A hot cup of freshly brewed tea is a magical elixir that can instantly relax your mind and soul after a hectic day. It is the perfect drink to unwind at the end of the day and these emotions are shared by millions of people across the globe. Obtained originally from Camellia sinensis, tea is said to have originated in China way back in 2737 BC during the reign of Emperor Shen Nung. The evolution of tea as we know it today is just as intriguing as its discovery by the Chinese Emperor.
You will be surprised to note that the tea that we know today is nothing like what it was over 4000 years ago. Well, just like spices, tea has travelled far and wide and each region now has a special variety of tea. However, what has not changed is adding tea leaves to a boiling pot of water and allowing the flavours from the leaves to infuse into the water. While some people prefer to add milk to their tea, other varieties are just as wonderful without it.
One of the most popular forms of tea consumed today are in the form of teabags—thanks to the increasing on-the-go lifestyle where people have less time and are unable to carry teapots wherever they go. But, did you know that your teabag, despite its convenience, is causing tonnes of waste accumulation? According to a report by Wrap, tea drinkers in Britain contributed 370,000 tonnes of teabags and leaves each year along with other household food wastes. Most of this waste ends up in landfills!
The Damage That One Cup of Tea Can Cause
A study published in the American Chemical Society's Journal of Environmental Science and Technology found that steeping one teabag into the water at brewing temperature can release about 11.6 billion miniscule particles of microplastics and 3.1 billion nano plastics into your cup. Wondering where all this plastic comes from? Well, it’s in your teabag!
Teabags are harmful to not just the environment but also your body. Teabags are small, fluffy, porous packets with short strings that let you ‘dip’ the bag in the hot water. For teabags to hold shape and keep them sealed despite high temperatures, manufacturers use polypropylene, a plastic polymer. Though the amount of plastic used in each bag is very little, the total amount of plastic that one is likely to consume over a period of time can affect their health. Also, due to the plastic component in most teabags, they cannot be completely decomposed.
Apart from polypropylene, a large number of teabags are also made from nylon and polyester, both of which are made from plastic fibres. The string that allows you to conveniently dip your teabag into your cup also contains some amount of plastic. Most pressed teabags that have well-folded or crimped edges contain plastic interwoven with paper. Triangular-shaped teabags, also called silken teabags, as well as string and tag teabags also contain plastic and other non-biodegradable materials and adhesives that make them a nuisance for the environment.
If you thought teabags were the waste-forming component of brewing tea, think again! Most teabags across the world are dipped in non-biodegradable cups, which also contain some amount of plastic in them.
Eco-Friendly Tea Brewing Alternatives – Tea with Zero Waste
Would you have imagined that one cup of warm, comforting, relaxing tea can actually endanger your life and the environment? Well, all is not lost! Here is how you can brew tea with Zero Waste!
Though a teabag can give you a nicely brewed cup of tea, nothing can beat the tea one can brew in a teapot! Loose tea leaves are free plastic-free, the tea leaves are compostable and biodegradable, and completely safe for you and your environment!
When picking out loose tea packets, you can check whether the outer packaging supports environmental sustainability. Many organic tea manufacturers use safe farming practices to reduce exposure to chemicals while growing your tea.
Many renowned teabag manufacturers support the zero-waste lifestyle. These companies are committed to sustainability and manufacture their teabags from materials like cornstarch, paper, wood pulp, abaca, plant cellulose fibres, and bleach-free paper– all of which are biodegradable. Their outer packaging also supports their mission and is usually made from an FSC® certified paper board and printed using vegetable ink.
If you do not wish to spend money every month buying sustainable teabags, you can purchase reusable teabags or make them yourself using muslin. Tea leaf infusers made from stainless steel are also a good option for teetotallers.
This one is for tea lovers who are usually on the go! A tea infuser bottle, as the name suggests, is a bottle with an in-built tea infuser. All you need to do is put some tea leaves in the infuser and add some hot, boiling water to it. Allow the bottle to do its magic and brew you some fresh, zero-waste tea! With a bottle cap in place, it makes it easy for you to take your zero-waste, freshly brewed tea wherever you go!
An economic way of brewing zero-waste tea every day is buying loose tea in bulk. When you open tea in large quantities, you must always store it in an air-tight container to allow its flavour and aroma to last long.
A great way to brew zero waste tea is by growing your own in your backyard! This allows you to grow your tea organically and brew it with no harmful waste!
While you pick a sustainable option for your daily tea ritual, do not forget to opt for reusable cups, mugs or biodegradable teacups when on the go. Whether you are travelling or at your desk, brewing tea with zero waste is easy and convenient. All you need is a teacup, some fresh, loosely packed tea, an infuser or zero-waste teabags!