DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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15 August 2011

A sustainable cup of tea

After water, tea is the most popular non-alchoholic drink in the world. My favourite drink is orange juice made from our backyard oranges, but I live many days without drinking organic orange juice, I never go one day without tea. I drink it for breakfast and lunch, and often have one or two more cups during the day. Tea is part of my ordinary days. 


When you think about it, millions of cups of tea would be enjoyed every day. I wonder how many of them are made using tea bags. Just think of all those one-use, "disposable" bags and all the string that makes those bags dangle. Then there are all the staples that attach the string to the bag and the label. It makes me shudder to think of all that waste. Every day. For tea.


I grew up drinking tea made in a tea pot. I still prefer pot-brewed tea now, but when Hanno drinks coffee, I'm make one cup of tea and make it right there in the cup. No, not with a tea bag; I use a tea infuser or tea ball. They're like sustainable tea bags. I have several - those I use in cups and one for the tea pot. Spooning tea into an infuser and making tea in a cup takes slightly longer than using a tea bag to make tea, but it saves all that waste. When you multiple one tea bag by millions - every day - it doesn't take a genius to know we should be moving away from tea bags and towards tea infusers or tea pots. I know tea bags - minus the staple, are compostable, but that doesn't make up for all that paper, string and staples being made in the first place.

Loose tea makes a better cup of tea. The tea that goes into tea bags is called fannings or dust - it's low grade tea that is left over at the bottom of the barrel when all the loose tea is removed. Many tea bags are made using paper that has been bleached. A tea infuser will cost you a few dollars, but it will last a lifetime, or close to it. And speaking of the economics of tea, high quality loose black tea is much cheaper than tea bags. With tea bags you don't pay for the quality of tea, you pay for the packaging. And then you throw it all away.


This is one of those small steps I've talked about many times before. It's a way in - an easy way to start your simple journey. Or it might be the next sustainable thing you add to your simple life. It may not seem important alone - just one cup of tea - but add that cup to all those you'll make in your life. That, my friends, is significant.

I've been drinking loose tea all my life but for the past couple of years I've also been buying Aldi's organic black (and green) teabags. I'm not doing that anymore.  I have found what looks like a very good organic and fair trade black loose tea that I'm going to order online from Honest to Goodness in Sydney. It's only $35 for a kilo. Sealed in a glass jar and stored in the fridge, that will keep me going for many months. I've never ordered from them before so I hope they live up to my expectations. If you've bought from this company, were you happy?

Why don't you join me in this move towards sustainable tea drinking. All it requires are some tea infusers, or a tea pot and strainer, and loose tea. Tea bags offer convenience and fast tea. I am not going to settle for that anymore. I want to slow down and I want to buy quality tea for a good price, not inferior tea and packaging. Will you take this small step with me?

91 comments:

  1. Rhonda I don't drink much hot tea, here is the US coffee is the big hot drink. But we do drink a lot of iced tea which I make from scratch using tea bags. I may have to rethink the way I make it! I had no idea the tea in bags was the dust/leftovers. I have looked at loose tea in the store but it comes in very small containers and is mostly flavored teas. I need to look around more I think.

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  2. Thanks for the post, Rhonda! I'm with you!
    I've given up tea-bags just because they are so expensive. The cheap ones usually lose flavour (or do you spell that "flavor" in Australia?) right after you open the package. I drink herbal tea, most of which I gather myself. Now it's summer and we drink a lot of peppermint tea, but come winter we'll switch to linden and caraway, and chamomile. I'm too lazy to use those metal sieve things, I just put some tea in a pot and then pour into cups all day long adding hot water straight into the cup.
    Not only it tastes much better and is better for the environment but it is also much, much cheaper. Actually it's free if you gather the herbs yourself. (Not much chance with the black or green tea but as you said - there are many affordable options.) And if at times I don't use the whole pot, tea is very beneficial for indoor plants. (I once watered a basil pot with tea with milk in it and it all went rotten, so that was a valuable lesson.)

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  3. A lovely friend of mine gave me a cast iron Japanese teapot for Christmas. It has its own infuser -- a large one that lets the tea steep in lots of water. So easy! I boil the water right in the pot, drop in the infuser and I've got four cups in a few minutes. I do drink a lot of tea!

    Barb_in_GA

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  4. Yes, I will join you, Rhonda. Never gave it much thought, but I drink a lot of tea, so it will make a big difference. Thanks for reminding me.

