Tea Packaging Options
Loose tea is the preferred way to buy and brew great teas. High quality loose tea from a reputable tea source is considered better because the tea leaves are usually left whole, or at least in large pieces.
Whole leaf tea is better for two reasons. First, whole leaf tea doesn't lose its flavors and oils as quickly when stored. Second, loose tea tends to brew tastier tea because it is more difficult to over-infuse larger tea leaves.
Tea bags are a relatively new invention, born in America. Tea bags are simply measured amounts of tea enclosed in an envelope of filter paper, like coffee filter packs. Although most serious tea drinkers prefer loose tea, tea bags can be really good too. If you are interested in trying a lot of different types of tea and don't like the inconvenience of using a tea strainer, then tea bags might be right for you.
The main drawback to tea bags is that the tea inside is usually broken. When the tea leaves are broken up, the insides of the leaves are exposed to air, which can allow the natural flavors and oils to break down. The smaller particles decrease tea brewing time, but can rob the tea of its flavors and, because of the shorter brewing time, can make tea-bag tea a little bitter.