Best Loose Leaf Tea [Guide and Brand Comparison]
It’s a fair statement to say that the tea industry is highly saturated, overwhelming and commercialized. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a ton of strange looks when I announced I was launching a tea business, they’d respond politely with, “that’s awesome but you’ve been to David’s Tea right?” Stay with me as I’m going to simplify how to determine the best loose-leaf tea, and the not so good for your health tea by breaking down the top 5 things to keep your eye out for when shopping for tea, the pros and cons of a few well known tea brands and a few fun ways to incorporate tea into your lifestyle.
Want to skip to each review? Click the brand names below:
Why organic tea?
Let's start with the basics and something we face in every aisle of the grocery store, organic loose-leaf tea or non -- let me be blunt, always buy organic tea. Unlike vegetables and fruits there is no way to wash the harmful pesticides off of the tea leaves prior to steeping. As a result, the moment you pour hot water over your tea leaves all the water-soluble pesticides they use during harvest and processing wash off into your cup of tea. To avoid ingesting harmful chemicals seek tea companies that use certified organic tea leaves for the best loose-leaf tea.
Loose Leaf vs. Bagged Tea
Next up on the checklist, loose-leaf vs bagged tea -- you may have already heard all the micro-plastic tea bag buzz and made the switch, if not, get ready to jump on board. A recent study from McGill University has shown that many tea bags on the market shed billions of microplastics into your cup, the study shows that, “One cup from a single tea bag could contain 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles” stated in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology. The shocker is that the microplastics are intentionally put into the tea bags at extremely higher levels than those found in any other food, even bottled water.
Now that you are most likely checking your tea labels for organic ingredients and checking what kind of tea bags you’ve been using, let's discuss the quality of tea leaves. When finding the best loose-leaf tea for your health you’ll want to find brands that use whole-leaf tea leaves. Think about the most well-known tea brands, for example Red Rose Orange Pekoe, have a look inside the tea bag (that most likely contains microplastics) all you’ll find is ground up dust they call “tea.”
I don’t know about you but I don’t see anything in there that resembles tea ‘leaves’. Now have a look at our THINK blend, better yet steep a cup and see these beautiful Oolong leaves expand and grow into whole leaves. The best kind of loose-leaf tea will expand and grow into its original form, containing loads of health benefits as it is the real deal!
Lastly, additives. The best loose-leaf tea will be JUST tea. I was shocked when I started reading tea labels as I’d always assumed tea would just be tea, and not contain a long list of additives. As commercialization took over the tea industry and the roots of ancient tea traditions disappeared, tea brands were creating blend flavours like “birthday cake” and “berry punch.” Less and less actual tea was being used in these blends and more artificial ingredients, flavouring and sweeteners were finding their way into each cup.
As tradition goes, tea was originally used for medicinal reasons to help better overall health and treat ailments. When foreign ingredients are added such as; artificial flavouring, natural flavouring and sweeteners they are diluting the natural health benefits of each herb and defeating the original purpose of tea, contributing to the never ending issues within the commercialized food industry.
Tea leaves and herbs naturally have a variety of beautiful taste profiles that should not be masked by chemically made ingredients (even natural flavouring derived from natural ingredients are made with chemicals), for this reason we have carefully crafted a variety of tea blends that showcase each ingredient's natural flavour profile. They taste pretty damn good if you ask us, or just ask our community!
(Customer review) “I absolutely love all Woash’s teas, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Revive! I love how refreshing, light and delicious this tea is! I don’t drink coffee so this is the perfect drink to sip in the mornings. I also love that all the Woash teas are all-natural and don’t have any added flavour or sugar - just the healthy basics!!” - Danielle
(Customer review) “I used to be a daily coffee drinker and now I make a cup of Pick Me Up to start my day, the cinnamon and mix of earthy green is delicious!” - Sean
Next time you are shopping for the best loose-leaf tea make sure to follow this checklist!
The Best Loose-leaf Tea Checklist:
- No added flavouring
- No added sweetener or sugars
Best Loose-Leaf Tea Reviews
Obviously I’m a little biased and our Woash tea blends tick every box on the best loose-leaf tea checklist but there are other brands on the market that do so as well, and many that speak for themselves (Tetley, Red Rose) that DO NOT. Let's take a look at a few well known tea brands and why you should avoid them.
Go big or go home right? Well for starters their home page reads, “New Peach Bellini Tea Sachets.” I’m going to go ahead and say they fail in the no additives category. Second, their tea “sachets” are those silken tea bags that have been flagged for leaking billions of microplastics into each cup. I also don’t see any mention of organic ingredients; that leaves them with a 1/5 on our best loose-leaf tea checklist. I will give them recognition for their commitment to sustainable practices and creating jobs within tea-growing communities.
A well-known tea brand for commercializing the industry offers a variety of flavoured teas and wellness tea blends, a go-to for grocery tea shoppers alike. Some of their teas do not contain added flavouring but the majority do. Their tea bags are filled with “tea” that does not resemble tea leaves at all but more appropriately could be called ‘tea dust’ and are not organically grown. They finish with a 0/5 on our best loose-leaf tea checklist.
The big elephant in the room, founded in Montreal, Canada and is coined to have changed the tea industry and filled the void between the commercialized grocery brands and higher-end specialty tea shops. I have to give them major kudos for disrupting a stagnant industry and exposing me to a wide variety of teas I didn’t know existed. David’s Tea gets a few half points as their large tea menu offers some organic options, bagged (the flagged silken bags) and loose-leaf tea, and a few blend options without additives but majority contain natural and artificial additives as well as candied ingredients such as caramel clusters, brittle pieces and chocolate chips. Leaving the unforgettable teal brand with a 2.5/5 on our best loose-leaf tea checklist.
