Tea has been associated with a whole myriad of different health benefits.
Even I have been known to drink up to several cups of tea a day sometimes. And there are tea leaves that do end up in my teacup, and with that, I may consume them whether I want it or not.
Does this beg the question is consuming tea leaves actually healthy?
So, can you eat tea leaves and the content of a tea bag? You can eat the tea leaves and the content of a tea bag. However, it is not recommended. A lot of the nutrients found in tea leaves are water-soluble and can be released in hot water. So eating the tea leaves may not provide many benefits.
So let’s break down the different aspects of tea in order to better understand what may happen if we try eating the leaves or tea bags.
What Does a Tea Bag Contain?
A tea bag contains various amounts of different herbs, flowers, dried fruits, and dried leaves that have been cut into tiny pieces.
By placing the tea bag in boiling water, the content of the tea bag gets infused in the water. That way, the tea leaves get to release most of their nutrients and antioxidant content in the water.
Can You Eat the Tea Bag?
One of the issues of tea bags is that they can be made of a few different materials like:
- Filter paper.
- Food-grade plastic.
- And sometimes even silk.
1. Can You Eat Filter Paper Tea Bags?
Filter paper is usually made of paper pulp. And they are produced by separating the cellulose fibers from softwood, hardwood, various fiber crops, and other mineral fibers.
While filter paper may not generally be considered harmful to our health eating cellulose is not really recommended. In fact, our digestive system cannot break down and digest cellulose.
2. Can You Eat Silk Tea Bags?
When it comes down to silk, it has been known that some insects, spiders, and moths can actually eat silk.
And unintentionally we may have consumed tiny amounts of silk with food that may have been contaminated.
However, silk again is neither recommended, nor it is healthy in any way. Besides, it will definitely not taste very good.
3. Can You Eat Food-Grade Plastic Tea Bags?
Did you know that some of the tea bags can contain plastic?
Some companies use polypropylene (PP), which keeps the tea bag from breaking down when placed in hot water. This type of plastic polymer cannot be decomposed completely making it bad for the environment, and it does not compost either.
Even though the plastic content found in tea is minimal, this is not something that anyone would really like to ingest.
PP is well documented to have adverse effects on the endocrine system, which can cause numerous health problems and complications.
Are Tea Leaves Safe for Consumption?
The health benefits of tea come from the fact that the rich antioxidant content is water-soluble, and it is released in the water. In fact, even cold-brewed iced tea – a summer favorite of many – can provide you with the many different antioxidants.
The health benefits and great taste are making tea one of the most popular beverages across the whole world.
1. Loose-Leaf Tea
Loose leaf tea may be a lot safer in a certain way when compared to tea bag leaves.
The reason for that is that loose leaf tea is usually of a higher quality.
2. Tea Bag Tea
Frequently fannings are used in the manufacturing process of the tea bags.
So what are fannings?
Fannings are the smallest pieces of tea leaves that are left after the bigger and higher quality tea leaves are used for the production of loose leaf tea.
This is not always the case, though, as some companies do sell higher quality tea bags that contain loose leaf tea.
3. Tea Leaves Consumption
Almost all of the nutrients and beneficial antioxidants in tea are released in the tea during the brewing process. Even scientists have dabbled into exploring what the best way to steep and infuse your tea is.
And steeping tea remains the best way to extract the healthy nutrients that tea contains.
This applies to the caffeine content of black and green tea as well.
If you try brewing the same tea leaves multiple times, you will notice that each successive teacup ends up tasting blander. This happens because there are fewer nutrients left in the tea leaves after each steeping. So eating old tea leaves will have very little to offer, not to mention they will not taste very good.
On the other hand, most of the antioxidants and the nutrients are water-soluble. Which will make eating tea leaves (that have not been steeped) not a very efficient method – if at all – for extracting the beneficial nutrients. We really need that water in order to do that.
4. Downsides to Tea Leaves Consumption
Tea leaves can be very hard on your digestive system. They usually contain high amounts of fiber. If you indulge in eating tea leaves, you may risk getting constipated, bloated, or feeling stomach pain.
Tea leaves, especially if they have already been brewed – can get bitter. All this may cause an upset stomach, especially if you decide to eat tea leaves on an empty stomach.
And last but not least, I’d like to raise your attention to another problem.
Some farms use pesticides in the production and growing of their tea. Although pesticides are needed to protect the crops from the various bugs and insects, this can be dangerous to us.
If you brew the tea the usual way, there should generally be no traces of pesticides in your tea as, usually, they are not water-soluble. The pesticides will remain in the leaves. However, if you do eat the leaves, you will expose yourself to these pesticides.
Can You Blend Tea Leaves?
Tea blending is the practice of using a few different teas in order to create a tea with a different taste. Essentially tea blending allows us to produce and combine the different flavors and qualities of the tea.
Any tea blend starts with one tea used as a base. Frequently this is black tea.
After deciding on the proper base for the tea blend, we need to add the rest of the additives. We can let our imagination play around with different ideas and our creativity to take charge of things.
People frequently use different flowers, herbs, fruits, even foods. In some cases, even difference scents and smoke (smoking pine needles, for example) in order to alter the taste and the smell of the tea blend.
Some of the frequently used additives in tea blends are:
- Citrus peels.
So can you blend tea? You absolutely can. You just need some creativity and the right ingredients.
Can You Drink the Tea Leaves in the Cup?
Even the best quality tea bags may sometimes fail to contain all the tea leaves inside. I like to squeeze my tea bags so every now and then I may have the tea bag tear apart and have its contents fall in the cup.
In that case, I believe it is best to filter the tea. I use either a coffee filter paper or one of these metal filters. I don’t really like having all the tea leaves floating about in the cup.
However, tiny amounts of tea leaves will always find their way in your cup. No scientific data has shown that they are bad. Besides, tea leaves can be used for the preparation of ice creams, smoothies, salads, soups, and more.
However, there are some points of concern.
The first being old tea. Old tea may not be the best thing to consume or make tea out of, especially if the tea leaves have not been stored appropriately.
Tea leaves need to be stored in a sealed and dry container without direct sunlight exposure. If the tea has been exposed to moisture, this may render it not suitable for tea preparation.