Do you like tea? If so, do you ever worry about the plastic in tea bags?
Most conventional tea bags contain plastic, and many people are concerned about the potential health risks associated with ingesting plastic with every cuppa.
In this article, I’ll let you know which tea bags do not contain plastic and discuss why plastic is even in tea bags in the first place.
I’ll also talk you through some of my favorite alternatives to plastic-ladened tea bags.
So, pop the kettle on, sit back, and let me help you discover a more sustainable plastic-free brew.
During the research for this article, I was staggered to discover just how many tea brands still use plastic in their tea bags.
However, before I discuss plastic and plastic-free tea bags in detail, I’m going to cut to the chase and reveal my favorite alternative to tea bags…loose leaf tea!
It’s as easy as that. The best way to avoid the potential of plastic potentially leaching into your tea is to use loose leaf tea and a stainless steel tea infuser.
Loose leaf tea also removes the issue of plastic tea bag waste in landfill. Once your tea has brewed, simply toss the spent leaves onto your compost heap.
I was born in the UK, so tea is in my blood. My family back in Wales drinks gallons of it every day. And I can often get through around ten cups a day when writing and researching articles.
My absolute favorite is green tea, but I’ll drink just about any variant!
Here is a list of the loose leaf teas currently rocking my world.
They Say: Keep these natural remedies ready for cold & flu season.
We Say: The Firebelly Tea Cold War trio is the Miller family’s go-to remedy for minor coughs and sneezes. They work wonders and taste great.
You get three varieties in the sampler pack:
As well as making kick-ass tea, Firebelly Tea is also fully committed to sustainability. All its loose leaf tea comes in 100% compostable resealable bags, and the outer display box is recyclable.
Free U.S. shipping is available on all orders over $49. And you can save a further 10% by setting up a regular subscription order.
They Say: Premium ground Tencha tea leaves from Japan are combined with coconut, turmeric, and chai spices. Add in Ashwagandha root for a calming effect, and get ready for a truly delectable experience! Each tea blend starts with organically grown herbs sourced from local farmers in the Pacific Northwest and select international partners with safe and fair labor practices.
We Say: This is a super sustainability partnership. High-quality Flying Bird Botanicals tea, sold by Earth Hero (one of my all-time favorite zero-waste stores).
The Flying Bird Botanicals Golden Coconut Chai Matcha Tea is a luxurious caffeine-free treat you can enjoy any time of the day. Although I enjoy having caffeine hits during the morning, so usually save this beauty for the afternoon or evening.
This is a delicate tea that you can spoil if the water is too hot, so take care. In fact, it can be served both hot and cold:
When mixing matcha, I find you get the best results with a bamboo matcha whisk.
Earth Hero is a Certified B Corporation, a member of 1% For The Planet, and Climate Neutral Certified. They thoroughly research every product they sell to ensure it meets their strict sustainability criteria.
Earth Hero will ship this tea to you in plastic-free packaging (shipping is free for all U.S. orders over $60).
They Say: Get a mix of 5 of our BEST SELLER Handcrafted Tea Blends + Stainless Steel 2" Tea Infuser. Lucid Dreaming Blend (Decaf) 1.40oz. Mood Balancing Blend (Decaf) 1.0oz. Worry Not Blend (Decaf) 1.0oz. Peace of Mind (Caffeinated) 1.40oz. Empath Goddess (Decaf) 1.0oz.
We Say: I can’t go much further into an article about artisan plastic-free tea brands and online zero-waste stores without mentioning Etsy.
There are so many options available to you on the Etsy platform. A search for ’loose-leaf tea’ throws up almost 21,000 results!
My current favorite Etsy tea supplier is Loveyenergy, based in Clipper Mills, California.
The wide selection can be a bit intimidating initially, so I recommend starting with the starter kit to get a feel for what you like and don’t like. And, at 21 bucks for almost 6oz of quality tea (and an infuser thrown in the mix), it’s a reasonable price!
This starter kit is shipping for free in the U.S., and Etsy will offset the carbon emissions from the shipping and packaging. NICE!
They Say: With more caffeine than most other green teas, our organic Gunpowder Green Tea is a potent and healthy way to start the day. The way our gunpowder green tea leaves are rolled into long pellets preserves their freshness and flavor for a tastier brew. FGO sells certified organic, loose leaf gunpowder green tea from China in 4oz and 16oz bags.
We Say: This is my daily staple drink. I usually get through five cups between 8 am and midday before moving on to less caffeinated options.
If you’re looking for an affordable, healthy, and delicious green tea, then FGO Organic Gunpowder Green Loose Leaf Tea is the one for you!
It really is a lovely green tea at an excellent price.
This green tea is also part of Amazon’s Climate Pledge Friendly scheme.
Healthy, organic, great price, sustainable…what’s not to love?!
