earl Grey
Assam TGFOP Tea
Organic Gunpowder Green Loose Leaf Tea
White Peony Tea
Black Dragon Oolong Tea
Imperial Himalyan White Tea
Organic Jasmine Green Tea
Classic Chai Tea
Favorites Tea Sampler
Slenderizer Dry Flight Sampler
Best Black Tea for a Bold Taste
Best Black Tea for Caffeine Lovers
Best Green Tea for Health Benefits
Best White Tea for a Sweet Taste
Best Oolong Tea for Oolong Enthusiasts
Best White Tea for Subtle Flavor
Best Green Tea for Floral Tea Lovers
Best Black Tea for Spice Lovers
Best Tea Sampler for Loose Leaf Beginners
Best Tea Sampler for Green Tea Lovers
|Type||Black tea||Black tea||Green tea||White tea||Oolong tea||White tea||Green tea||Black tea blend||Mix||Mix|
|Volume||3.5 oz.||1 lb.||16 oz.||16 oz.||3.5 oz.||1.76 oz.||16 oz.||8 oz.||4 oz.||0.5-1 oz.|
|Fair trade||Not provided||Yes||Not provided||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Not provided||No||No|
|Additives||Bergamot oil||None||None||No||None||None||Jasmine scent||Black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger||Vanilla extract||Lemongrass, peach cubes, pineapple, cane sugar, anise, spearmint, eucalyptus, orange peel, peppermint, cinnamon, licorice root, lemon myrtle, mango, raspberry bits, rose petals, strawberries, lemon peel, beetroot, safflowers, cornflowers, elderberries|
|Fair trade||Not provided|
|Fair trade||Not provided|
|Type||Black tea blend|
|Fair trade||Not provided|
|Additives||Black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, ginger|
|Additives||Lemongrass, peach cubes, pineapple, cane sugar, anise, spearmint, eucalyptus, orange peel, peppermint, cinnamon, licorice root, lemon myrtle, mango, raspberry bits, rose petals, strawberries, lemon peel, beetroot, safflowers, cornflowers, elderberries|
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.
This expert reviewed the contents of the buying guide for accuracy and provided factual corrections when necessary. They did not participate in the product selection process, nor are they affiliated with any of our choices unless explicitly stated so.
Home electronics, PC, camera
Cosmetics and skincare
Food and drinks
Kids and baby
Interior and furniture
DIY and tools
Sports and fitness
Books, CDs, DVDs
Cars and motorcycles
Housing equipment and renovation
Smartphones and mobile phones
Investment and asset management
Credit cards and loans