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I was in a Beis Medrash recently and they had a note that said that despite any heter to make tea, there is no practical way to open a tea bag on Shabbos, and thus tea essence should be used even according to that. [The tea they provide was not pre-opened, I assume for freshness reasons].

What are the issues in opening a tea bag on Shabbos?

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There's no problem opening the paper bags on Shabbos. why should it be different than opening a bag of potato chips which is no problem? – Yoni May 13 '14 at 21:06
@Yoni, I don't know either. – Yishai May 13 '14 at 21:09
was the posting done with the permission of the Yeshiva? There are always people who have a chiddush that they need to share which is contrary to minhag Yisrael... – Yoni May 13 '14 at 21:20
@Yoni, Yes it was, and claimed to have consulted with Rabbonim on the question. – Yishai May 13 '14 at 21:21
No sources were quoted? Just like "Moshe mipi haGevurah?" I don't understand how anyone can be expected to be taken seriously when casting aspersions on Klal Yisroel without documentation! – Yoni May 13 '14 at 21:26

While we know that opening food packages is generally permitted - especially if they will be discarded when empty - tea bags are slightly different.

While you open the tea bag to get to the tea "sack" you are - at the same time - creating a "handle" on the top of the string, from the square little piece that is pre-cut.

tea Bag with handle

My guess is that cutting out this "handle" may be problematic with regards to מחתך - one of the Avot Melacha.

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Several brands such as some Trader Joes teas and Cellestial Seasonings, do not have either strings or "square handles". There may be a separate probleml with these tea bags in that you have to tear them on the preforation. But, I guess that if you want to steep 2 or 3 at a time so that there is no tearing, this would solve your problem. You'll have pretty strong tea, though. – DanF May 14 '14 at 14:25
Firstly there's no need to tear the square from the rest of the paper bag. Secondly it's not so clear that there's a problem of mechatech when you don't care about the size or shape of what was torn. Here i find it hard to believe people care if the square is perfect or even missing parts. I believe Rav SZ Auerbach held that position. @DanF which perforations are you referring to? Multiple tea bags connected to each other that need to be torn into single tea bags? That is certainly mechatech but i have not seen those. – Yoni May 15 '14 at 5:06
@Yoni - Trader Joe's is a "regional" store. Some of their, and I think Cellestial Seasonings, have 2 or 3 bags attached together, and you have to separate them on the preforations. That's why I suggested using the 2 or 3 together. – DanF May 15 '14 at 16:25
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I asked the proprietor of the Beis Medresh in question, and he said the main issue is קריע - tearing.

It is a discussion in Achronim (see here) exactly what the nature of tearing is that is forbidden. Following the view that it is separating two things that are glued or woven together (quoted in the פלא יועץ in the name of the Baal HaTanya and the Brisker) then a tea bag typically has a flap which is connected and closed. Opening that flap while avoiding separating it at the intended location would be a problem according to this view.

Interestingly, most people would probably follow the Mishna Brurah who argues on this view, but my understanding is that he forbids making tea in general due to issues of cooking.

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