Why Some Tea Bags Have String, the Difference, and Which to Use


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Many of us know teabags as a sachet holding tea with a dangling string. But string-less tea bags exist too, why don’t they have string? I did some quick research on these two types and I thought it would be a bit of fun to write about it.

Why Do Tea Bags Have String? Tea bags have a string for convenient steeping and disposal. When tea bags are immersed into hot water the string allows them to hang on the sides of the brewing vessel until the tea is steeped. It also helps to easily pull out the teabag from the brewing vessel and dispose of it without any mess.

The card on the end of the string displays the type of tea and its brand for making the right choices while providing weight for the string to hang outside the brewing vessel.

That’s not all, let’s answer some of those burning questions that you’re just itching to ask…

The Material Most Tea Bags Are Made Of

Most tea bags are made of filter paper or cotton muslin. Filter papers are now being made as non-toxic, safe and environmentally friendly.

The paper used for tea bags does not affect the taste of the tea. This makes filter paper teabags a good option, as long as you don’t use the bleached plastic based options. Check to see if your favorite tea bags contain plastic.

Cotton muslin teabags are unbleached and are said to bring a richer flavor to the taste and aroma of tea. Anyway, the change is not obvious unless you observe it in great detail.

Some teabags use food-grade plastics materials (mix of different kinds of plastic), known as silken tea bags. Silken tea bags are used for their semi-transparency. It allows seeing tea contents and mixtures such as herbs and flowers inside the bag.

The Purpose of Pyramid Tea Bags

There are also Pyramid shaped tea bags, the idea behind this shape, introduced in the 1990s, was that the more robust shape of the bag would be less likely to flatten in water, therefore the leaves would have more room to flow around the bag, releasing yet more ttea flavor.

Some pyramid tea bags use the silk material as it can have greater perforations in the bag, which gives a better infusion of tea flavors.

But as most people agree, plastics are a strange choice to immerse in hot water and then drink. So because health is wealth, go for either cotton or muslin tea bags whenever possible.

Now coming back to strings, why is there even a card attached to the string? What do they do?

silk-pyramid-tea-bags-with-string
a silk pyramid tea bag, with string and card attached

What the Piece of Card on the End Is For

As I said, the card on the end of the string displays the tea type and brand, helping us to make our preferred choice. As a commercial strategy, the brand printed on the card provide easy marketing.

However, as a user, when you immerse the teabag into the water, the card helps to weigh down the string outside the teacup.

What If the Force of Water Pulls the String into the Teacup

This can happen from time to time, but don’t worry, simply slide the card around the handle of the teacup a couple of times and immerse the teabag into the hot water. The weight of the teacup will hang the string steady and safe outside the teacup without it falling in.

There are two types of cards on the end of teabag strings…

One is a single piece card often tied to a punched hole, or stapled, and the other looks like a two-page book stapled to the string. While both do the same thing, the two-paged card (Like a book) stands out more for advertising purposes. Plus giving a greater perception of quality.

Because it has two sides, you can keep each side of the card on either side of the teacup edge (the edge from where we sip). When kept so, one side of the card will be inside and the other outside the teacup edge. So the string will hang inside the cup along with the teabag and not outside.

This way the string hangs safely on the cup edge at a proper balance. It also avoids the chances of the string falling into the water as it would with one-sided cards.

For those new tea lovers reading this, how do you even use a tea bag with string? Let’s find out.

How to Use a Tea Bag with String

There are two ways you can use tea bags with strings, so I’ll be neutral and explain both. You can either…

  • Place the tea bag inside the teacup and let the string hang inside or out, depending on the type of card on the end. Then wrap the card around the handle if needed.
  • Then pour hot water over the tea bag into the teacup

Or

  • Pour hot water into the teacup
  • Immerse the tea bag into the water and hang the string inside or outside the teacup depending on the type of card on the end. Wrapping around the top of the handle if required.

After the tea steeps, take out the tea bag using the string and dispose of it.

Ever wondered which countries produce the most tea?
Find Out Here

Drawstring Bags

A little less common perhaps, but there are stringed teabags called drawstring bags. It has two strings that you can pull from either side which help to shrink the bag and strain the tea juice.