One of the most well-known tea brands in the wellness / yoga world, created by the famous Yogi Bhajan. They focus on wellness teas blended with delicious flavour and healthful benefits in mind -- words often used at Woash HQ when describing our best loose-leaf tea blends. With a significant name behind them, a wide variety of tea blends and a large reach in the wellness grocery market you have most likely sipped on one of their tea blends, possibly have a favourite. Although, we fully support their vision and meaning behind their brand and blends they lack in quality due to the added flavouring in each blend and quality of tea leaves being the ground up tea dust we mentioned above. In our view it comes down to quality, practice and experience -- adjusting into loose-leaf tea may seem like a hassle at first but once you start you’ll savour those moments.
A large international tea brand that began in Australia and has now expanded into tea cups all over the world! For the sake of this simple exercise and their diverse offerings I’m going to solely focus on their “wellness” tea’s, but keep in mind out of their 100+ tea’s only three of them are organic and the majority have added flavourings and sweeteners. Back to their wellness section -- a few options highlight their purpose and benefits but most likely they are considering their non caffeinated blends as “wellness.” They blend with high quality whole-leaf ingredients and offer every blend in loose-leaf (as well as the plastic filled silken tea bags), and a few of their wellness blends do not contain any additives.
Why are these tea companies not able to produce high quality organic loose leaf tea?
It may seem by now that I’m choosing brands that barely can compete with our 5/5 score or I have somehow tailored the checklist in our favour, I can honestly say that isn’t true because of the following: to score a 5/5 on the checklist and scale your company to the above companies and their current size is a daunting task for any established company that were here before the organic, sustainable, wellness wave. Therefore switching their practices, values and supply chains to accommodate all of the above would most likely bankrupt them. Which is why you’ll find plenty of smaller tea brands that score high on the best loose-leaf tea checklist.
The issue and probably your frustration is that most of them focus on local selling and haven’t expanded their reach into new countries or areas. Don’t worry, we ship to the US and Canada with big plans to reach much farther, check out our FAQ to find out more about our shipping details.
Who has the best loose-leaf tea in the industry?
Here’s a few known to Canadian tea lovers that score quite high on the best loose-leaf tea checklist:
One of our past favourites as they stand out in the West of Canada as they forage some of their ingredients along the famous highway, Sea to Sky that leads to Whistler. They offer traditional single teas as well as craft a variety of blends that mix sourced and foraged ingredients with a large portion being organic. They tend to add essential oils (natural flavouring) to flavour their blends and the odd time stevia leaf for sweetness. They highlight their blends as fair-trade when sourced and only blend with quality whole-leaf ingredients.
Let's jump over to the East coast and take a look at Lemon Lilly, a certified organic and fair trade tea brand. Each of their blends are free from artificial flavouring but do however contain natural flavouring, which we consider (take it or leave it) is unnecessary and is not beneficial for our health. Natural flavouring is often used to mask the original taste of the ingredients, and alter the overall taste profile to which ever flavouring is in the blend making it often addictive by taste,. We find this unnecessary as there is an endless list of herbs and spices that could be added for flavour plus their natural benefit! Other than their occasional use of natural flavouring they have an almost perfect best loose-leaf tea ranking.
We won't claim that, you can be the judge, but here’s why we should be nominated -- Woash was created because of the above reasons, after traveling overseas and exploring many cultures and the importance of tea and herbs within their communities, I began to realize how unique and beneficial the ancient traditions of tea were for overall health and natural healing.
As I returned home to North America I sought these beautifully crafted teas I had sipped and savoured across the globe and came up empty handed every time. It was through all this and the frustration within the overly commercialized industry that I decided to create WOASH, read more about Our Story here. Or you can learn more about Woash Wellness in the below video.
Maintaining our integrity to our values we aim to bridge the gap between traditional herbal medicine and modern wellness by carefully crafting blends that utilize the natural benefits and healing properties of each ingredient, to nourish the body from within for a variety of unique needs.
We only create loose-leaf tea blends that are blended with top grade whole-leaf certified organic ingredients, you also won't find any additives or additional ingredients besides the variety of herbs and spices that are in each blend. I'd say that deserves check marks across the board and a 5/5 on the best loose leaf tea checklist!
How do I find the best loose leaf tea for my body?
Now you know what to look for when shopping for the best loose-leaf tea you may be wondering, “what is the best loose-leaf tea for me?” We believe each of our bodies are incredibly unique and will respond differently to each herb depending on our constitutional make-up, lifestyle, habits, environment and what phase of our cycle, week and life we are currently in.
If you are curious about what your constitutional make-up is (hot / cold, dry / damp) head to our blog post “Choosing the right tea for your body [Guide]” to take our constitutional quiz and read all about how to choose the right tea for you!
The key to reaping the benefits of the best loose-leaf tea is habitually sipping your favourite nourishing blend, and listening to your bodies unique needs as they are continuously changing. Experimenting with herbs and how they make you feel can be fun by getting creative with how you implement them into your daily life. Here are a few ways we suggest how to steep things up!
Different ways to incorporate tea into your life:
- Tea Bathing - check out our ME TIME blend to elevate your bath ritual
- Ice it for on-the-go nourishment - try our REVIVE blend to keep your adventures going
- Upgrade your morning smoothie - add PICK ME UP to your favourite smoothie recipe
- Try a Bullet Tea - check out our blog post to see why bullet tea is way better than bullet coffee ;)
- Tea is always better for two!
I’m excited you are curious about how tea blends can benefit you and your overall health. Again, signing up for our Constitution Quiz will help you take the next step and discover what tea is right for your body. Sign up below: