Since moving to the UK, I’ve developed quite the fondness for a good cup of tea. As a newcomer, I assumed that as long as the packaging was recyclable or biodegradable, every tea was zero waste tea. Boy, was I wrong!
If you read my post on zero waste coffee, you’ll know that those seemingly compostable paper filters can contain plastic.
Well, the same thing is true for many tea bags, which use plastic to keep their cheap paper from tearing. Not to mention how many companies use pesticides and additives in their products.
So naturally, I set out to discover all the best zero waste tea options out there. Because let’s be real: no one wants to ingest chemicals and pollute the planet when they’re relaxing with a cup of Earl Grey.
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Best Zero Waste Tea Bags
In a perfect world, we’d all get loose leaf tea from a local, packaging-free shop. However, this isn’t an option for every zero waste lifestyle, and sometimes it’s just easier to use a bag!
Here are some tried and tested plastic-free tea bags that I love.
Teapigs was one of the first zero waste tea options I discovered, and they remain one of the best. They are a British company, but luckily their teas are now available worldwide.
Completely committed to sustainability, all of Teapig’s tea bags are made from cornstarch and paper that break down within 12 weeks inside of an industrial composting bin. And while the inside bag may look like plastic, it’s actually made of wood pulp, which is totally compostable at home.
Lastly, the outer paper containers are made from FSC® certified paper board and printed with vegetable ink, so they are completely recyclable.
Their tea, of course, is ethically and sustainably sourced, and they work closely with the Rainforest Alliance to help protect the planet for future generations.
Pukka is known for their herbal teas, and they’re definitely my go-to when I’m feeling sick and just don’t have the energy to brew zero waste tea. I’ve tried quite a few of their teas and have yet to try one I don’t like.
However, if you have a sore throat, nothing beats Pukka’s Lemon, Ginger and Honey tea!
In terms of sustainability, Pukka makes all of their tea bags using a blend of natural abaca (a type of banana), wood pulps and plant cellulose fibres. The bags are then held together using an organic cotton string rather than being sealed with plastic. Like Teapigs, their boxes are made from 100% FSC® certified paper board and printed with vegetable ink.
Pukka donates 1% of their annual revenue to environmental and social causes and are working towards becoming a carbon neutral company.
Buddha Teas is one of my newer zero waste tea brand finds. This tea company is all about good quality tea that helps us and the environment. All of their ingredients are fresh organic or sustainability wild-harvested, while any of the teas help with issues such as anxiety or digestion.
So far I’ve tried the Chamomile tea and found it quite relaxing. If you’re looking for a subtler flavor, this is a great option.
Buddha Teas make all of their tea bags with 100% bleach-free paper and are entirely biodegradable. Their boxes, which are made with recyclable paper and soy-based ink, are coated with Soft Touch®, an aqueous coating that gives the box a shine, but doesn’t impact the environment.
Save me for later!
Best Zero Waste Loose Leaf Tea
The Tao of Tea
The Tao of Tea is a Portland based company that offers certified organic teas. All of their ingredients are ethically sourced and they work closely with local communities to ensure sustainable farming practices. They were also one of the first brands to join the Fair Trade movement in the USA.
The Tao of Tea believes that it isn’t enough to meet the bare minimum when it comes to sustainable products. They foster biodiversity in their farms, and buy teas at above-market prices in order to raise fair trade premiums for the tea community.
How to Brew Zero Waste Tea
These days there are actually quite a few zero waste tea bag options, which I have highlighted above. But while using a standard tea bag is pretty straightforward–let it steep once or twice, and toss it into the compost bin–it took me a little while to get comfortable brewing delicious loose leaf tea.
So to save you the headache and confusion I went through, here are all the basics you’ll need to make the perfect cup of zero waste tea!
Loose Leaf Infuser
First and foremost, get a good infuser. You may be familiar with these stainless steel brew balls, which is what I use. Just open the ball, fill one side with your tea of choice and then put into a mug of boiling water to brew.
How long you leave it depends on how strong you want it. I find 2 minutes to be nearly perfect for most teas, but leave in longer for stronger tea, or less for a weaker brew.
The ball can easily clip onto the side of your mug so it doesn’t get lost completely (but if you drop the whole thing in, fish it out with a spoon). If the classic brew ball is too boring, consider a manaTEA infuser instead.
If you like the aesthetics of brewing tea or often drink with guests, invest in a good tea pot. Many pots come with their own infuser, but you can use a brew ball instead, though you might need to pack in more tea to avoid dilution.
It’s also stovetop safe, so you can let the tea brew while it heats up rather than heating the water up separately. Plus, it comes with a jasmine tea taster.
Tea Infuser Bottle
If you find yourself wanting tea on the go, an infuser bottle is for you. Simply put the tea into the built-in infuser along with boiling water, and then let the water bottle do its magic.
This is also a great option if you prefer cold tea. Just brew it the night before and then put the bottle (without the infuser) into the fridge overnight so it’s ready to go the next morning, or whenever you want it.
How to Store Zero Waste Tea
Whether you buy loose leaf or tea bags, I highly recommend storing it in metal tins. This is because a tin will protect tea from the sunlight, which deteriorates the flavor over time.
Many loose leaf tea companies sell tea in tins, which can be reused or recycled. But if you buy loose leaf in bulk from a local shop, it’s nice to have fun colored tea tins to brighten up your cabinet.
Keep your tea in a dark and dry part of the house. Too much moisture or heat can affect the taste of the tea, or ruin it altogether. Additionally, ensure that any container you use is airtight.
Looking for more zero waste tips? Check out these posts: