Are teabags really that different from each other?

Today we drove a good 50 miles to go to the nearest Whole Foods, which means that I didn’t really have a lot of spare time to brew tea at home properly, as I don’t like to do a full session at night (which can affect my sleep). Instead, feeling the need for some tea, I bought a cup of tea at the Whole Foods… featuring Republic of Tea teabags. Of course, being RoT, it means that the only thing that isn’t flavoured with vanilla or blueberries or butterscotch or some such was the Assam Breakfast. Sure…

It was all right, a regular Assam-esque teabag. Nothing too fancy, nothing too bad.

Then I came home, and feeling a little indigestion after dinner, had another teabag, this time something that somebody gave me as a gift. Signature Estates Assam. Somehow…. I didn’t feel a whole lot of difference between the two. Obviously, if I stick a Lipton “brisk” tea against one of these, the “brisk” will obviously taste inferior. However, would the difference be that obvious between teabags of the same regions? Whereas if these teas were whole leaf, and if I brewed them my usual way (or even the grandpa way), I am sure I can tell some differences, when they’re in a bag form… it’s almost impossible, or at least, so subtle as to make it a moot point.

Which makes me wonder… why pay the higher price for some of these things?

I think it’s probably worth it to pay the extra to get either of these instead of a box of “brisk” tea, but is there any difference between these two? While the websites show similar prices, I know retail in a non-mail-order form the Signature Estates cost a bit more. On the other hand, it’s got a nice box.

Which means that it all comes down to branding… at some point, it’s no longer the tea being sold, but the distribution chains, the brand image, the packaging, and the idea that the tea is superior… when it is really all tea dust. Does it really matter where a tea is from when it’s tea dust?


Comments

Are teabags really that different from each other? — 1 Comment

  1. I think you hit it with the “branding” thing…that’s why kids get beat up in the ghettos for a pair of sneakers that may have been made for pennies in some asian sweatshop, but man do that have that cool swoosh on them!

    I’m sure some dust is higher quality than other dust…but why even go there? Have you thought about T-sacs? There a disposable unbleached tea “bag” that comes in a box, empty with an opening in the top for you to put your favorite tea into. What’s great about them is that they are much larger that regular teabages, so they allow for the correct expansion of leaves. You could get a box of those (100 to a box), put some tea in them, staple them shut, and carry a tin with you for just these situations. Quick and easy, without the nasty compromise of values!

    On a separate note, if you find the caffeine affects you in the evening, why don’t you make yourself a tisane instead? Chamomile or peppermint would be more effective in settling an upset stomach than tea, which has an astringency that I find can exasperate any stomach troubles.

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