A note on the tea bag ….

Tea made with a teabag does not taste like tea. The tea tastes like a pale imitation of tea, but they exist and we all use them and sales statistics show that we prefer them, so here goes!

Even though tea was first consciously served under the Chinese Emperor Shen-Nung in about 2,700 BC. It is believed by some that a tea shredder had been invented by that time and by others that it was invented later. Be that as it may, it seemed to have been a clay or wooden pot with a sharp wheel placed inside. It must have taken a very long time to produce a single cup of tea!!

The tea bag was invented by John Thomas Sullivan in 1903 when he patented it. It was available commercially around 1904 when a Brit called Richard Blechynden served it at the St Louis Fair but was accepted slowly by the public. In 1908 Sullivan handed out free samples of glorious fine quality large leaf tea, packed into pre-sewn silk muslin bags with instructions that they be popped into teapots and it all started then.

His imitators, the Americans since they invented the tea bag were in for the “fast buck” and changed matters when they manufactured single cup tea bags and restaurant owners began serving their customers with these – only to discover that by the time the tea reached the customer, the water had cooled down below the required boiling point needed to infuse the tea sufficiently and the tea tasted like a sawdust infusion!! Not to be diverted from their money making goals, the imitators continued investigation. As the tea drinking population grew – and demand at the same time, they needed to find more tea bags more cheaply. There wasn’t as much available then and what there was cost too much for their greedy requirements, so they simply used the stuff one should actually sweep out with the dirt. The “fannings” also known as the “dust” began to appear then and we are still stuck with it today. To be fair, I have to acknowledge that there are a few companies, like Dilmah in Sri Lanka, that produce excellent tea bags and even better leaf tea so a decent cup of tea can be had. Go to their site and find their products – I am loathe to advertise here, but since we talk about French champagne and Portuguese port, I feel it is fair to mention Dilmah tea – since they do make the best tea bags (try their Watte range) but it is nowhere near the quality of their loose leaf tea. Over the years the increasing demand for tea has only given us a worse quality tea with the decent teas coming from places like Sri Lanka, India and China. Mainly in tea bags

Lipton Tea patented a four sided flo-thru tea bag in 1952.

Today we all have to drink poor quality, cheap and tasteless tea – the latest attempt at lowering costs being the introduction of tea bags that weigh less than 2 grams per bag.



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10 responses to “A note on the tea bag ….

  1. I stopped drinking tea regularly, because the I no longer have a steady supply of Dilmah tea. Woolworths SA has the worst tea in the world (their own brand).

    It’s terrible… To be honest, I’m not a fundi when it comes to tea, but I can definitely understand with your notion here, and agree.

    You have to admit though, a teabag does take a whole lot of trouble out of making tea 🙂 Convenience sells better than sex.

  2. Maybe Woolworths could tell us why they don’t sell it anymore. If they do, could they please get the individually packaged tea bags? In order to make tea bags worth drinking, they should be in sealed, individually packaged, foiled tea bags (because tea absorbs the water). Unfortunately only Dilmah offers this in their gourmet ranges – like my particular favourite, the Watte range.


  3. Stefano, try origins coffee roasters in cape town, or Peacocks tea and coffee. The owner grew up on a tea estate in india.

    I can feel a coffee rant coming on as well. I am totally with you on tea too.

  4. hi this is Malik from Dilmah Tea in Sri Lanka, it has been a bit of struggle for us in South Africa due to the long established brands (which used to be Pure Ceylon tea but no longer are) but we are making headway amongst tea lover. Pick n Pay Western Cape has a good selection of Dilmah Teas and in Gauteng there is a smaller selection. Please drop our Cape Town distributor a line on anton@distributors.co.za to check availability near where you are. We have spoken to Woolworths many times, they like our quality and ethical positioning of the Dilmah brand but focus on their own label, hopefully for their tea shoppers this may change! thanks for your support..

  5. @ African Vanilje – I have had Origin coffee, splendid indeed! I work just down the road from there 🙂

    @ Malik J Fernando – I have seen the Dilmah tea in Pick ‘n Pay, however, I bought the Woolworths tea purely because Woolworths is right down the road from where I stay… I won’t make that mistake again 🙂 If ever you feel like sending test product, don’t hesitate 🙂 heheheh. Good luck with your future in SA.

  6. paleika

    I agree, tea bags are gross and the tea I have which is loose leaf isn’t that great either. What I really love is taking some herbs from my garden, such as rosemary, and using the leaves to make tea. Now that makes a GREAT cup of tea with so much more flavor than store bought stuff.

  7. Back from hospital – 3 days for a new knee!

    Malik, I love Dilmah but prefer the enveloped teas – it’s a different thing altogether. I know they don’t sell the Watte range in Pick & Pay. Woolies should, though – it would be just up their street & convenient for the consumer.

    One more gripe,though – I couldn’t find a single Dilmah stockist in Cologne, Germany over Christmas and not a single one in Rome, Italy either! Switzerland could also do with one since it’s bitterly cold over Christmas and there are many tea drinkers amongst them! Can’t you please give the food obsessed humans of the world a twig to hang on to?

    Maybe you could let us have all the outlets in Europe as well, I will publish it on my blog – I have been thinking of including a list of ‘best stuff to eat & drink’.

  8. Great post!

    There was a time I only drank bagged tea. I’ve recently (past year) become a tea snob amongst my friends and family as I prefer loose tea only. I am always looking for a good quality tea. I recently saw information about Dilmah tea on another blog. What do you like about Dilmah tea over teas from companys like… Tea Logic, Adagio, Hou de, Dragonwater, or Harney nd Sons?

    I am always open to try something new, especially if the quality is increased.

    By the way, I would love more information on rooibos.

  9. Its easily the best tea on the market because of the superiority of its manufacture, the teagardens. Go to dilmahtea.com and see for yourself.

    They have loose teas as well – I have tasted tea from all the above sources personally and I still prefer this one. No comparison actually. Up to you since I really didn’t want to become a retail site. However, I will be doing a section on the best stuff and where to buy it so I guess, we all do it at some point. I have promised myself that only the best of the best products will do. 🙂

    I will email you the info on the rooibos. In about a month we will be a dotcom and my email address wil be emjay@justfoodnow.com. For now, I will rather mail you to prevent more confusion than there will be anyway.

  10. That’s fantastically informative. Thank you!

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