Eat & Drink

Put The Kettle On: Your 5 Minute Guide To Plastic Free Tea

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Put The Kettle On: Your 5 Minute Guide To Plastic Free Tea

Eat & Drink

Did you know most mainstream teabags contain microplastics?

We look at the best plastic free tea brands on the market, whether you prefer a bag or a good old fashioned loose leaf pot of tea.

Georgina Wilson-Powell

Wed 14 Feb 2018

Off the back of widespread realisation we are drowning in single use plastic and microplastic particles are everywhere - including in our bodies, tea lovers have been dismayed recently to discover that many traditional teabags contain small amounts of plastic, called polypropylene, often used in heat sealing methods in teabag production.

Why is plastic in tea a problem?

A teabag might be small and the amounts of plastic tiny, but considering we Brits get through 165 million cups of tea a day (and 96% of those cups use teabags according to the UK Tea and Infusions Association) that all mounts up.

Those small particles of plastic leach into the soil if you're composting, or through your teabags going to landfill.

That's about 180,000kg of nutritious tea waste that can’t be composted without releasing billions of plastic microparticles into the land and sea.

What Are Microplastics And Why Are They Harmful?

teabags on string against a dark background

Time for tea? How many cups do you have a day?

Which tea bags contain plastic?

Twinings, Tetley and Yorkshire Tea all contain plastic says BBC News.

PG Tips is the biggest mainstream tea brand to move to biodegradable, plastic free bags made of corn starch.

Biodegradable vs compostable

Being biodegradable doesn’t always cut plastic out either, says Kate Willacy at Pukka Herbs.

“Don’t be fooled into thinking that biodegradable tea bags are automatically plastic-free.

EU standards allow for a certain amount plastic content when determining if a product can be classed as biodegradable.

Many of the ‘pyramid’ teabags are either made from non-biodegradable nylon or a genetically-modified plant-based plastic (such as cornstarch) that only decomposes where there is industrial food collection.”

Consumer demand to stop unwittingly dunking plastic in with our milk and hot water, has lead to a range of promised solutions.

The Co-Op is developing a biodegradable teabag for its Fairtrade range while other multi-nationals are exploring alternative heat sealing methods. Traidcraft are also developing a new loose leaf tea range.

"There’s a huge demand for sustainable and recyclable packaging from consumers at present, and plastic-free teabags is one of the everyday items we feel like we should be able to change," says Caroline Hardaker at Traidcraft.

"The truth is, if consumers refused to buy bagged tea and reverted back to loose leaf tea, the plastic-free teabag problem would be solved.

Perhaps as well as plastic-free packaging, we should also be moving towards entirely packaging-free tea – which in turn would also help ease the other huge issues in the packaging world, such as aluminium and mineral oil contamination."

The best plastic free tea brands

1. Pukka

Pukka teas are 100% plastic free. Yes the brand is now owned by Unilever, but it’s commitment to production and packaging is some of the best we’ve seen.

“Pukka Herbs tea bags are double chambered (two sides, folded in the middle, cradling the herbs to freely infuse) and are stitched at the top of the bag using a certified organic cotton string. Pukka was the first company to ever use this organic string to hold its staple-free and plastic-free tea bag together.

Although a more costly and complex process, each tea bag guarantees that Pukka tea drinkers can rest assured there is no plastic in their cup of tea and their tea bag is compostable as well as 100% biodegradable,” assures Willacy.

Pukka Herbs is a B Corp and it cements its ethical business ethos

Pukka's teabags contain no plastic and come with an organic cotton string

2. Teapigs

Teapigs pyramid teabags are plastic free. They're made from cornstarch and paper and will biodegrade in a council food waste bin but they're not ideal for composting at home as the cornstarch takes a long time to break down.

However the clear plastic looking inner bag is now compostable - it's made from a wood pulp material called NatureFlex and is being rolled out across the whole range. Teapigs were the first tea brand to get the Plastic Free Trust Trade Mark.

Teapigs offer everything from everyday breakfast tea to yerba and matcha blends.

Teapigs teabags don't have any plastic in them

Teapigs pyramid teabags don't contain any plastic

3. We Are Tea

We Are Tea's plastic free teabags are also made from cornstarch, made into a material called soilon.

While the We Are Tea range includes rooibos, herbal infusions and loose leaf versions, the tea and teabags come in a biodegradable cellophane.

5 minute guide to plastic free tea - Plastic Free Tea We Are Tea

We Are Tea's teabags don't contain plastic and the brand's moving to biodegradable cellophane this year

4. Good and Proper

Good and Proper Tea started selling loose leaf but have now packaged up their six most popular blends into plastic free teabags, made of Soilon (from cornstarch) which does make them compostable.

Their teabag range includes peppermint, Earl Grey, Jade Tips and Chamomile. While the outer wrap is recyclable, this sustainably minded brand is working on a greener solution to this as well.

Good and proper make plastic free teabags

Choose a compostable teabag from Good and Proper Tea

5. Abel & Cole

Abel & Cole is combining a heat seal method and a corn-starch derived biodegradable bag for its new organic tea collection, debuted this month. The bags are certified by the Soil Association and come in eight flavours including Earl Grey and Mint Infusion.

Plastic Free Tea Abel And Cole - organic teabags

Abel & Cole has unveiled a range of eight new organic and plastic free teabags

The best loose leaf tea brands

But while teabags are always going to be popular, we've seen a rise in loose leaf teas amongst consumers concerned about packaging and waste. Loose leaf tea (unless you're buying it in a zero waste shop) often comes in a single plastic bag but the loose tea leaves can be composted.

1. Nemi

London based Nemi Tea’s loose leaf tea comes in biodegradable tubes and it uses a good cuppa to power its social enterprise. Brew up a cup of plastic free Spicy Chai tea, which comes from a Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade certified Indian estate.

The brand employs and trains refugees to run tea stalls, helping them with language skills and routes into work. Over 50% of its profits goes into its social impact goals.

2. T2

T2’s new loose tea range, Brews with Benefits, come in cardboard boxes with a single plastic bag or in larger tin caddies. The Sleep Tight loose leaf tea contains lemon balm, lavender, jasmine blossoms, rose petals to calm you down before bedtime.

Loose leaf tea expert T2 is plastic free

T2's tea cubes make perfect gifts.

3. Daylesford

Daylesford's new range of loose leaf, plastic free tea comes in beautiful caddies that will look lovely, collected on a shelf.
There's 15 organic teas in the collection, ranging from single estate black teas to speciality green and white and herbal wellness blends - all grown sustainable and certified by the Ethical Tea Partnership. The caddies keep the tea leaves fresh and protect them from sunlight. We're loving the Dragon Well - a fresh and fruit green tea.

Daylesford new Tea  caddies make for Plastic Free tea

Go loose leaf with this delicious range of organic ethical teas from Daylesford

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