Saturday, 24 May 2014

The problem with tea bags

We've been thinking about how to package our tea for a while now. At the moment around 95% of the UK population drink tea from bags. We want to change that! Here's why...

Tea bags were never really intended to be used in the way we do today. Back in 1904, a New York coffee merchant by the name of Thomas Sullivan began marketing tea sold in hand sewn silk bags that were intended to be removed by the customer and the loose leaf tea inside brewed in the normal way. However, people found it easier just to leave them in the bags and thus the tea bag as we know it today was born.

So, what's the issue? Tea bags are easy to use and we've been using them for over 100 years! Well, let's take a look at the different types of bag and the potential problems that surround them....

Flat paper bags usually contain fannings or dust, which is basically a very low grade of tea. Its cheap and infuses well in a small tight bag because of its larger surface area. This is the everyday tea we are used to drinking and marketed by the large multinational companies such as Tetley (Tata) and Unilever.

Pyramid style bags are currently either made of nylon or a bioplastic derived from corn starch. They allow the tea to move around more freely than a flat bag. However, Nylon is not biodegradable and when mixed with hot water it can actually release toxins, which are not welcome in our cuppa thanks very much! The bioplastic option, although an improvement on nylon, is still not biodegradable, even though many companies are actually actively marketing it to be so (naughty!)

Muslin cloth bags are our favourite  tea bag option. They are fully biodegradable and organic cotton could potentially be used (although we haven't come across anyone who does as of yet.) However they are expensive to manufacture and some people report an inferior taste, plus the shape doesn't allow the tea to move around freely which hampers infusion.

With these potential issues it begs the question - why do we actually use tea bags?!

They were born out of convenience and us humans are a bit of a lazy bunch, anything that saves a few seconds here or there or requires just a little less effort is usually welcome! But is making a tea with a bag actually any easier than brewing loose leaf tea?

With the bag method, you throw the bag in a cup or teapot, pour in your hot water, quite often losing the little paper tab in with your tea whilst doing so, let it brew, pull out the bag, drip water all over the floor and throw the bag in the bin, which may or may not end up clogging up a landfill site (or your garden compost) depending on the type of bag.

To brew loose leaf tea using an infuser, you fill the infuser up with tea, place in the cup/pot and add hot water, then empty into your compost bin by squeezing the handles once your tea has brewed.

If your teapot has a built in infuser, you add the tea and empty the infuser when you are done. Sounds pretty straight forward to us! One thing brewing loose leaf tea does rely upon is that you own the right kind of teapot or an infuser, so we need to make sure all of our customers can get hold of one or the other easily.

With all this taken on board, we think loose leaf is the way to go. It's the best way to get a good tasting brew, its the most environmentally friendly and it doesn't require any more effort than using tea bags. We may have to work hard educating the 95% of tea bag drinkers out there, but we are committed to creating an honest company that improves the way we drink tea, what tea we drink and the impact of the tea industry on the environment. If that means leading a crusade to educate the masses then so be it!

What are your views on tea bags vs loose leaf? Do you see loose leaf tea as more effort to brew? Let us know in the comments section below!

In other news, we have got some very exciting organic tea samples on their way over to us as we speak - we'll be reporting back soon with some pictures!

Stay Leafy!

Dave x


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