You can also use this in either of the two ways explained above. But before disposing of, pull the two strings from either side to squeeze the tea bag, therefore getting the most flavor out of it.

You can buy empty tea bags so you can blend your own teas. Amazon has plenty of choices for drawstring tea bags, check them out here.

So, what if the tea bags don’t have a string? Let’s find out.

Why Some Tea Bags Do Not Have String

I simply must share this with you! So some tea bags don’t have strings because.

  • Some prefer strong tea like the British, where builders tea originated. So they leave tea bags in the tea until they are either very strong or in some cases even till they’ve finished drinking it, to get the strongest possible flavor. A stringed tea bag can be disturbing or even get pulled out onto your face if you’re not careful.
  • Some tea producers are environment-friendly and don’t use strings with attached cards and staples
  • Tea cafes and shops often use string-less tea bags to prepare tea in teapots. Stringed teabags cannot be hung in these.
  • Some small tea producers sell string-less teabags to reduce cost. If they add them, then they’ll incur additional costs on strings, cards, staplers, and printing (brand names)

While all the reasons sound acceptable, how do we even use them? Or if the string tears off the card! Oh well, no worries, just grab a spoon and use that.

How to Use a Tea Bag Without String

All you have to do is,

  • Carefully slide the tea bag into the hot water along the side of teacup and let it steep

Or if you’re afraid of hot water splashes like me,

  • Put the teabag inside the cup, pour hot water into the teacup and let it steep

Once steeped, use a spoon and fish out the tea bag and dispose of it. Or if you’re a strong tea person, leave the teabags in the tea until you finish drinking, for some herbal teas for example, or like ‘The Builders Tea Way’.

Which of course, is nothing like Afternoon Tea or Cream Tea.

Conclusion

So to finish off, I’d say use muslin or cotton tea bags, avoid silk and other man-made materials, and avoid string with staples and card where possible. Especially avoid potentially toxic tea bags.

Teabags have strings for convenient steeping, disposal and for easy identification of tea type and brand. Stringed teabags have two types of cards on the end as one-sided and two-sided (like a book). This allows the string to either hang inside or outside the brewing vessel.

But some tea bags are string-less for reasons such as cost-saving, environmentally friendly practices, size and depth of vessels (where you can’t use stringed teabags) and for stronger taste (where teabags remain in the teacup until the last sip).

There are two ways of using stringed or string-less teabags. You can either put the teabag inside the teacup and then pour hot water over it or immerse the teabag into the hot water inside the teacup.

Most of the teabag materials are either filter paper or cotton muslin. They are becoming more safe, toxic free and doesn’t bring major changes to the taste. While some use food-grade plastics (called silken teabags) that are not recommended for its plastic effect in hot water.

That was fun to write, and I know for most it was obvious, but perhaps for one or two out there, it may just help them out a bit!

Do let me know in the comments if I’ve missed anything and do also check out my tea wares page for some specially curated gifts and accessories I’d recommend.

Whichever bags you use, enjoy the tea!

Related Questions

Do tea bags contain plastic? Yes, there are still manufacturers out there that produce tea bags containing plastic. These can have toxic effects when emersed in hot water. For a complete guide on this and to find out if your favorite tea bags are safe or not check out my article Can Tea Bags be Composted.

5 Replies to “Why Some Tea Bags Have String, the Difference, and Which to Use”

  1. Teabag string is cotton but some have an anti-wicking coating (stopping water from running up the string and out of the cup)

  2. I read your little article because I was searching for the answer to this question — why do some tea bags (higher quality ones I presume) have a notched card at the end of the string? My daughter says it’s to help the string stay wrapped around the handle of the tea cup. You can easily wrap the string around the handle and then slip it through the notch where it will stay secure until you’ve finished with the bag.

  3. Thanks for the comment, and actually that’s a pretty good question. I can’t confirm if the string in teabags is only made of cotton, they may contain nylon or other man made fibers. I’d probably suggest that if strands are floating in your tea then it’s probably not a good idea to drink it. I’m not sure I’d want to.
    Hope that helps!

  4. Say, do you know what the string for the tea bags are made up of? Probably cotton? But say you have small micro pieces in your tea once brewed. Does that have any affect on your body?? Random question I know.

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