Drinking tea can be a spiritual experience. In various cultures, the preparation and enjoyment of tea warrants a ceremony as crafting and drinking it requires full presence, to appreciate its aroma, its flavors and its perfection. Setting aside time for the whole ritual becomes a sensory retreat.
‘Tea ceremony is a way of worshipping the beautiful and the simple.’ – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Aside from the complex and rewarding flavors, traditional and herbal teas are healing powerhouses; different plant varieties and blends offer numerous health benefits and medicinal properties.
However, thanks to our constant need to be on the go, respecting the way of the tea has almost been forgotten. The humble brew has succumbed to man’s need for a cuppa without wasting precious time; and to deliver convenience, tea bags were created. People can just dump the tea bag in their cup, let it steep and away they go.
Unfortunately, many tea bags are not made from 100% natural materials. Manufacturers are adding synthetic plastic to the tea bags which can pose a threat to the environment and perhaps, human health. In addition, these plastic tea bags aren’t recyclable or biodegradable.
The most common synthetic material found in tea bags is polypropylene, a plastic polymer used to seal the edges of tea bags to keep the contents from falling out and ensure it holds its shape in hot water. Polypropylene can disrupt the body’s endocrine system which can lead to a number of health issues that can eventually become chronic conditions.
Furthermore, recent studies led by researchers from McGill University in Canada have shown that steeping a plastic tea bag in hot water releases around 11.6 billion microplastics in the cup.
“Table salt, which has a relatively high microplastic content, has been reported to contain approximately 0.005 micrograms plastic per gram salt. A cup of tea contains thousands of times greater mass of plastic, at 16 micrograms per cup,” shares McGill University’s Nathalie Tufenkji with New Scientist.
Another study found that we’re consuming a credit card size worth of plastic each week.
So each day, unbeknownst to many, the wonderful benefits of the tea they are drinking is being polluted by the plastic that contains it.
So what to do?
Here are three things you can do:
1. Buy loose leaf tea
Wherever possible, choose loose leaf tea. Loose leaf tea is widely available in supermarkets and health food stores. Popular brands such as T2 also offer organic loose leaf tea. The less individually-wrapped, the less plastic packaging, the better for you and the planet. Just use a reusable stainless steel tea strainer (there are many types now available) and enjoy your tea, plastic-free as it should be.
It’s worth mentioning that many loose leaf teas are still packaged in plastic, so if you want to avoid plastic packaging altogether, it’s important to do your homework and ensure that the brand you buy uses at the very least, a bioplastic for packaging if not foil.
2. Grow your own herbs for herbal teas
If you’ve got some time and space, you can also grow plants to make your own herbal teas. Some popular plants you can grow that make great tea: chamomile, mint, spearmint, peppermint, marigold, lemon grass, lemon balm, dandelion and yarrow.
3. Purchase plastic-free tea bags
Many popular tea brands such as Twinings, Nerada and Lipton still use tea bags that contain synthetic materials, although after public scrutiny this year, many are working towards a plastic-free solution. So make sure to read the box and do a quick online search to ensure that the tea bags you purchase are completely plastic-free.
Here’s a list of brands that offer plastic-free tea bags that can fit your lifestyle:
Certified B Corp UK tea brand Teapigs was founded in 2006 and its range of teas are completely plastic-free.
Their quality tea is packaged in tea temples which are spacious, biodegradable mesh bags that are made from cornstarch. These mesh bags are 100% plastic-free and designed to not tear apart when steeped in hot liquid –so even though they can be composted it can take a while for them to break down in your compost bin.
Teapigs also use real tea leaf in their blends; which means, they use the whole leaf, whole herbs, whole berries, whole flowers and whole spices instead of just the ground stuff that comes in the tea bags that we all are used to, that has lost its flavor because its been pre-handled too much.
This means that Teapigs delivers complex flavors and the maximum sensory experience that you usually don’t get from most tea brands.
Popular tea brand Pukka rejects synthetic materials and instead uses what they describe as a “simple stitch of organic cotton and a unique folding process” to hold their tea bags in place and claim to be the first to use this innovative method.
Most of Good and Proper‘s teas are loose leaf but they have six popular blends that have been packaged in plastic-free tea bags for tea drinkers who don’t have time to brew. The material used in their tea bags is soilon, a bio-material made from lactic acid derived from cornstarch which makes them 100% compostable and biodegradable.
This fairtrade and organic tea UK brand uses plastic-free tea bags made from a “plant-based, fully biodegradeable bio-material”. Each Clipper tea bag is unbleached, ethically sourced and organic and made from abaca plants!
Hampstead Tea sells hundreds of thousands of packs of their tea products on a yearly basis, and they make sure that the role they play in the business environment is one of positive change and care for Mother Earth. All their tea pyramids are made from GM-free sugar starch which is 100% compostable.
This Australian tea brand is widely available and stocked by many of the supermarkets including Australia’s supermarket duopoly, Coles and Woolworths. Nature’s Cuppa offers certified organic tea in plastic-free, “unbleached paper” tea bags – and it’s super affordable too!
This boutique Australian fairtrade and organic tea brand sells loose leaf tea and teas in “silky, plastic-free pyramid tea bags” made from corn fibre.
These are a few tea brands that use tea bags without those nasty plastic materials. So whether you’re sharing a lovely brew with guests or nursing a tummy ache, choose from these tea brands that offer plastic-free tea bags and enjoy an eco-friendly and guilt-free cuppa.
- 16 Eco-Stylish Reusable Bags, Water Bottles, Coffee Cups and Other Zero Waste Essentials
- 10 Money-Saving Zero Waste Swaps for the Budget-Conscious
- 13 Minimalist, Zero Waste and Eco-Friendly Lifestyle Challenges If You’re Keen to Live More Sustainably
- How I Save Money By Going Zero Waste
- 101 Ethical, Eco-Friendly and Zero Waste Gift Ideas For Birthdays
- 5 Simple Tips To Create A Hassle-Free Zero Waste Kitchen
- 10 Affordable Eco-Friendly and Ethical Underwear Brands For Women and Men (USD $29 or Less)
Feature image by Lisa Fotios.