The leaves that are found in most tea bags are referred to as fannings or dust. When the tea leaves are going through the process, dust falls to the ground and it is this dust that is swept up and placed into tea bags. It is therefore the lowest grade of tea and is suitable for people who are not that bothered about the taste and just want a quick cuppa with the addition of milk and sugar.
With loose leaf tea, the leaves are whole and when given room to expand, they are more able to absorb water. This enables the leaves to produce a full bodied flavour, along with a full aroma and plenty of antioxidants (vitamins and minerals).
Well known brands of tea bags bought from a grocery store will always taste the same. This is because they contain a blend of tea from around the world. Loose leaf tea may be sourced from a single region or even a single estate and it's flavour may vary depending on the season when the tea was harvested.
Loose leaf tea is picked by hand (women do the picking because of their small fingers) and then the tea is hand sorted to select the best leaves. Tea that is intended for tea bags is harvested by machine and is then packed into boxes and stored in warehouses which can be for lengthy periods of time.
Steeping is the term used when tea leaves are placed into heated water, so that they can release their flavour and nutrients. Loose leaf tea can be steeped several times, so you can get three pots of tea from the same leaves. A tea bag can only be steeped once and most tea bags are made from paper that has been bleached, this can affect the taste of the tea.
Most people will believe that making tea from leaves is a lot of hassle and is not worth it when you can simply dunk a bag in a cup. This is simply not true and there are teapots which have strainers built into them which also allow the tea plenty of room to infuse. You can either empty the used leaves into the bin or if you have a garden, they will do wonders for your roses!