The Trouble with Tea….

I will start by confessing that I am a big of a tea addict. I am not quite as bad as my dear old mum was-she couldn’t even face breakfast without having had at least 2 cups, and was never more than half an hour away from her next one! But I am partial to a cuppa.
I’ll pretty much drink any tea, but my tea of choice os the classic, Earl Grey.

Now you wouldn’t think that tea would be that complicated would you?
Well it is.
As well as all the arguments about the ‘right’ way to make tea: teapot or not; bag or loose; boiling water or 90C; milk 1st etc etc, when you are trying to make the ‘right’ choices ethically, it get a whole lot harder.

I found out recently that tea bags actually contain tiny amounts of plastic, and that although I’ve been happily chucking them in the compost heap, they won’t even actually completely degrade, and will leave behind a little plastic ghost. And I’d never really thought about the fact that tea page are made from paper, and that that’s a WHOLE lot of paper…
So I decided to go Old School, and start using loose leaf tea.
I had recently discovered Williamson Tea, in bag form, and it seemed to tick all the boxes in terms of sustainability-they use sustainable farming methods, and ensure that the workers on their farms are paid a living wage, and treated fairly, and the tea is Rainforest Alliance certified. Happy Days.
Hubby did a spot of research online and discovered that we could buy Williamson tea loose leaf, and if we ordered a minimum amount (it is quite a bit-should last me a year…!) we could get it without paying P&P. More Happy Days.

But then……
When it arrived, I opened it with great excitement, to find lots of little over-packaged canisters

Williamson Tea1And to compound it, they each have a plastic seal inside:
Williamson Tea2

And I am sure that Williamson are not alone in the over-packaging of their tea.
I got all excited when I saw some tea from Bluebird Tea at a Festival recently. I was even more excited when it looked like it was being dispensed in paper bags. But my excitement was short-lived as I realised that the paper bags were plastic lined with zip-loc type closures.

I get that it’s to make sure the tea stays fresh, and that we get the optimal storage conditions for the tea, but we have a perfectly good, air-tight, REUSABLE tea caddy thing at home already 😦
Whatever happened to buying loose tea in paper bags by the lb?
(Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question!)
(Actually, do answer that if you know where I can get some…!)


23 thoughts on “The Trouble with Tea….

  1. The best people for loose tea are Wilkinsons of Norwich (nothing to do with the big Wilkinsons firm) they provide loose leaf tea in paper packages or plastic bags which I think are recyclable. They also do the best coffee beans I have ever tasted. and, more to the point the best Earl Grey and Russian Caravan I have ever tasted. Well worth a try 🙂

  2. I would love to find a plastic free English Breakfast loose tea. In the late 60s and early 70s I worked for Brooke Bond at that time tea was brought into Britain in large wooden tea chests which were lined with foil and then packaged into cardboard boxes with no inner plastic liner. Oh to go back to those days.If you can find no plastic tea please let us know.

    • Hi Chris
      Judith has left a comment that Sainsbury’s tea is Fairtrade and loose leaf-I haven’t been in yet to check out whether there is any plastic wrapper around the box or not, but might be worth a look!
      The tea chests sound wonderful 🙂

  3. I am amazed to learn that tea bag paper includes plastic! Who would have thought it? I wonder if our council know that as tea bags are recommended for inclusion in our green waste wheelie bin?!

  4. Hello
    Thanks for a great post, I’m with you on thinking tea is great! I think you sometimes come to Bath- have you tried the Tea House Emporium or Guillard’s in the Guildhall. No idea of the ethical credentials of their tea but i think you’d be able to buy it loose. Good luck! I did by some Sainsbury’s loose leaf (though my box has a foil wrapper) but I find that I’m a bit rubbish about getting the pot out and use bags instead. Properly brewed tea is lovely though and I have resolved to use the pot tomorrow!

  5. Ah, the tea dilemma! I feel your pain! I can buy loose leaf in bulk for me (have you looked to see if there is a Whittards near you? They sell loose leaf tea loose!) but I’m having a party in a couple of months and don’t know what to do for serving tea to the masses? Teabags seem obvious, but plastic-free, packaging-free ones? Really not sure where to find those!

  6. I like to buy my tea from Cardew’s, in Oxford: They do lots of interesting blends too, and it always comes in paper bags 🙂 When I’m up north with the family the local tea merchant is Bolland’s (, also very good. Feels so much better to be bypassing all the mass-produced, over-packaged supermarket stuff, and to be buying from independent shops too! Plus tea from a proper merchant just tastes better.

  7. You may be interested to know that we have just planted our first tea plants here on the island of Mull, Scotland. Will be next year before we can pick the leaves. The Wee Tea Company is already producing tea and can be found on fb. Only 10% is as yet Scottish but with more people planting hopefully the percentage will increase. And we’ll certainly be planning to package sustainably!

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