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Time for tea

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It was my birthday last month and I was fortunate to be gifted a product I have been wanting for a while to help eliminate a source of plastic waste.

It was an individual tea infuser – this is a simple product that comes in a range of styles and prices starting from as little as $5.
Everyone agrees loose-leaf tea tastes better, but it is also more time consuming to prepare and if you are just making yourself a cup the effort does not seem worth it! Enter the individual tea infuser! A little dome-shaped contraption you fill with loose-leaf tea, pop in the cup and use as you would a tea bag — except instead of it heading to the bin when you are done the leaves can be dumped in the garden and the infuser washed and reused.

Tea bags are a little deceptive as they look and feel like they are a paper-based product, so many people assume they are and can be composted etc. The way tea bags are manufactured depends on the brand, but studies have shown that approximately 70-80% of bags are made from compostable paper and the remaining 20-30% contain polypropylene – used to heat seal the bags.

The Nerada tea brand website states, “Our filter paper is manufactured using a blend of high-quality manila hemp, which does contain a tiny percentage (less than 2%) of food-grade synthetic fibres.

“Nerada teabags are compostable when added to a normal garden compost heap. The natural fibres of the filter paper decompose at a natural pace, while the tiny amount (less than 2%) of synthetic fibres decompose at a slower rate than their natural counterparts.”

Premium brands, such as Pukka, offer completely biodegradable tea bags. According to their website, “Our tea bag paper is made of a special blend of natural abaca (a type of banana) and plant cellulose fibres. Our supply of tea bag paper is also unbleached. They are staple-free and 100% biodegradable and/or recyclable. The tea bag strings are made from 100% organic, non-GMO, un-bleached cotton.”

I was impressed at the transparency and level of detail offered on these company’s websites, so if you are not quite ready to give up the tea bag perhaps do a little research to determine what is a better brand for you. Remember to check the type of bag too, as some ranges differ within the same brand. For example, the Twining’s pyramid tea bag range is listed as fully biodegradable, however their string-and-tag range contains plastic.

An individual tea infuser can also be used with herbal teas and cool water in a drink bottle, an alternative to the cold water infusion bag craze that kicked off last summer. The details of what those bags are made out of is sketchy, which is never a good sign! I am still astounded when brands seem to develop more ways to encourage us to buy plastic, not less. Maybe just pop a few slices of lemon in your drink bottle if you would like a flavour hit in your water this summer.