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  5. This is something that I have been working on doing too. I don't drink as much tea as you do, as I mainly drink coffee, but I like green tea as well as herbal teas too on an almost daily basis. I don't have the design of tea infuser that you do; mine is open on top and sits on the rim of the cup but works the same. I was also gifted some reusable organic cotton tea bags, but I have not tried those yet because the infuser just seems simpler. However, they would probably be good to fill and take to work to make tea during the day. I need to try doing that because currently I was still buying tea in bags specifically to take to work only.
    I live in the US and have found a company called Mountain Rose Herbs which sells loose tea - regular tea as well as a large variety of herbal teas and infusions. They also have a focus on organic and fair trade so I feel good about buying from them.
    I rarely ever comment on blogs, but I read your blog almost daily and I appreciate it so much! Not only what you write, but the way in which you do it.

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  6. Girls, from reading the comments I learned that in English you call tea that is sold by the pound "loose tea". Does that apply to all products that are sold by weight? Like "loose sugar" and "loose grain", and "loose candy"?

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  7. I too drink tea every day. Making tea in a pot instead of a tea bag was one of the first things I did when changing our life to a more sustainable life. I already had a few ceramic teapots but they all leaked when pouring so we invested in a very good stainless pot that guaranteed not to leak when pouring. Best thing we have done when it comes to making tea. When friends come over and I make tea in our pot they say it is the best tea they have had and vow to buy a teapot and make tea the same way.
    I have been looking for a soap 'swisher'. It is a bit like your tea ball but a little larger and you put a bar of soap in it and swish it around in the washing up water to make soap suds. I wonder if you could actually use a tea ball instead?

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  8. I, too, am concerned about the waste of tea bags and packaging. As "littlegreengardengirl" said, Mountain Rose Herbs has been my dependable source of loose tea and herbs. Love your pictures of tea servings -- reminds me of my afternoons of tea and cake in small cafes in Germany.

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  9. Gosh I didn't realise tea bags held the dust/dregs. I was given some earl grey tea leaves and a tablespoon size diffuser which I have never used so I'm going to get it out and give it a go. Also I'm more likely to collect the spent tea into a bowl and put it on the garden later if there isnt a tea bag to cut through. I drink a lot of tea too!

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  10. Mainly we drink tea brewed in a I use a tea pot, but sometimes when it's just me I use a teabag for the ease of it but I have been thinking for a while that it is not so sustainable. We also have a lot of workshops here which includes morning or afternoon tea. I always put the teapot out but mostly people go for the bags. I might see how not putting out the teabags goes neat time.I by my tea in a kilo bag from our local organic shop. It's called Trade Routes Organic Black Tea and costs $26.00. It has a nice flavour.

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  11. Rhonda, you make a great point and swapping over to loose leaf tea is one little step that makes a difference, both to what we throw out and to how we think about things we do and buy. I use both tea infusers and a pot with an infuser in it. Unfortunately most herbal teas come in individual servings or tea bags and it's mostly black tea which is sold loose leaf.

    I belong to a co-op which buys from Honest to Goodness all the time. They have great products and service. Enjoy your tea! Ree

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  12. Patricia in DenverAugust 15, 2011 7:26 am

    Hurrah! I have made considerable changes in my qwest toward sustainability, but I buy tea bags because I can use a coupon for them, making them cheaper than loose tea I can purchase. However, after my bags are used up, it's loose tea for me! Thanks for the reminder, Rhonda.

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  13. thank you for the reminder Rhonda. I drink green tea and just automatically grab the tea bags, not anymore. I will make the effort, find an infuser and make the change.

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  14. Sarah in CanberraAugust 15, 2011 7:39 am

    I use a bodum plunger teapot. It has the advantage that when the tea is brewed to the strength you want it, you can depress the plunger so that it doesn't get any stronger - something that I find a major problem with a conventional teapot. You could also use a coffee plunger (cafetiere) to make tea this way. The bodum teapot keeps the tea warm very well - even better with a tea cosy, and it tastes much better than teabag tea.

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  15. Excellent point Rhonda - no change is too small!

    I don't drink tea often (I make chai with spices and all when I do), but I've gotten pretty used to a daily coffee when working. I quickly decided buying from Starbucks daily was a poor choice, and started making instant coffee at home -- I don't have space for a coffeemaker, nor would I really use it enough to justify the expense.

    But today I finally decided to buy a small French press for making my own coffee. I'm suspicious of the quality and production practices of instant coffee, and if I can make it from grounds, I can buy direct from a cooperative in Guatemala through my CSA. And I just realized, even better, no paper filters, so no waste!

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  16. I have a variety of tea pots; a one-cup, a three-cup and a large one. The three-cup has its own little strainer basket in it and is the one we use most often. I do use tea bags from time to time but it's the staple that puts me off. If I was making a cup of tea from a pot, would I throw in a staple and some string to add to the flavour?? I think not! Yukko!

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  17. Thank you for this post, Rhonda: we used always to have loose tea when I was growing up, with tea bags rather sneered upon, but these days supermarkets are full of teabags and very little loose tea available, it seems, except in the more expensive brands.

    Your post reminded me that I used to make a refreshing afternoon tea which was half and half ordinary breakfast tea and Earl Grey - not quite as strong as Earl Grey, but with a very refreshing flavour.

    Sadly, tea is one of those things I buy whenever it's on special offer, so I generally have about a year's supply in at any one time - we drink a LOT of tea in this house!!!!! However, I shall dust off my tea pots and tea strainers and have another go. My DD always makes tea in a pot anyway, and it seems silly that she puts teabags in the pot as that is all we have to hand.

    Incidentally, Diana, in answer to your question, "loose tea" is to differentiate it from tea bags. However, I don't think we really use loose as an adjective with products other than tea, although you do use it on its own to mean by the pound and not in any kind of packaging - eg, "I nearly bought a kilo pack of onions at the supermarket but when I looked at the price per kilo, it was cheaper to buy them loose." HTH.

    Jane in Hampshire

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  18. This is a matter close to my heart. We don't use an infuser but merely a tea strainer when we pour the tea. Just on Saturday, when we visited our parents, I took over some loose leaf tea (as they only use tea bags) and made us all a lovely a cup.

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  19. Rhonda , I have been drinking tea made with loose leaves for a couple of years now and like it so much better , however I have also switched to Rooibos also known as the red tea as well as lemon grass tea , both herbal teas and so delicious ,why not give them a try.

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  20. I'm with you on the tea having used the diffusers for a long time. I have been through a tea factory in Malaysia and you are right, what goes into bags is the dust that is left after the leaves are packaged. My favourite tea is Lady Grey. I have been trying to reproduce it by drying orange and lemon peel (my own organic fruit naturally) and adding it to loose earl grey tea. It's coming close.

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  21. Linn, the larger teapot size tea infuser would work well with a piece of soap inside.

    Kate, you've reminded me to check my local organic co-op before I order online. I am pretty sure I have seen Trade Routes there. thank you.

    Sarah, with the teapot size tea infuser, you remove the tea leaves before you pour.

    Sheila, when I grow rosellas, I make my own red tea. It's delicious.

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  22. Hi Rhonda,

    I would like to know what you think of the tea once you try it. I use the Mildura tea leaves which is 'partly' Australian grown (so I believe). It's lovely tea but it costs a small fortune.

    My MIL bought me a cup that has a fitted strainer that lifts out. I use this every day, just as convenient as a tea bag, you just spoon the tea into the cup and then lift out the metal strainer (and I use the strainer in other cups too, otherwise a tea pot).

    My cup of tea is one of life's little luxuries that I enjoy every day.

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  23. I'm drinking my first cup of tea for the morning as I read your post.

    I remember having tea leaves as a youngster but the tea bags crept in there somewhere along the way. I buy mine in bulk so it will take some time to get through whats left, but when they're gone I'll make the switch back too!

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  24. I don't need to have a rethink as I used to use an infuser for one cup and a teapot when visitors came but hubby started whinging about the time it took and how fiddly it was (for him when I wasn't home) and eventually I just started buying tea bags again. I've just opened another box of tea bags so I'll start buying loose leaf tea next time, purchase some new infusers as the old ones need replacing, and turn a deaf ear to hubby dear :). Odd that organic tea comes in teabags also, sort of defeats the purpose doesn't it?
    Cheers,
    Robyn

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  25. A good pot of tea soothes the sole .Thats how i get through the day sometimes :)

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  26. Hi Rhonda,
    Did you know we have some excellent pesticide-free tea grown here in North Queensland. Look out for Daintree Tea and Nerada tea. I believe that Madura also has plantations in Northern NSW.
    Jenni

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  27. I too only drink loose leaf tea now and agree the taste is so much better. However, I have been a bit slack of late using teabags at work. I broke my small tea infuser and have not replaced it, thanks for the reminder.

    Rhonda have you heard of the Daintree Tea Company. I use their tea and really enjoy the flavour. It's a family owned business. Whilst not organic, they claim to be pesticide free and are situated in the Daintree region of our fair sunshine state. You can buy direct from the plantation (not sure if they do 1kg)or I buy mine from Woolies. Qld owned and grown, you can't get more sustainable than that . Lol I sound like an ad..

    http://www.daintreetea.com/about.htm

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  28. Hi Rhonda,
    like you I've always made my tea from leaves. However, a while ago I thought I'd but a couple of little boxes of Twinings tea bags for when I'm in a hurry. Well, I think they were $1.55 for a box of ten - that's only 20 grams of tea. This works out at a staggerring $77.50/kg!! Compare this to Dilmah Premium loose leaf tea which comes in at $16.60/kg.
    Thanks for bringing up the 'little' things, they really do add up.
    Have a wonderful day, Madeleine from Armidale

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  29. Tea is the main drink around here too. Love it. I have a wire basket inside my teapot that holds the tea leaves which are then put into the worm farm each time I make a new pot - which is quite often...vbg. Hubby prefers tea made from the pot over tea bags. He says the flavour is so much better. Me - well I don't care so long as it's tea...lol. I have a tea ball that I use when we go on holidays. It astounds the children that tea that is loose turns into a tightly packed ball of damp tea leaves when I go to empty it out. Off to make another pot and enjoy a cup in front of the fire.

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  30. I use only loose tea, and I have a number of tea pots, from a little one cup for my early morning tea, up to a big 6 cup for when friends visit. The convenience of t bags can't compare to a fresh brewed pot.

    I use locally Australian grown tea, Madura. It's not organic, but pesticide free, they do add some tea from overseas to some of their varieties, but it's all fair trade and grown along similar principles to Madura's, but I like the local basic black. It's an easy drive over the mountain road to pick some up,usually on my way to somewhere else. They'll fill my container for me now, so no extra packaging.....Nanette

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  31. You've converted me!
    I DO love tea in my teapot but only use it when I have more than one cup to make, otherwise I use teabags.
    I bury them in the garden with the kitchen scraps for the worms.
    But you're right!!!
    All that packaging!
    Sometimes you just need someone to point these things out.

    I'm off to buy a tea-ball!

    (in other news: I made a charcoal chimney from a milo tin on the week-end - I can't tell you how satisfying it was!! - having said that - I dunno why I need to buy charcoal from the shop - why don't I just use a bit of old tree? More experimenting required.)

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  32. How interesting that you would post about the very thing I've been thinking about lately. Just yesterday I pulled down my teapots and set the "everyday" teapot on top of my wooden tea cabinet as a reminder to brew a pot of tea rather than coffee in the coming days. I added "tea infusers" to my shopping list for this week earlier today, before reading your post :). I've been using tea bags lately, but like you, think that they are a waste of paper, string, packaging; and loose tea is always so much tastier.
    I plan to order a supply of organic, fair-trade teas from Mountain Rose Herbs (my favorite online source for all things herb and tea related here in the U.S.)

    Thank you for your post, it's always fun to see that someone else shares your point of view.

    Blessings from Texas,

    Catherine

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  33. Madeleine, Twinings over package the overpackaging. All those little tea envelopes, enclosing the tea bag, inside the box inside the cellophane. Eeek!

    We're currently drinking the Queensland tea.

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  34. Thanks for the reminder, I have an infuser, two actually, and have not used either for ages. Next time I will buy loose leaf tea and use my infuser again.

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  35. Hi Rhonda - well that certainly made me think. I too drink tea, several cups a day as I m anot a big coffee drinker and I had never thought about the humble tea bag before. The one that really got me was the bleaching of the little paper bag. I have a little one person tea pot at home and think I will give that renewed use and get myself a tea infuser for the times when it is just the one cup.
    Thank you for this post, and for reminding us that all the little things add up.
    Cheers Kathy

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  36. If I can convince hubby, then sure, I'm in. We prefer decaf tea and that I am sure is only in bags. But we also love rooibus tea . . I haven't found it in a leaf form yet that is affordable and not "flavoured". I'll check out your link thanks! xx

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  37. I totally agree with you about the tea, Rhonda. Even my husband was "converted" to the benefits of drinking tea when he met my family! For us morning tea is an important part of the day. The difference between tea made from a teapot and from teabags is significant in taste, but it takes very little extra effort or time. I sometimes wonder why it is that many cafes emphasise their coffee making expertise, but when it comes to tea, they assume people are happy with any standard. My confession is that I have gotten into the habit of making a teapot for the family, but sometimes using a teabag for myself, even though I don't particularly like it. After reading your post, I have decided to use a tea infuser and will take those teabags off my shopping list altogether.

