People, however, are creatures of habit and we all tend to do the things which are most convenient for us to do. It’s just so much easier to grab a takeaway coffee cup and toss it in the trash, rather than to remember our reusable cup. Doing what’s convenient also applies to tea drinkers. Why spend four minutes waiting for leaves to brew in a teapot, when you can have an instant cuppa from a tea bag?
According to the The Guardian only 70-80 percent of tea bags are paper fibre. The rest is made up of a “food grade” plastic, a heat-resistant nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET). This has two implications for the environment: the first, is that only the paper fibre component breaks down, leaving tiny bits of plastic behind. The second, according to a 2009 study, is a kind of estrogen-mimicking pollution created by PET, which may have negative effects on the human body.
And with circular economy thinking in mind, single use plastics like these represent a very poor use of resources, especially when those resources are likely to end up in landfill, or mixed up in your compost. So, for a more sustainable and healthy solution, try loose leaf tea. Here are 5 reasons why:
Plastic with your tea?
As discussed, the bags contain PET or nylon, not to mention the waste created from the manufacturing process. Although the plastics used are considered “food grade” because of their high melting point, which will reduce the risk of leaching, questions have been raised about the potential impact of these plastics on human health. However the long term health risks posed by these chemicals remains unknown. If you are turned off by the thought of tea brewed in plastic, a few extra minutes brewing some loose leaf tea could be the answer for you.
Make a ritual of it
Taking a few extra moments to brew tea can help us practise being mindful. It’s a good way to slow down and take a moment to focus on the present. There are many cultures that brew tea as a meditation practice, such as the Japanese, whose tea ceremony can be summed up by the Zen phrase “ichi-go-ichi-e” which means “one time, one meeting”. This is to remind us of the ever changing nature of life, therefore it is important to enjoy the present moment.
Loose leaf tea is considered more flavourful
Loose leaf tea uses the whole leaf, whereas the leaves in most teabags are actually the “dust and fanning” from broken tea leaves. Finely broken tea leaves have lost most of their essential oils and aroma. When steeped, they release more tannins than whole leaf tea, resulting in bitter harsh brews. With loose leaf tea, you are assured a better tasting cup of tea.
Loose leaf tea is more nutritious
Because it’s a higher-grade tea than those in bags, loose leaf also has more nutritional potency and produces stronger flavour and a more authentic tea experience. Most tea bags constrain the tea leaves, keeping them from expanding. Brewing tea in its loose leaf form allows the hot water to infuse every inch of a whole leaf tea and extract a wider range of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, flavours and aromas from the leaves. Because loose leaf is more potent, it also allows the tea to be more functional, helping with weight-loss, increased energy and reduced bloating.
Loose leaf is typically fresher
Typical tea bags are produced on an industrial scale and may sit in a warehouse or on a shelf for a long time before you ever get them. These low-grade leaves are usually picked, processed, and packaged by machines overseas. They are premixed which can take away some of the flavour. Another perk with loose leaf, you can control the mix which will influence the taste and the strength.
The saying goes “good things take time”. Whole leaf teas are better for the environment, your body, have more flavour, aroma, antioxidants, and pleasure than the tiny leaf bits and stale tea dust in most mass-produced tea bags. For a proper loose leaf brew, try SBN member Fine & Dandy’s range of organic and Fairtrade teas. Happy brewing everyone!