Fannings, the small particles of tea that are left over after higher grades of teas are gathered to be sold, have a fascinating history. Originally considered the rejects of the manufacturing process in making high-quality leaf tea like orange pekoe, fannings were traditionally viewed as low-quality tea. Fannings with extremely small particles were graded as “Dust” and were even lower in quality than fannings.
However, fannings and dust have experienced a surge in demand in the developing world in the last century as the practice of tea drinking has become more popular. Tea stalls in India, South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and other parts of the world prefer dust tea because it is cheap and produces a very strong brew, allowing for more cups to be obtained per measure of tea dust.
Despite their low quality, the fannings of expensive teas can still be more expensive and more flavourful than whole leaves of cheaper teas. Some exporters have even started to focus primarily on broken-leaf teas, fannings, and dusts.
Due to their small size, a tea infuser is typically used to brew fannings. Additionally, fannings are typically used in most tea bags, although some companies sell tea bags containing whole-leaf tea.
While fannings were once viewed as undesirable, they have now become an essential part of the tea industry. Thanks to their affordability and strong brew, fannings and dust are enjoyed by tea drinkers all over the world.