Whenever teabags are mentioned, what comes to mind is that small, porous bag containing tea leaves inside. Well, for some, they picture the bag with no strings, while others picture a teabag with a string.
So, why do some tea bags have string? The simple reason for this is to facilitate convenient steeping and disposal. When put in hot water, the tea inside the bag continues to steep as the string hangs on one side of the brewing teapot. Once you have achieved your desired flavor/taste, the string makes it easy for one to remove the teabag from your tea to prevent it from steeping further.
In most cases, the end of the string has a small card attached to it to display the type of tea in the bag and the brand.
Well, now that we have answered that, don’t run- allow us to share with you more interesting things about teabags.
To start with, did you know that teabags were invented accidentally? Keep reading to learn more.
More about Teabags and Their History
Tea has been used as a beverage since 2000 B.C. Brewing and drinking tea is a traditional ritual honored throughout the world since time immemorial. All along tea was solely sold loose, until in the early 20th century when teabags were invented.
As I briefly mentioned earlier, tea bags were invented quite accidentally in 1904. Thomas Sullivan, a renowned enterprising merchant back in the day, wrapped tea leaves samples in silk bags and sent them to prospective customers.
Some unwrapped them and brewed them the normal way while others dipped them directly into their teapot. This is where the idea of teabag came to be born. Eventually, silk bags were improved to gauze pouches and later to specially-treated filter papers. Recently, organic teabags are taking shape.
Related Article: Learn How The Tea Bag Was Accidentally Invented
How are Teabags Made?
It is important first to mention that the two main raw materials used in teabags include processed tea leaves and filter paper bags. The tea leaves comprise of leaf buds hand-picked from a plant. The leaves are then subjected to different processes, including withering, cutting, drying, and blending, depending on the type of tea being prepared.
The filter paper used to make teabag is made from abaca, which is the leafstalk of a Philippine banana, also called Manila hemp.
Traditionally, the withering process involved manually spreading tea leaves in thin layers and leaving them exposed to air for about 20 hours. However, modern tea factories have troughs, tunnels, and perforated drums that expose leaves through blasts of hot air. This process oxidizes tannins, which is the primary active ingredient in tea. Tannins are what makes tea leaves have their coppery color.
The leaves are then crushed by rotating tables known as rolling machines. This is to twists the leaves so that they can coat with their juices and disintegrate into smaller pieces. Some tea factories have high-tech machines that crush tea leaves into uniform pieces.
This is where the black tea leaves are mechanically dried using blasts of high-temperatures to seal in the flavor and juices in them. It is through this process that tea leaves get their black color.
For oolong tea leaves, they are rolled, dried, and then rolled again. They have a shorter drying time than black tea, which means that fermentation is less natural and thus contains more polyphenols.
For green tea leaves, they are steamed after getting harvested, using dry or moist heat in perforated drums. This process inhibits fermentation and oxidation of polyphenols. However, it destroys enzymes.
For herb tea, it is simply bundled together and left to air dry while hanging upside down.
After the tea leaves have dried, they are brought to milling room where they are cut into smaller pieces by a rotating blade to make them finer. The degree of fineness depends on the type of tea. The cut leaves are then passed through mechanical sieves containing meshes of different sizes to refine them further. Tea packaged in tea bags has to be broken down into the smallest-sized tea because it should brew faster.
The blending process is based on a company’s recipe, and the taste and texture they want their teabags to have. The blending process also involves the addition of flavors such as orange peel, cloves, cinnamon, chocolate, peppermint, crushed hibiscus flowers, chicory root, nutmeg, etc.
After tea has been blended with different flavors, it is later stored in hoppers that hold 363kg (800 pounds) of tea. The hoppers are connected to a measuring wheel, which comprises of small chambers. Air is pushed through the leaves to separate the leaves and put them in chambers that hold pre-measured amounts of tea, usually 2 grams.
- Assembling tea bags
Two large rolls of filter paper are placed on top and underneath the measuring wheel. As each chamber gets to the bottom of the wheel, it releases the pre-measured amount of tea into the bottom filter paper and is moved by a conveyer belt. The top layer lowers onto the other layer so that tea is sandwiched.
A conveyer belt moves the papers to a heat-sealing drum that has an indentation pattern where the sealing process takes place. Sealed papers move along a conveyer belt until they get to an area with a perforation blade that cuts the paper into square pieces. Afterward, a string and a brand tag are stapled to the teabag. They are then dropped into pre-printed packages.
Why Are There Different Shapes of Teabags and Why Is the Pyramid Tea Bags The Most Preferred?
For many years, tea bags in supermarket shelves have been given a bad image, especially by true tea lovers. Their cheap nature means that they comprise of low-quality tea. In fact, some people call the tea leaves inside ‘tea dust’ because it doesn’t produce the true flavor of loose tea.
The reason why traditional tea bags with square shapes were loaded with lower grade tea dust was because of the limited space inside the bag.
If larger leaf (high-grade leaves) were packaged inside the bags, they would explode in the process of steeping. Also, it wouldn’t brew properly as tea leaves need to move around to release all the flavor.
Therefore, only tea dusts could move in tiny spaces of a traditional tea bag with a square shape. This is the primary reason why low-grade tea is used in traditional teabags, which means you get tea with great color, quick brew, but poor quality.
However, the pyramid tea bag is a game-changer. These teabags are made from nylon strands woven into net-like mesh with holes that are larger than traditional teabags. The larger holes permit hot water to come into contact with more tea leaves’ surface area. This means you get high-quality tea because the paper bags accommodate high-grade larger leaf teas in them.
The pyramid-triangular structure of modern teabags offers more surface area for tea leaves to move around. Therefore, you get to enjoy high-quality tea and avoid the messy process of having to add loose leaf teas to teapots then straining it later.
With a pyramid-triangular tea bag, you only need to have a teapot and teacups to brew and drink your tea.
However, teabags manufacturers are stepping up and increasing the size of the rectangular-shaped and square-shaped teabags so that they can hold larger tea leaves.
Why Do Some Tea Bag Lack a String?
Some tea bags do not have strong because;
- There are people who prefer strong tea. Therefore, they leave the tea bags in their teapot until the tea attains the desired flavor and taste. For them, they find stringed tea bags disturbing
- Also, tea shops and cafes use string-less tea bags to prepare tea in teapots
- Small tea producers sell teabags without strings to reduce costs.
If you find a teabag without a string, how do you use it?
Slide it into hot water and allow it to steep. You can use a spoon to move it inside the cup to allow it to steep faster. Once you achieve the desired taste, remove it carefully with a spook without spilling it open.
To wind up this guide, we would recommend that you go for teabags made from organic material such as cotton tea bags. Avoid tea bags made from artificial materials or silk.
Teabags have strings to make steeping and disposing of them easy. Stringed teabags have a card on one side and a teabag on the other one to balance the string.
Keep in mind that tea bags with no strings are no way better or worse than those with strings. It is just a matter of preference.
If you are reading this, congratulations! You made it to the end of our guide, and we do hope you have found it educative and interesting. Share with us anything else you know about tea bags.
You can also check some creative teaware collections that will enhance your tea drinking experience.