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The Virtue of Teabags As Told by a Full-Time Student

Two tea bags next to a small pile of loose leaf tea

As a self-proclaimed tea snob, I had a rather constant disdain for teabags—rather, tea that came in bags—for most of my life. Teabags felt cheap and low-quality, and they never tasted great. Certainly, one is generally more likely to get a richer, sweeter flavor from loose-leaf tea than bagged tea. But over the past few years, I’ve learned that sometimes that’s not what’s most important in making tea, and that even for a young snob like myself, bagged tea has its virtues.

 In the summer before my seventeenth birthday, I attended a summer term at Stanford University. That meant I was living in a dorm with other high school students, getting up early for classes, and staying up late at night to read 40-page papers as homework. I had brought loose-leaf tea with me, as well as all the teaware I would need to make tea for myself in my room. But the tea I ended up drinking the most was in the teabags in the cafeteria.

I had classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and those days always started at around 9:00 a.m. You must understand that I am not a morning person. Not by a long shot. I could possibly be clinically diagnosed with Not-a-Morning-Person syndrome. But I signed up for those classes, so I would go. I would get myself breakfast before class, and it always included a cup or two of Earl Grey because it was a familiar thing in an unfamiliar situation. It was in bags, of course. I added some milk to cut down on the acidity of the bergamot, and the cozy, safe flavor of that specific tea—Stanford’s Earl Grey tea with a dash of Stanford’s whole milk—singlehandedly got me through my summer term in California.

Now that I’m actually in college, I drink loose-leaf tea when I can. But at the same time, I still get myself bagged tea from the dining commons, and, like Stanford’s Earl Grey, Hampshire College’s bagged, decaf black tea in a Hampshire College to-go cup has gotten me through some of my hardest classes and my earliest mornings. When I think about morning classes, my memories all taste like milky black tea, made in a rush before a 10:30 a.m. lecture. The comfort provided by a single cup of that stuff was enough to sustain me for a whole semester of morning classes.

Loose-leaf tea is great for unwinding at night or on a weekend. It’s mindful, and it reminds me of home. But teabags are easy to make on the go, and when you’re a busy college student like myself, any minute saved is a blessing. And when you’re a busy college student with a bad case of Not a Morning Person, looking for anything familiar in an unfamiliar situation, you can’t always afford to be a snob—but it always turns out fine anyway because you walk into the dining commons, where those bags of black tea await you, saying, Good morning, welcome back, I’m the same as ever, let’s do this.


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