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  38. We moved to just round bags a long time ago...I guess its a little better than the paper and string and staple variety.....I love a pot of tea and am sure I am the only one of my friends with a tea cosy! Just going to boil the kettle now, have a great day Rhonda...Suzanne

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  39. Rhonda,
    I think in times gone bye the thing that put off a lot of people from tea leaves was emptying the pot!
    But with a worm farm and my little empty icecream container for scraps next to the sink this is eliminated. It's so easy to empty the tea leaves into....no different than emptying the bags into the bin.
    From experience I did find that the so called paper tea bag material didn't even compost down in my worm farm...when I've emptied out a lay from the can of worms the bags were still there..Yuk..so much for only paper...I think not...
    So remember to use the little kitchen bucket trick for the leaves...and it alleviates the walk in the dark or rain to throw the leaves into the garden:)
    Norma

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  40. I totally agree Rhonda. There's nothing better than a good cup of tea, and it had better be sustainable, too. I agree with a few people that in the US a great place to get good loose tea is Mountain Rose Herbs, but Numi and Choice also sell organic, fair trade loose tea. Making sure to buy fair trade is in my mind just as important to using as little packaging as possible, since fair trade makes sure that the people growing and harvesting the tea receive a fair wage (and more).

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  41. So agree. *Real* tea for me too, in a teapot or the teaball thing.
    It taste better and to me that's what it's all about.

    Barb.

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  42. Hi Rhonda
    I agree, tea leaves are the best way to make tea. My local Coles stopped stocking Quality Tips, even though they have every Lipton tea bag, so I had to change supermarkets for this reason alone. Also good to hear about the tea balls. I haven't tried them, and I should when I am home alone.

    Thanks.

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  43. I agree completely! I got the Teavana Perfect Tea Maker (www.teavana.com) and it is so easy to clean and allows for so much space for the tea to expand. So yummy! I'll never go back to tea bags. Thanks for sharing, Rhonda!

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  44. Hi Rhonda,

    I have ordered from 'Honest to Goodness' a couple of times now and have been impressed with them. Quick postage, excellent product. As I buy in bulk, I have found their bulk prices better than my local organics shop (who H to G supplies) and, of course, the supermarket. I like that I can get locally milled flour relatively cheap through them and consider 'Honest to Goodness' a local company as I am on the NSW Central Coast!

    Regards, Bronwyn

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  45. I love the Chai Tea company from NSW - http://chai.com.au/AboutUs.html. They support fairtrade, generate their own electricity, use recycled products, organic, etc. And the tea is very nice!

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  46. I'm from the US; my husband rarely drinks hot tea, but I do in the winter and we both drink lots of iced tea year 'round. We've used loose tea (steeped, then poured through a wire mesh strainer) for many years because it just tastes better to us. We put the spent leaves into our compost.

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  47. I'd love to do this, just last week I was looking for an appropriately sturdy metal tea thingy. :)
    Any ideas where I can get one that isn't going to break five minutes later?!
    Great post, and looking forward to growing my own tea plants so that I can one day drink backyard tea!

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  48. Hello "down to Earth Rhonda"

    You always have something sensible to say!

    I've never seen the point to teabags. You still have to boil the kettle, so why not pour hot water onto tea leaves in a tea pot instead of onto a paper bag in a cup?
    I have a number of teapots, different sizes. So if it's just me having a cuppa, I use a small teapot.
    It's one of my daily pleasures. Hot tea from a cute little teapot, poured through a lovely old fashioned tea strainer into a pretty bone china cup!
    In summer I'll use a larger teapot and strain any left over tea into a jug, pop it in the fridge and make iced tea later - no waste.

    x Julie
    Newcastle
    NSW

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  49. What wonderful food for thought, Rhonda. Even though we recycle our teabags as fire starters in our kitchen stove (dried out on the plate rack first), I'm going to return to loose leaf tea. In my early married life it was all I used and I remember the lovely taste! But like ChocClare and Julie, because I stockpile, I have a goodly supply of teabags on hand, so will have to use them up first. I already have a tea infuser (for herbal teas) and a variety of teapots.
    Best wishes.
    Lyn in northern New South Wales.

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  50. Hello Rhonda,
    My country (Sri Lanka) is famous for its tea(Dilmah, Ceylonta etc) and I am also one of those people who feel out of sorts without a good, piping hot cup pf tea in the morning and in the eve. I've always made tea the oldfashioned way except for a time I was working in a hospital and doing nights and for those few months I drank green tea which came in a bag, as it was so convenient. My husband is an avid coffee drinker and for a while I tried to drink coffee in the morning too as it was easier, but gave up and now make two separate cups. Give me tea anytime! When I was in school we used to "polish/mop" the floor with used tea leaves and used coconut scrapings and my mother also used to sprinkle used tea leaves around rose bushes if I remember right.

