Instant Tea vs. Tea Bags
If you’re a tea enthusiast, you might be wondering about instant tea. What is it, and what makes it different from an old-school tea bag? Let's dive in.
Today, we’ll be discussing the differences between instant tea and tea bags. We’ll also be discussing the benefits of both beverages, and how instant tea is different from traditional matcha. Let’s begin!
Instant Tea Basics
Instant tea is a concentrated powder that can be mixed into water to create tea. The process begins in a tea brewing factory, where tea is brewed in large batches, using a traditional infusion method. This can be done using green tea, black tea, or oolong tea leaves. The tea leaves are then discarded, leaving a simple batch of tea.
Then, the tea is dried via one of a number of processes. It can be vacuum-dried, freeze-dried, or spray-dried. Regardless of the method, this is done while the tea is chilled, so as to preserve the flavor as much as possible. The end result is a dehydrated powder that works the same way as instant coffee. You simply mix it with the appropriate amount of water, and you’ve got a ready-to-go cup of tea.
Tea Bag Basics
You’re probably already familiar with tea bags. But just to get things straight, let’s talk about how they work. A tea bag is a small pouch that’s most often made of filter paper, but can also be made from food-grade plastic, cotton, or even silk. Tea bags were originally only filled with tea leaves. But over the years, they’ve been used for other herbs like ginseng, lavender, and other aromatic ingredients.
The bag itself is sealed, which keeps the leaves from escaping into the water. There’s often a tag attached, so the bag can be easily removed from the water. A single bag can be used more than once, sometimes several times, until the herbs inside have been exhausted.
Benefits of Instant Tea
So, why might you choose an instant tea over an ordinary tea bag? Here are some of the reasons.
As the name implies, instant tea is – wait for it – instantaneous! You add some powder to some water, stir it up, and get on with your day. With a tea bag, you have to wait for your brew to steep. This can be inconvenient when you’re in a hurry, and just need a quick cup.
There’s Less Caffeine
According to a USDA study, unsweetened instant tea has a relatively low amount of caffeine, at only 26.2 mg per 8-ounce cup. This may not be great news if you’re looking for a highly-caffeinated beverage. But if you don’t tolerate caffeine well, you can rest easy.
Making Iced Tea is a Breeze
When you make iced tea with a tea bag, you need to follow some extra steps. You first have to brew the tea, then you have to let it cool. This can take a few hours, even in a very cold fridge. With instant tea, all you have to do is mix the powder into cold water, and add some ice.
It’s Environmentally Responsible
Tea bags produce a lot of waste. In addition to the bags themselves, the bags often come in individual packets, which create additional waste. Instant tea comes in a single bag or other package, which creates less waste.
It’s Easier to Control the Flavor
A tea bag comes in a standard size. You can moderate the flavor by adjusting the steeping time, but it can be difficult to precisely adjust the flavor intensity. You can simply mix instant tea stronger or weaker to adjust the intensity exactly as you like.
Benefits of Tea Bags
Now that we’ve talked about the benefits of instant tea, let’s look at the flip side. Why might someone prefer to use an old-fashioned tea bag?
You’re Getting a Fresh Brew
Like any concentrate, instant tea has been prepared ahead of time and needs to be reconstituted. While modern instant teas do a good job of preserving the flavor, there’s something about the taste of a fresh-brewed cup of tea that’s difficult to replicate.
There Are More Flavor Options
Tea bags have been around for more than 100 years. Manufacturers have had plenty of time to create thousands of combinations and varieties. Since instant tea is such a new product, you’ll be limited to a smaller number of options.
You May Get More Antioxidants
There’s no denying that instant tea is convenient. On the downside, the dehydration process actually destroys a lot of the antioxidants in the original tea leaves. According to USDA research, powdered tea loses over 90% of its antioxidants by the time it’s packaged. If you’re drinking tea for the antioxidants, it makes more sense to brew your own.
You’re Getting Pure, Unadulterated Tea
In theory, powdered tea is only tea. But in practice, a lot of powdered teas have a bunch of additional ingredients. For example, sweetened powdered teas will often contain sugar, sometimes in large quantities. And if they don’t, they often contain an artificial sweetener like aspartame. If that’s not enough, you’ll see a lot of preservatives, such as BHA, which end up in your final beverage.
Thankfully, this doesn’t always have to be an issue. Waka instant tea has no additives – only tea!
Instant Tea vs. Matcha
We’ve already talked about how instant tea is made. But what separates it from traditional matcha powder? The difference is that matcha powder is made from whole green tea leaves, which are ground up into a fine powder. When you mix the powder into water, you get a glass of matcha.
Matcha is the oldest kind of tea, the original method of drinking the beverage. When you drink it, you’re part of a tradition that dates back before recorded history. You also drink the entire tea leaf, as opposed to a simple infusion.
As a result, you’re talking about fundamentally different beverages. Despite their similarities in preparation, instant tea is a lot closer to brewed tea than it is to matcha.