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.