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  51. Rhoda,

    I just started ordering a lot of our bulk food from Honest to Goodness and I just love it. You can order in large amounts, the food is clearly fresh and clean and the service was wonderful. Enjoy the cuppa(s)!

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  52. I love tea also! Coffee too, but I drink lots more tea. Here in the U.S. where I live, tea bags are much cheaper than loose tea. My mom always brewed the tea with loose tea when I was growing up, but that was before tea bags came to be. I'll be checking to see how you like the tea you are ordering. Perhaps I'll try it!

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  53. Thank you, ChocClare, for clearing that up for me! Who better to ask than a native speaker!

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  54. I only buy Australian grown tea.
    Most, if not all tea from overseas is irradiated and I prefer not to consume irradiated products willingly. So much tea is grown in Australia, so why not use it. Loose leaf is a great idea, but buying imported tea might not be the best idea.

    Janelle

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  55. I can honestly say I have never considered that before, count me in!

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  56. Thanks for this Rhonda. I have recently taken this small step. Please let us know how your tea order goes. In the morning I make my pot of tea, for me only. Later in the morning I then tip the left over contents of the pot into a saucepan, add more water and then reboil it. Then in the afternoon I make a fresh pot and I do the same again. It makes that little bit of tea go that bit further. I also use your soap and laundry liquid recipes. With the laundry liquid I leave out the borax. I love both these recipes. Thank you Rhonda for all your ideas. xxoo

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  57. Way back in the dark ages before hubby and I were married, he wanted to impress me and bought loose tea for me that was similar to Constant Comment. He bought a pound of it. That is a LOT of tea, and because I usually drink my tea with milk, that tea didn't work well for that (orange flavoring) and we carted that pound of tea around through several moves for years. Eventually we got rid of it in the compost heap. To the reader that commented on loose tea in small packages - you need to find someone who sells it in bulk, and the price will generally be quite good.

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  58. You are spot on as usual. I am going shopping tomorrow and will look for organic loose tea at my local health store. Another thing i've been thinking about is those tiny little spice & herb jars at the supermarket. We buy good quality bulk spices at a middle eastern grocery store (bentleigh, vic) it is much cheaper and i can reuse the plastic containers. Julia

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  59. Hi Rhonda,
    I must say I didn't think about this before. We only drink tea together in the evening and use one or two teabags a day. I drink more tea a day, herbtea and also in bags. I am going to buy a tea egg, especially for my herb tea. I will be cutting down on teabags this way. I can't convince my husband for the evening tea, because he says there's always tea leaves in your cup. I don't mind, but he does, so I'm afraid that is a lost battle, but I'm going to use an egg during the day ; )
    For drinking coffee we use a filter that doesn't use paper filters. No paper waste there and we drink more coffee than tea, so we do cut down in that department ; )
    Have a wonderful day.
    Hugs from The Netherlands.

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  60. Bless you, Rhonda, for sharing the joys of loose leaf tea. I've used it for years, and the taste is so much superior, too. I buy Harney and Sons here in the states, and it's so economical to buy by the pound. Makes great ice tea for summer, too!

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  61. Many teabags in the UK are not compostable - the tea is but not the bag - they contain some plastic to stop them breaking apart as easily (apparently). I used to compost the entire teabag, only to find lots of "webs" - the remains of the bag in my compost when I emptied the bins. Now I use teabags but we collect them in a pot each day and I split the bags open - the bags into the bin, the tea into the compost tub. I too prefer fresh tea and will make a teapot if I want more than one cup but I think I will join you with the tea strainer balls - wouldn't take me any more time considering the faff I already do!

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  62. I have an infuser like yours and had a cup with a piece that fit on the rim to hold the loose tea too. I broke the cup but looked around the cupboard and found another cup it will fit into so still use it. It is harder here to find the loose black tea. As was mentioned you can find the flavored teas loose. I will note on my shopping list to check again to see if any of the stores carry the loose now. Thank you for reminding me. We use decaf tea now as the doctor recommended for us. Sarah

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  63. I am currently enjoying a delicious Spiced Rooibos loose tea blend. I make it up in our coffee plunger and it's delicious. Any leftover tea then becomes iced tea.

    Whenever my children and I feel the need for comfort of any sort, we brew up some tea and sit and chat. Tea makes it all better, most times.

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  64. I always make tea using loose tea, a teapot and a tea strainer and we drink a LOT of tea in our house. When my Sister-in-law visits she always remarks that she 'doesn't have time to mess around like that'! I don't mind taking a few extra minutes to make a much nicer cup of tea. I am so glad you feel the same way Rhonda.
    Best wishes
    Debbie

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  65. Well, tea and me do not get along too well...though I LOVE especially iced tea. So we have gone to the herbal kinds...which I have not seen in loose form. Maybe someone else knows where to find that here in the USA.

