Thursday, 3 March 2011

Loose Tea or Not Loose Tea....?

One hundred and sixty five MILLION cups of tea are drunk in the UK alone everyday says the UK Tea Council and I would hazard a guess that the majority of those are made with tea bags. They something of a nebulous history but some reports (including this one) claim that an unknown tea exporter from China sent a silk bag of sample tea leaves to New York coffee merchant, Thomas Sullivan in the early 1900's. He unknowingly brewed the tea leaves in the bag and the rest, as they say, is history. Sullivan went on to patent the 'tea bag' in 1904.

Lahloo Tea have kindly sent me a Tovolo Tea Infuser to try out along with their own blend of breakfast tea in an attempt to get me to ditch tea bags for good. I don't drink that much tea compared to a lot of people I know but I savour the cups that I do have. I've only drunk loose leaves in a tea pot and have generally found the whole thing to be a bit of a faff so the elegant Tovolo was a nice change for a single cup.

Hastily removing my treasure from its careful wrapping, I put the kettle on to boil and read the instructions. The Tovolo infuser is made of three parts - a heat-resistant polycarbonate handle, stainless steel perforated infuser and matching polycarbonate stand.  The handle and infuser push together and pull apart for easy filling and Lahloo recommend using one teaspoon of loose leaves per cup which are brewed for three to four minutes.  
The Tovolo doing its stuff

While I was brewing the loose leaves, I also put on a cup of my usual tipple - PG Tip Pyramid bags (our standard on The Boy's insistence). The normal tea did brew darker and had more of a noticable caffeine 'kick' though the loose leaves tasted a lot fresher and had a more complex flavour.

Left - Lahloo loose tea
Right - PG Tips Pyramid Bag
 When it comes to removing the leaves when you've finished brewing, the infuser sits in its stand which adds as a handy drip-catcher. No puddles of tea on the counter top or mad dashes for the bin with your tea bag in hand.

A small thing but Which? found that, though they are accepted by the majority of councils as compostable waste, most tea bags aren't 100% biodegradable. The loose leaves can be infused several times (though I haven't had a chance to test this out yet) before being disposed of and can be composted. It looks like less waste to my untrained eye as well.

You can buy the lovely Tovolo tea infuser from Lahloo tea. It retails at £12.50 and is available in three colours.

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