How Did Plastic End Up in Your Tea? And More Importantly, Why?!
As you put the tea bag in your favourite mug, have you ever wondered – what is in your tea bag? Through research, we found some pretty interesting and shocking facts about our standard tea bags.
We actually found, that the tea packaging/box doesn’t tell you much. Manufacturers don’t always label what’s inside the tea bag (although it may seem obvious) or what the actual tea bag is made out of.
You don’t get the full picture, because most likely, there is something they don’t want you to know. Which is why it’s so important to question what you eat, drink and the products that you use.
This post is purely about tea though, so get yourself a nice cuppa you lovely lot…
This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.
Is There Plastic in Your Tea Bag?
Here I was, a tea lover peacefully drinking my favourite teas, all the herbal and fruity infusions. My kitchen cupboard is always full of tea. Little did I know, that my cupboard was actually also full of plastic. How the heck did plastic get in my tea? Until you do your research, there is little that you know about what goes into your trolley and your body.
In 2019, a big revelation came into light, that most tea bags, including big brand names and the supermarket brand tea bags, contain plastic. To be more specific, polypropylene which is a plait that seals the tea bag together, stopping the loose tea getting into your beverage.
When you put a tea bag into your hot water, according to a Canadian study at McGill University, it releases around 11.6 billion microplastics into your beverage.
Just to add to the problem, some tea bags are coated with epichlorohydrin – a carcinogen activated in hot water.
As a great tea enthusiast, I was shocked, upset and slightly annoyed. I thought tea was supposed to be good for you? Herbal teas like nettle, chamomile, they’re all healthy, aren’t they?! Well, so I thought. Drinking micro plastics each day, ain’t so healthy, so you can see my frustration *quickly places an order for loose tea…*
Why Are They Putting Plastic In Our Tea Bags?
Like with anything, it’s money and convenience related. Plastic is easy to produce, cheap and widely available. There are 2 types of plastic that are commonly used in your standard tea bags:
Plastic glue that is used to seal the teabag together
The actual tea bag is made out of plastic, these are normally the triangular shaped tea bags (you know, the fancy teas)
We were getting rid of all the plastic from our lives, from beauty to cleaning products but we didn’t think to question tea bags. Turns out we were looking in all the wrong places, that we should have been looking straight into our tea. With this new knowledge of plastic in your tea, your first thought might be (just like mine), I’m not going to buy tea bags anymore. Naturally your second thought might be – how much of an inconvenience would loose tea be?
That is of course just standard budget type tea bags. If you were to spend a little bit more and purchase tea bags from producers who make tea out of natural materials such as cornstarch, you would be able to drink tea without worrying about whether it’s releasing plastic into your tea. Tea Pigs for example use tea bags made from corn starch, while they use heat to stick the tea bag together, so no glue.
The issue of plastic in our tea bags is also explored in BBC One’s War on Plastic: The Fight Goes On, which we highly recommend you watch if you’re interested to know what big companies are doing to help our planet. Including tea bags. They actually tested tea bags, and found that Clippers, PG Tips and Pukka tea bags didn’t contain plastic and were dissolved. Which means they are ok to put in your compostable bin.
How To Easily Drink Loose Tea?
It may seem like a lot of hassle. You don’t want to be swallowing tea leaves and spitting out twigs while sipping on your beverage. I was pleased to find alternatives to tea bags.
There are tea strainers, reusable tea bags, infusers, glass tea sticks, teapots with strainers inside them and you can even use the glass Cafetière to make a bigger batch of loose leaf tea. There are options out there, whether you are on a budget or you can afford to splurge. I recently purchased the glass tea stick and it was actually one of the best things I’ve invested in (they’re £12 each).
I have to say, it’s pretty damn good! It’s a little tricky trying to get the loose tea into the glass tube, but once you get the hang of it, it’s definitely something worth investing in. The handle is wooden, while the tube itself is glass – so you can be sure there is no plastic in your cuppa.
Another option is the Cafetiere.
As a big fan of coffee, we already had the Cafetière in our kitchen cupboard, and I thought why not use that for your tea as well? The principle is the same, to keep the tea/coffee bits at the bottom of the pot and away from your beverage.
If like us, you already have one of those, you don’t need to invest in any expensive gear to drink loose tea. Even the individual strainers are quite cheap, ranging from £2-£5 if you don’t mind spending that much!
You can also purchase a muslin bag tea bag, which allows you to put the loose tea in your cup, and brew it how you normally would, and then simply throw away the tea.
The main point is that loose tea should be on your next shopping list. It’s not even that expensive, for example, Asda Black loose tea was £1.28 for a generous bag of 250g. The quality however wasn’t great so I wouldn’t recommend it. It is the same stuff they put in the tea bags, ground up, leftover tea bits.
We would however recommend investing a little bit more into loose tea, if you really want to taste yummy tea that is.
We tried some lovely loose teas including black, fruity and herbal. To be more specific black tea with violet and rose, chamomile with mint and some Assam black tea. They taste SO much different to tea bag tea, there really isn’t a comparison and I doubt I’ll ever go back to tea bags.
They taste so fresh, it really feels like you are drinking a fruity or a herbal tea. Having tasted the real tea, I wondered what they actually put in the tea bags – how much of real tea, is in a tea bag?
What’s Really In Your Tea Bag?
It actually turns out manufacturers use low grade tea leafs, grounded, to produce the tea in tea bags. They are predominantly dust and fannings from broken down tea leaves – which basically means, you are drinking leftover tea bits.
They’re not bad for you, they are still safe to drink. It’s just a really low quality of tea and there really isn’t much tea goodness in that tea bag.
Why Are Tea Bags White?
Tea bags are white because they are actually bleached to get them to a more appealing white colour. They look more aesthetic and more appealing to the customer, and thus increasing sales. If you knew they were bleaching your tea bags before, would you still use them?
In Our Humble Conclusion
Loose tea honestly tastes so fresh and what real tea should taste like. It might actually make you wonder why you drank bagged tea in the first place. The taste is completely different. If you’d like to try them before you commit to big batches of tea that you might never use again, you can order samples or smaller portions. We prepared a specially and lovingly curated list of some of scrumptious teas we tried and would suggest sampling or starting with, right here. (affiliate link).
If the loose tea doesn’t appeal to you due to the more hassle in the preparation of your tea, then we would suggest trying out tea bags free from plastic, like Tea Pigs or Pukka.
We’ll leave it completely up to you, like with every decision, no one else can make that for you. We present the facts and it’s down to you now, you’re in charge (scary, we know!). but also exciting, and if it were up to us – we’d suggest switching to real, loose tea. How tea was originally intended and drank by our ancestors.
If you would be willing to share this post, we would really appreciate your kindness and support ?