All Tea is Not Created Equal – Loose Leaf vs. Teabags

The Many Grades of Tea

The Many Grades of Tea

A cup of tea from a teabag is just not as good as Whole Leaf tea steeped in its pure loose leaf form.   There are only two advantages to teabags – Speed & Convenience.  It’s easy as 1-2-3 and takes no time at all.  But for a great cup of tea with character and complexity and all the nuances of taste – malty, floral, astringent, smoky, nutty, earthy, rich, woodsy, pungent, fragrant – you need Whole Leaf.  No one argues about the quality of Coffee anymore.  Think about Tea the way you do Coffee.  There’s Instant, then there’s the supermarket brand and finally, there’s Fresh Ground.   Sure, a no-frills cup of coffee is sometimes all you can get but a cup of fresh ground Sumatra or Guatemala is a cup to savor.  So too with Tea.

Here are the Fundamentals of Tea.  It starts with fresh plucked leaf.  Then, for Black Tea, it is rolled, allowed to oxidize, dried and sorted.  At the sorting stage, the leaf is separated by size.  The largest leaves are set aside and sold as Whole Leaf, sometimes known as Flowery Orange Pekoe.  The not-quite-whole leaves are the next best grade and known as Brokens.  Finally, we’re left with the very small particles that didn’t make the Leaf or Broken grades and these are collected and used for teabags.  These are the most inferior of the sizes.  For Green Tea, the leaf is not allowed to oxidize at all.  For Oolong, some oxidization is allowed and the result is not quite black and not quite green.

The small sized particles in a teabag are also the reason that it takes only a few seconds to steep – it colors as soon as it hits the water.  In the case of a full-sized leaf, it takes 2-4 minutes for the entire surface of the leaf to be fully infused and release its character & flavor.  In some cases, the same tea leaves can even be infused multiple times.


Tea is a simple cup – all you need is leaf and water.  Within just a few minutes you can indulge in one of the world’s finest but most affordable luxuries – a great cup of whole leaf tea.  It is simplicity, complexity, repose and upliftment in a cup.  Here are some of the many advantages of steeping Whole Leaf Tea:

Taste – Whole leaf is nuanced.  It brings you the malty notes of a premier Assam or the fragrant notes of a Jade Oolong in a way that teabags cannot.

Health Benefits – A teabag is a short steep – not long enough to provide you with the full benefits of antioxidants and polyphenols.

Variety – All teas do not come in teabag form.  This is true of some of the world’s finest teas –  Genmaicha, Ti Kwan Yin, Wu Yi Oolong, Pai Mu Tan, Yin Zhen…

Aesthetics – The beauty of a full leaf tea unfurling before your eyes is remarkable.  It reminds you of the vast journey of the leaf from the mountain sides to your cup.

Calm – The small, pure act of measuring and steeping loose leaf tea provides a moment of calm to the day.

Take the first leap into the world of Loose Leaf Tea.  Make your own tea bags by using Disposable Filters.  You can even fill it with your favorite tea and take it with you.  Place the loose leaf tea in the paper filter and pour hot water over it.  In a few minutes your tea is ready and waiting for you.  Enjoy your moment of peace.  Once you are convinced that the taste is superior – and you will be – you can experiment with a more permanent infuser basket or even a teapot.  Just make sure you use leaf tea.

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What is Earl Grey?

Grand Earl Grey

Grand Earl Grey

We’ve been surprised twice this past week by customers thinking that Earl Grey was just a Breakfast or “regular” tea.  By “regular”, they meant a straight black tea similar to a Liptons or Twinings at the supermarket.  When we pointed out that it has a flavoring added to it, they were surprised.  So here’s a tutorial on Earl Grey:

If a tea is labelled Earl Grey, it will have Bergamot flavoring added to it.  And yes, it’s “bergamot” without an ‘n’ in it! What is Bergamot or Oil of Bergamot or Bergamot flavoring?  It is a very distinct, aromatic flavoring that has citrus notes in it.  Originally, it was derived from the rind of a citrus fruit, about the size of an orange, from the Mediterranean region.  Legend has it that the 2nd Earl Grey, a British Prime Minister in the 19th century received a gift of tea flavored with bergamot oil.  It is definitely perceived as a very English tea similar to ‘English Breakfast’ but whereas an English Breakfast will never have any flavoring added to it, an Earl Grey will only be an earl grey tea if it has bergamot added to it.

