Don’t you hate it when your tea bag breaks? The leaves either falling into your tea or everywhere in your tea drawer or cabinet. Every now and then bad luck seems to strike. Even with more expensive tea bags made for loose leaf tea, there are times at which the bag does not properly hold the tea. Is it safe to drink the tea if the bag breaks?
But what can you do about the tea now filled with dust and leaves? Can you drink the tea and use it for further infusions? If the bag has broken before brewing, how do you go on about brewing the tea? These are the main questions I will try to give the best answers to.
SHORT ANSWER – How To Deal With Broken Tea Bags
There are a few ways to deal with broken tea bags. Tea leaves and dust that spilled into your teacup can be filtered off or removed after the tea has settled. The latter does not work with teas that get bitter. If the tea bag broke before brewing the tea, you can use a regular loose leaf tea filter.
I have found two good ways to deal with spilled tea leaves (particularly broken tea leaves from regular tea bags) and will discuss the possibility to use the contents of a tea bag if your bag breaks before the brewing. Obviously, tea should never be wasted!
What To Do If The Tea Bag Breaks While Brewing
The two options you have when your tea is freely floating in your teacup or glass are filtering the tea or letting the leaves settle. Some teas do not allow for the latter and even the former can be hard to properly manage depending on the tools you have at home.
Properly Filtering Your Tea
Tea bags most often contain very small pieces of tea. This is the result of the CTC processing which has especially been designed to mass-produce tea for tea bags.
CTC stands for Crush, Tear and Curl. This is a manufacturing technique most often used for bagged black teas and blends such as English Breakfast, Earl Grey and Darjeeling. More often than not the bag contains very fine tea dust, too.
The dust is what causes most problems. Dust is very hard to separate from the tea by straining it through a more porous filter such as a metal strainer used for Gong Fu tea brewing.
A much better option is a tea filter that is usually used to make loose leaf tea without a teapot or gaiwan. These filters are not as porous and will filter off the fine tea dust.
If you do not have tea filters at hand, I would recommend using coffee filters, as they are also supposed to filter off ground beans and the contained dust.
Additionally, you can completely transfer the tea from the broken tea bag into the tea or coffee filter. This allows you to brew another infusion with the tea that otherwise would be wasted.
Letting The Spilled Tea Settle
This option is quite obvious, but there is a catch to it. Letting the tea settle on the bottom of your teacup will allow you to drink the tea after the bag breaks without getting any dust or leaves in your mouth.
Once there are only a few drops of tea left in the cup, you can discard the remaining tea including the unwanted leaked tea leaves. While you will not be able to save your tea with this method, it is quick and easy.
This method is not only useful for broken tea bags though, as you can use it to remove smaller bits and pieces that go through tea strainers, the small holes in a teapot with an internal filter and the gap of a gaiwan.
Be careful if you are drinking green teas, yellow teas, young Pu Erh teas or any other tea that tends to get bitter or too intense with prolonged steeping times.
The dust and pieces that remain in your tea can easily give off enough flavor to ruin your brew. I recommend this method only for later infusions of bittering teas or any forgiving teas you brew.
How To Use A Broken Tea Bag
Tea bags sometimes break before even seeing any water. There are a few alternatives to moving the tea in the trash. You can still drink the tea even if the tea bag breaks before you get a chance to brew it.
- Transfer To A Loose Leaf Tea Bag – This type of tea bag can be filled with whole leaf tea, but also with smaller pieces from an ordinary tea bag. The tea will taste the same.
- Use A Coffee Filter – If you do not have any loose leaf tea bags at hand, you can use coffee filters as a makeshift tea bag.
- Reseal The Tea Bag – This one is harder to do, but depending on your fine motor skills, you could reseal a broken edge of the tea back by using the string to tie a know around it.
While it is possible to still get proper tea out of broken tea bags, it is more often than not worth the effort. Tea bags are rarely expensive enough to justify this, but generally, it would be better to use the tea instead of throwing it out, wouldn’t it?
How To Prevent Your Tea Bags From Breaking
Instead of dealing with broken tea leaves, you can start to follow these precautions not to break the bags in the first place. It will still happen to you, but less often in my experience.
Pour The Water In First
Often, broken tea bags are caused by the force of water poured directly over them. If you are the type of person that puts the tea bag first, consider pouring next to the tea bag. It will be easier to drink than if the tea bag breaks.
Of course, you can pour the water first, too. This will also cause your tea bag to sink instead of floating at the top. I have an article coming up on this effect.
Carefully Pull Off The Paper
The paper meant for handling, on which the brand’s logo is printed, is often slightly glued onto the tea bag. To not break the bag you need to be careful when pulling it off.
Avoid Degraded Tea Bags
Over time, especially under direct or indirect sunlight, the material the tea bags are made of will degrade. The result of this will be a less stable material, often getting more and more brittle. This may occur even after just a year of storage!
Choose High-Quality Tea Bags
Tea bags from mass-market brands in the supermarket often use the cheapest possible production methods. The most common method is CTC processing for the tea leaves and low-quality tea bags.
While the resulting tea can be perfectly fine, you will most likely enjoy a better cup of tea. Furthermore, you will have fewer broken tea bags if you go for an alternative option.
There are other tea bags with better production value and quality out there. More often than not these will be pyramid shaped tea bags that also allow the tea leaves to be larger. Furthermore, tea from this type of tea bag will result in a more flavorful and complex brew.
If you want to get the best and most stable tea bag, you would need to use the larger tea bags used for loose leaf tea. Opting for loose leaf tea will give you a better tea with the same level of convenience. I highly recommend trying this over regular tea bags!
There’s a lot more to learn about tea! If you are looking for a good place to start, I highly recommend the book Tea: History, Terroirs, Varieties. You can check its current price on Amazon here.
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