They Say: High Garden Tea is a woman-owned company that strives to create products that work in harmony with the natural world. Each tea is locally grown or ethically wildcrafted in Tennessee and hand-picked by a trained herbalist. As well as making incredibly herbal products, High Garden Tea also offers community outreach programs, ensures their employees are being paid above a living wage, and donates 2% of their profits to wildlife and land conservation nonprofits.
We Say: Sun & Swell is another of my go-to zero-waste retailers. I love their pantry staples…including this refreshing peppermint loose leaf tea.
This is one of my favorite early evening teas. It’s also fantastic after dinner as I find the peppermint helps with the digestion of my food.
This tea is shipped to you in 100% compostable packaging. If you don’t have a compost heap at home, you can send the empty packaging back to Sun & Swell, and they will compost it for you.
Free U.S. shipping is available on all orders over $60.
Plastic is used in tea bags for a variety of reasons. The two main ones are:
There are two primary problems with adding plastic to tea bags:
One popular material for plastic-free teabags is corn starch treated to create poly-lactic acid (PLA).
Corn starch PLA has properties similar to plastic and can be spun into fibers to make tea bags.
Paper is another viable option for plastic-free teabags. They’re usually made from a type of paper known as filter paper, also used in coffee filters.
Paper tea bags are usually heat-sealed using a food-safe adhesive or bioplastic. This helps to prevent the tea leaves from escaping during brewing.
Silk tea bags are another option, although they’re not strictly plastic-free as they usually have a small amount of plastic in the form of a drawstring.
You can reuse silk tea bags multiple times, making them more sustainable than disposable paper or corn starch bags.
Abaca is a type of fiber that comes from the leaves of a relative of the banana tree family. It’s often used to make rope and twine.
Abaca tea bags are starting to gain popularity in plastic-free teabags due to their environmental credentials. They’re biodegradable, compostable, and tree-free.
Cotton tea bags are another option. They’re usually made from unbleached organic cotton, are free from dyes and chemicals, and can be reused multiple times.
If you don’t feel like switching to loose leaf tea, there are some top brands that sell tea bags that do not contain plastic.
Here are some of my favorite plastic-free tea bags.
Pukka Herbs only sell plastic-free tea bags. They use organic string in place of the traditional staples or polypropylene.
I have one cup of Pukka Cleanse every morning before taking Millie (our lovely loyal labrador) out for a walk.
I love the aniseed taste the fennel gives, and I feel refreshed and ready for the day after drinking this organic tea.
PIQUE has taken an innovative approach to eliminating plastic from tea bags…they’ve done away with them altogether!
PIQUE tea crystals work in the same way as instant coffee granules. Simply add water, stir, and enjoy.
Their Organic Jasmine Green Tea Crystals make a super smooth green tea packed with polyphenols to support radiant skin, provide calm, sustained energy, and support healthy aging.
Tea bags come in various shapes:
The type of tea bag you use will depend on your personal preference.
Some people prefer pyramid-shaped tea bags because they believe the leaves have more room to move, giving the tea a better flavor.
Others prefer flat tea bags because they take up less space and are easier to store.
Biodegradable and compostable are terms that are often confused and misused.
My colleague Arabella clears up the confusion in her excellent What does Biodegradable Mean? An Easy 5 Minute Guide article.
Only ever boil the amount of water you need for the amount of tea you’re making.
This saves electricity and water. It also means your tea will taste nicer (fresh water is better for tea than hot water that has been boiled and then cooled multiple times).
We consumed over 6.60 billion kilograms of tea worldwide in 2021.
Green tea is renowned for its health benefits and has been consumed for centuries in Asia. The primary antioxidants in green tea are catechins, of which epigallocatechin-gallate (EGCG) is the most abundant.
Green tea has been shown to improve blood sugar control in diabetes, lower cholesterol levels and protect against cognitive decline.
If polypropylene (the most common tea bag plastic) has been used, then the packaging will be marked with a recycle number 5.
Arabella covers this in more detail in her What do the 7 Plastic Recycling Symbols Mean? article.
There are many different types of tea, but the four main categories are black, green, oolong, and white.
Black and green teas are the most widely consumed, while oolong and white teas are less common. Herbal teas are made from various plant materials and do not contain any tea leaves.
Tea should be stored in a cool, dark place to prevent it from going stale.
Storing tea in the refrigerator is not recommended as the temperature and humidity can cause the tea to go moldy. An airtight container will help keep your tea fresh for longer.
Tests by ACS Publications found that brewing a single plastic tea bag at 95°C releases approximately 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics.
This statistic alone should make you want to switch to either plastic-free tea bags or loose leaf tea.
Not to mention the other benefits of making the switch, like being kinder to the environment and saving money in the long run (when bulk buying loose leaf tea).
I hope this article has helped you find a plastic-free tea bag option that suits your needs.
Right...I’m off to pop the kettle on!
Where do you buy your plastic-free tea bags? Have I missed your favorite brand?
Do you already purchase loose leaf tea? Are you happy with what your favorite tea bags are made of? Drop me a line and let me know.