Does Full Leaf Tea Make a Better Cup?


It is a simple fact that “Better Coffee Depends on Good Grinding” which almost every coffee lover will agree with.  The main purpose to grind coffee is to expose the interior of the bean which allows the right amount of oils and flavors to be extracted.   As grounded coffee has more surface area to be conatcted with air which leads to quicker oxidization, it is always recommended to grind when ready to brew.

But, HOW ABOUT TEA?  Why is this not widely accepted in tea world as what has been done in coffee industry?  Put aside that full leafs are in higher grade/ expsensive and dust and fanning are lower graded/ inferior and thus cheapper, will it make a better cup of tea if grinding full leaf tea into powder just before brewing?  Ian Bersten, a knowledgable tea expert I knew in LinkedIn, asserts to find a better way of brewing tea.

“Take some large leaf tea – preferably Darjeeling.  Put some in a spinnning blade grinder and reduce to dust/fannings in  a few seconds.  Now brew for NO MORE than 30 seconds and serve with milk and sugar.  Now put the same amount of large leaf Darjeeling tea in the pot for 5 minutes and taste  .  Compare.  Now tell teh truth.” by Ian Bersten

While almost everyone in the discussion does not agree with Ian, I must admit Ian’s idea seems quite appealling to me, especailly when I recall that ancient Chinese already started to grind tea about 2,000 years ago.  The tecnique was brought to Japan and became Mocha powder widely known by the world.  In Taiwan, we also have Lei Cha,  a Haka tranditional tea drink.  So I decided to give it a go.

Let’s start the experiment!!!

3 gram whole leaf Ruby Black#18


I took 3 gram Ruby from the sam pouch and grinded into dust and fanning by a blaze grinder


The upper one is brewed with dust and fanning (150ml water for 30 sec as suggested by Ian )

The lower cup is brewed with whole leaf ruby (150ml water for 3 mins as what I usually do)



  • Color: Light Amber for dust and fanning/ Deep Amber for whole leaf
  • Aroma: I would say dust and fanning has slightly stronger aroma
  • Flavor: Whole leaf has more flavor in palate as more tannin is released/  No bitterness/ astrigency in dust and fanny
  • Body: Lighter body for dust and fanning
  • Overall: As I prefer more body/ more tannin in mouth (as what I like for wines), I would say the whole leaf is still my choice in this competition.  However, I am quite impressed that how much aroma could be released in dust and fanning for that short of brewing time.  If increasing the brewing time from 30 sec to 45 sec, maybe I will make another choice.

8 thoughts on “Does Full Leaf Tea Make a Better Cup?

  1. Dear Lawrence
    I read your article and I thought of adding a comment. The experiment you conducted was very interesting. You have observed it perfectly my regards for that! But, I thought of adding something to this.
    My friend we get the larger black leaf teas from the type of manufacture called as Pure Orthodox manufacture. Teas made from that type manufacture are mostly the larger leaf grades i.e. Darjeeling, Ceylon Ruhuna, Dimbulla and Uva leafy grades. Those larger leaf teas are usually lighter in cup, with delicate aroma, flavour and preferred to be consumed without milk. So, the Dust and Fannings grades made out of such pure-orthodox manufacture are considered as secondary grades (usually) because it lacks the flavour and aroma compared to the leafy grades. But, tends to be pretty much stronger in cup.
    But my friend as we know, there some other type of Black tea manufacturing methods targeting mainly Broken grades i.e. C.T.C. manufacture, Lowrie manufacture, Orthodox-Rotor vane manufacture. So, the main grade teas manufactured under that processing methods are usually the broken grades like BOP, BOP Fannings, Dust, BP1, PF1 etc. (Nomenclature of grades vary slightly with the producing countries). So, those broken grades contain much better Flavour, Aroma, Strength compared to the broken grade teas made out of Orthodox teas or the reprocessed broken grade teas like what you made. Because those teas are made specially to get more strength and gut to the liquor while preserving the flavour and aroma. Usually those teas are used for Morning/ Breakfast tea blends and usually taken with milk. So, my dear friend what I believe is we cannot discriminate as “whole leaf teas are high in quality and Brokens are poor in quality”. Simply because those two types of teas are meant for two distinctive purposes. But, if you make a broken grade tea by just breaking the large leaf teas in to small particles it will surely yield a poor quality tea.

  2. PS I forgot to tell you that while you get more pours of tea using large leaf tea, the actual number of liters you make is far less than from small leaf tea – like 60% less

  3. While it might be your preference to drink large leaf tea without milk and sugar, there is a definite preference in the real world for sweet things and often with milk. If you are trying to make a living out of tea, you might consider whether the effort you are making to convince people to enjoy tea the way you do has good porospects. You might as well try and convionve them not to BBQ meat and enjoy it as steak tartaire. Good luck

    • Ian,
      Great advise. My job is not to change the 65%, but to find and impress the 35%. The world is big and 35% is more than enough to me.
      Best Regards,

  4. Pingback: How to Brew Red Jade with Milk | Easy Tea Hard Choice/ Tea Blog

  5. Aloha
    Aside from the research from Japan that indicating that combining milk with tea negates the anti-oxidant properties of tea, I prefer to see the whole bud or leaf, so I really know what I am drinking.

    My white tea yields 4-6 brews from one pot and I fear that if I ground it up this would not be the case. I don’t produce a black tea so I can’t really comment on the ultimate flavor or yield of grinding or cutting up the tea. However, I love the look of whole buds and leaves floating in a glass pot or infuser. That is part of my enjoyment, admiring the little buds I plucked from the rainforest while enjoying the flavors of the rainforest.

    Like art, the beauty and quality of tea is in the mind and on the taste buds of the beholder.
    a hui hou
    Bob jacobson President Hawaii Rainforest Tea

    • Hello Bob,
      I am glad that you share your thought and experience here. Actually, this grinding tea issue has arouse my interest. I’ve done a little and got some interst findings which I will share in the following articles.
      Best Regards,

      • I too have been intrigued by Ian Bernsten and after reading his book I have tried grinding white, green, yellow, oolong, blacks and even puerh tea to see if the results were better or even close to the high end loose leaf teas I purchase and sell.

        Yes it is true the Chinese originally pressed teas and ground it before brewing. Surely with the culinary knowledge of the Chinese, if this method gave the best flavour then they would be doing it today.

        The flavour of the un-oxidized or even lightly oxidized teas were totally ruined in my opinion and was not an enjoyment to put it mildly. Some of the Puerhs were very good and some of the oxidized teas such as blacks and oolongs were good, but they were good to start with. However this is a very expensive way to brew tea as once the tea is reduced to a powder it is impossible to re-infuse the leaves and therefore you do not get the benefit of multiple infusions or the anticipation of the aroma and taste of second, third and fourth infusions.

        With the addition of milk and sugar this will usually make just about anything palatable that’s why it is frequently used in commercial tea. To thoroughly enjoy a pot of tea the aroma, taste and colour must be present from the first to the last cup. The visual effect of the leaves unfurling in the pot enhances the enjoyment.

        There is not much enjoyment in watching these beautifully hand rolled teas being ground to dust.

        Then there is the bother of emptying the dregs in the sink and for this reason alone I never drink coffee or broken tea leaves.

        I will most definitely stick to my whole leaves in the future without milk and sugar.

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