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  66. We do drink a lot of tea...I guess I never thought about the staples and all the waste. We do have a tea ball thingie and some loose tea - maybe we'll have to start using that more!

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  67. I use loose tea in a teapot and just use a strainer when pouring it; like my parents did It stays hotter that way and although those little tea balls are nice I think they are an unnecessary step. I compost the leaves afterwards.

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  68. We are big tea drinkers around here, and we use loose leaf teas whenever possible. The local Chinese grocery store has a good selection of loose teas at good prices. A tea steeping mug (with a removable infuser) is my favorite convenience for tea drinking, while my husband uses a glass teapot with a removable infuser.

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  69. I already did Rhonda, years ago! ;o)

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  70. Occasionally, for whatever reason, I just need the extra nudge to get going. Loose tea is one of those things.

    I've been considering it for a long, long time for all the reasons you listed above. I even have infusers and have used them before with success.

    I don't know why I haven't outright switched to just loose, but I will starting today. No more buying tea in bags. Loose all the way.

    Nudge well taken. Thanks.

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  71. I am in,too! I am a big tea drinker and will admit to using the compostable, unbleached teabags that I fill with loose tea.I am almost out and was going to reorder more,but am now going to get a metal "teaball" to use from now on.Thanks for giving me a new way to look at it.Another point of view is always nice and can show you something you may not thought of. Darlene

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  72. Rhonda, I enjoy reading your blog each day and especially appreciate when you share about items that you find particularly worth while in your home. I'm in my early 30's with 2 small children and put a lot of thought into what I buy/bring into our home. I try hard to live frugally but want products we buy to benefit our family and be of good quality. Thank you for sharing about tea infusers and other such items. Andrea

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  73. Hi there,

    My partner and I drink A LOT of tea and this post got me thinking, specifically about this....

    http://design.architecture.sk/2010/02/01/teasub-by-ototo/

    (!!)

    thanks for the Tuesday morning inspiration!

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  74. Last night I shared your post with my husband. Thankyou for your thoughts on this topic, it gave us another little tip for our simple living. I already have a teapot and strainer - I was just holding off buying the tea! I am also off in search of a ball strainer for single cups when I am out shopping later. Thanks Rhonda for another great post :)

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  75. I try to buy Australian grown tea, but it's really hard to find. I know that it's Fairtrade that way, even if it isn't certified. I think Daintree tea is the only brand that I've found (in loose leaf, which is the only thing that we drink too) that doesn't also contain "imported ingredients". It's a really fine leaf though which is only moderate quality. I'd be interested in finding an online source of Australian tea, but I haven't got around to searching for myself! I've changed the way that I view tea, coffee and chocolate now that I strive to buy fairtrade products. Cutting back to just one cup of tea in the morning, but a high quality, ethical cup is far more enjoyable than countless cups of dubious origin. Likewise I feel better paying more for fairtrade, quality chocolate, and enjoying a few squares as an ethical treat rather than scoffing 200g of unethical products.

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  76. Thanks for this post. Though I'd stopped buying serviettes and paper towels years ago, I had never really thought about tea bags in the same category. So, this current packet will be my last. Let us know how you go with the bulk tea.

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  78. Hi Rhonda, What a lovely post. I will join you in using loose leaf tea!
    I have been buying from Honest to Goodness each month for over a yeaer now through a co-op. Their products are amazing, so fresh & very yummy. They don't fumigate their warehouse which is great & they have a big sign in their warehouse stating that they reuse & recycle almost everything that comes through their doors. On top of that they are just really lovely people. I hope you enjoy dealing with them.

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  79. We quit buying tea bags a little over a year ago. My husband drinks iced tea throughout the day and we sit down to a cup of hot tea to end the day. We enjoy tea so much more since we got away from tea bags.

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  80. Wow! I grew up in a tea-drinking family (Irish mom, Scottish mom-in-law). I never gave tea bags a second thought. The funny thing - there are quick coffee bags available and I wouldn't use them because of the waste; I just didn't transfer that thinking to tea.
    Thanks to the people who mentioned the tea place here in the U.S., I will be trying them.
    Thanks for shaking up my thinking, Rhonda!

