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?

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