Earl Grey does not have to be a black tea.  At our Tea Room alone – we offer 7 varieties – they differ primarily by what tea is the base:

  • Earl Grey Fancy – Indian black tea
  • Silver Tips Earl Grey – Ceylon black tea
  • Grand Earl Grey – Keemun, sprinkled with Silver Needle
  • Earl Grey Imperial – Organic Darjeeling
  • Baroness Grey – Organic Darjeeling with a touch of Citrus
  • Lavender Earl Grey – Earl Grey on an Indian tea base blended with Lavender
  • Earl Grey Jasmine – A China Green Jasmine tea flavored with Bergamot
  • Evening Grey – Rooibos, a non-caffeinated base, with Bergamot,  Vanilla & Rose Petals

Additionally, you may see Earl Grey Creme, Earl Grey Citrus, Blue Flower Earl Grey, Darjeeling Earl Grey, Pu-erh Grey, Jasmine Grey and several other varieties on store shelves or online.  Twinings made their Lady Grey blend one of the most popular in the world and you will see many companies with variations to the name such as Countess Grey, Baroness Grey, Madame Grey or Miss Grey.  This is usually a slightly milder blend.  Our Baroness Grey uses a Darjeeling base which results in a medium-body cup.

In addition to tea, Earl Grey is excellent in food, particularly baked goods.  Some of our favorites are on our Pinterest Board, ‘Drink your tea & eat it too!’  Our Silver Tips Tea Recipe Book includes an Earl Grey Apple Cake recipe that is delicious.  Is Earl Grey for you?  Our general recommendation to our customers is that if you prefer straight teas, varietals such as Darjeeling, Oolong or Green, earl grey blends will probably be too scented for you.  If you like flavored teas including fragrances such as lavender, citrus or jasmine, you should give Earl Grey a whirl – this could be your cup of tea.

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Winners of the Sandwich Game!

Thanks to all our customers for playing the Sandwich Game at the Tea Room for the past 2 weeks.  We asked you to rank our 6 Sandwiches in order of popularity.  We received hundreds of responses and had two customers who got them all correct so we’ve chosen TWO first prize winners:

  • First Prize of an Afternoon Tea with Scones:  Roz & Nick
  • Second Prize of One Sandwich order:  Leslie
  • Third Prize of One Scone:  Stephanie.

We will be notifying all the winners via e-mail.  Here are the Sandwiches in order of rank:

  3. BALZAC (Turkey or Ham)
  5. TUNA
  6. MEDITERRANEAN (Black Olives)
Sandwich Game

Sandwich Game


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Tough job but someone has to do it

We’re smack dab in the middle of sampling all the goodies we sourced from the Fancy Food Show this summer.  We sample against several key objectives:

  • Focus on sweet rather than savory
  • Keep the packages small
  • Definitely include chocolate
  • A cookie-type product should be part of the mix

We’ve learned over the years that our customers strongly favor sweet gourmet treats rather than savory, at least at our Tea Room.  No matter the high quality of some of the scrumptious non-sweet items we’ve found over the years, they do not appeal to our customer base the way our specially-selected sweet products do.  Here’s a sampling of what we’ve reviewed so far and we can see it’s going to be tough to choose this year.  Stay tuned.  New items will start showing up at the Tea Room in October.

De Brand Chocolates

De Brand Chocolates

Bite-sized Cookies

Bite-sized Cookies

Cheesecake Cones

Cheesecake Cones

Half Pops

Half Pops


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Great Customer Feedback

flowering teaWe were delighted by two comments over the weekend, one via e-mail and the other left in our Comments Box at the Tea Room:

Each visit that we have made here is always better than the last one.  We love coming here.  The food is delicious & the waitstaff wonderful.  Looking forward to the next time.

We had a wonderful visit to your Tea room today.  We enjoyed one of your “opening bud” teas and scones.  Both absolutely delightful!  Our service as dependable and warm and as I have mentioned to you in the past, our trips to Tarrytown are even more important because they are so rare….but always include a stop at Silver Tips.  Continued success Ladies!

Thank you to both – we treasure these comments and are waiting to have you back again.  We have lots of treats planned for each weekend in October and hope you get to enjoy some of them.


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