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  81. This is a very convicting post, Rhonda. Tea drinking is all about the flavour, whether caffeinated or herbal, I think. And I think I've intuitively known that tea leaves make for a better cup of tea, but like many things, have been 'brain-washed' by the media to buying what the advertisers think I need (eg tea bags). With loose tea being more environmentally sound, it really makes more sense to ditch the tea bags (I have always bought 'no name' brand with no string & staple.......and probably no flavour either!)

    For some unknown reason, I gave away my infuser to a charity fundraiser sale if I remember right, so now I think I will look into buying either a new one or a little strainer and try loose tea. I have several tea pots and was "converted" 26 yrs ago to the value of tea steeped in a pot when I, as an American, married into a South African family with a British MIL. Wherever my in-laws were in the world, they would always stop for 10 am and 4 pm "tea time".....very civilised!

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  82. Hi Rhonda...sad to admit I have never thought of the waste associated with tea bags! I do drink 'leaf tea' too. But we go through countless tea bags each week as we drink several cups throughout our day too. This will be another saving for us!

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  83. As I used up my last tea-bag with breakfast this morning, this seems like an excellent time to join forces with you and return to old-fashioned loose tea. I'm willing to give it a go.

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  84. I never really switched to tea bags, thank goodness, but I have tried a variety of devices for my loose tea. My little cast iron Japanese teapot is my favourite. I remember being quite shocked when I came home to Australia to visit my mother and she was using tea bags! She had never done that in my childhood, and had always told my children that "we never used bags in Australia" :)

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  85. I thought this went along nicely with your cuppa tea post http://homesteadrevival.blogspot.com/2011/08/cutting-grid-apron-strings-one.html

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  86. Thanks for the tip Rhonda. Just got back from a trip to Hobart, where I bought myself a tea infuser and some loose tea. Am now sitting in front of my fire with a beautiful, hot, strong cup of tea. I can't believe the difference in taste! I will never go back to teabags.

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  87. Hi Rhonda,

    Honest to Goodness is great, my fruit and veg co-op have a group that organises a bulk dry goods co-op a few times a year, and Honest to Goodness is one of the 2 suppliers, and I have never had any problems with their product. Great idea with the tea, didn't think about the bags.
    Bobbie. Central Coast NSW

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  88. I'm a loose leaf tea drinker too. Originally for the flavour difference but the waste factor occured to me in recent years. I have a metal tea ball on a chain. That's my favourite for one cup. I have the other mesh infuser style too. Plus a teapot with a mesh insert rather than using a strainer. Traditional teapots. And have also used a coffee plunger in the past. Although I am actually mainly a coffee drinker!

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  89. Hi Rhonda,
    Yes! We're daily drinkers of loose leaf black tea and herbal tea, and love our teapots.
    We buy our black tea through our (organic, fair trade) co-op, but it looks like you can buy direct from the same supplier easily, as an individual. Same prices even! Our supplier is People For Fair Trade, and 3kg of organic certified fair trade black tea is $56, with $6.50 postage. I was initially concerned about buying that much, but we were told that tea keeps for ages, and certainly the approx. 6mo that 3kg lasts us for is no problem. We don't even refrigerate it, or keep it sealed air tight (I withdraw from the bag in the box it comes in, then fold it all back down carefully and sit a saucer on it to keep it down) - but we are in Melbourne ;)
    Donna

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  90. On tea:
    I didn't have tea infusers. I kind of waited and thought I'd get some eventually. Well, my mother passed away a few months ago, and my father was going through things in his kitchen and set aside a bag of items that he didn't need. In that bag were 3 tea infusers. So I snapped them up, and now am happily using the same tea infusers that my mother used.
    This makes me happy several ways. The sentimental reason is I can remember Mom every time I drink a cup. I can think of the frugality of "finding" the infusers at no cost to me. And I can think of the environment as I am using the infusers and saving all those trees, strings, and staples.
    But I think the most interesting thing about all of this was the timing. Right as I was thinking about purchasing the infusers, Dad was there thinking that I might be able to use them...
    Thanks Rhonda for the post.

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  91. Hi Rhonda,

    Due to health issues I searched the web for lifestyle changes and came across 'Down To Earth' after a few weeks of reading lots of past blogs I know I am home.

    I too love pot tea but never knew how to make it properly (Mum never drank it as the nurses would nearly drown her in it on a daily basis when a child in a head-to-toe plaster cast from polio), my only surviving grandparent lived 10 hours away and my Aunt died before I was old enough to learn so I searched your site as I knew I would find what I was looking for - thank you.

    I have teapots but never owned a tea cosy as I never found one I liked (and didn't really think they were necessary), then I saw the one in the picture above. Did you make this and if so where could I find a pattern for it? I would be happy to have that on my bench top forever!!

    Looking forward to learning so much more.

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