There's WHAT in my tea?
I have a confession. My mom and I have a serious problem: we are compulsive tea buyers. This shopping phenomenon started when I was young and has grown over the years. I remember trying red tea for the first time at a Chinese restaurant in the city and we couldn't get enough. It took us ages to find it in the stores, but when we did, we stocked up. And, when the tea catalogue arrived, we couldn't help ourselves. The flavors, descriptions, and, of course, the health benefits, tempted us so. We've always been suckers for any and all teas...well, until now. What's the worst news a compulsive tea buyer who also lives a low waste lifestyle can hear? Tea contains plastic. WHAT? I know. I was as shocked as you are. Tea bags contain polypropylene, a form of plastic that helps the bag keep its shape in the hot water. Even though there is only a small amount of plastic in each tea bag, over half of all Americans drink tea daily. In 2017, Americans consumed 84 billion servings of tea. That's a lot of tea...and adds up to be a lot of plastic. That plastic contaminates composts (tea leaves are compostable, but the plastic bags are not) or ends up in landfills.
So, how do compulsive tea buyers deal with this harsh reality? We buy teapigs! I fell in love with teapigs' Licorice & Peppermint tea a few months ago. But, when I learned that triangle tea bags are the most likely to have plastic in them, my heart sank (as teapigs tea is in a triangular shaped bag). FORTUNATELY, I read the packaging and researched the company. To my pleasant surprise, teapigs not only has biodegradable "tea temples" to house the tea, but it also is committed to sustainability, fair labor practices, and the HIGHEST quality tea. Win, win, win.
I reached out to teapigs to learn more and asked Louise, teapigs' co-founder and tea taster, a few questions. Check out the Q&A below. Also, use the code AbbysFoodCourt20 for 20% off your purchase (code valid until midnight August 12th)!
1. Let’s start off by talking about the quality and health benefits of tea! Why is it important to have tea made from whole tea leaves?
The simple answer is taste. Whole teas, herbals, fruits and spices are little bursts of flavour and make the best tea you can get.
2. What is REAL TEA? And, how can we distinguish between good and bad quality teas? Is there a certain taste (or lack thereof)?
For us real tea is whole tea leaves, berries, herbs, flowers, and spices to maintain every drop of flavour. It takes more time to infuse than the dusty stuff because it has less surface area, but it’s worth the wait, which is only about 3-5 minutes.
3. Does REAL TEA have more health supportive properties?
Teas are known for their health boosting properties like polyphenols which are also found in red wine and cocoa. Herbal teas have different health properties, chamomile to send you to sleep, peppermint to aid your digestion etc. We have recently released a feel good range which has very specific health properties – energy, detox, relaxation.
4. Where is the teapigs tea sourced from and why is the source the secret to its high quality?
We source all our teas from sustainable estates around the world, certified by the Ethical tea partnership / Rainforest Alliance. Different teas come from different regions. One estate which is very important to us is the Pfunda tea estate in Rwanda. This estate produces a quality tea, the climate is ideal for growing tea, lots of sunshine and periods of heavy rain.
5. I love that your ethos is “no airs, no graces, just fine tea.” How does this ethos effect the products that you create?
Our goal is to bring whole leaf tea without all of the fuss and snobbery that sometimes goes with it. When we first started teapigs we knew that there were hundreds of great teas out there but the way they were presented to people was intimidating. Long names, complicated explanations. We know how to source great tea and we want it to have wider appeal, so we have taken a more relaxed / friendly approach – less gold trim!
6. How long should tea steep before drinking?
We say at the very least 3 minutes, and with some that have more delicate flavour, 5 minutes.
7. I love (and now follow) your golden rules for tea! Can you share them here?
Yeah! The golden rules can make a real difference for taste. Aside from how long to steep it, we have 3 key tips for making great tasting tea. The first is to use freshly drawn water, because water that’s been sitting in the kettle has lost some of its oxygen and will have a flatter and less fresh taste. Temperature is another big one. For black and herbal teas, boiling water is fine but for green, white, yellow or blue teas it’s best to let the water cool a bit after boiling to about 80 degrees C because boiling water can burn these delicate leaves and affect the taste.
8. My favorite teapigs flavor is peppermint licorice. Is it the licorice that provides that sweet flavor?
Yeah it’s a wonder how the liquorice and peppermint is so naturally sweet without sugar, but liquorice root is naturally like that… nothing like Sambuca.
9. What are the most popular teapigs flavors?
Our most popular teas are the classic english breakfast, mao feng green tea, peppermint licorice and the popcorn tea.
10. Okay, let’s talk packaging. I was under the impression that all triangular tea temples are made of plastic. Are yours?
Many pyramid shaped tea bags are made of pure plastic—even worse than the plastic coated paper ones. But from the beginning we wanted to be a green company and chose a material called soilon that’s the same shape but made from cornstarch. It’s 100% biodegradable.
11. The clear inner bags look like plastic, but they’re not! What are they made of?
They’re made from a plant based material, called ‘Natureflex’ that’s made from wood pulp. It might take getting a bit used to, but they can be tossed alongside the garden waste or food in the compost.
12. When finished with the container of tea (which doesn’t take me very long), how should we responsibly discard the packaging?
The boxes can be easily recycled with the cardboard and paper, while the tea temples and inner bags should be put with compost or food waste. The tea temples won’t biodegrade at a home compost so it’s important to ensure that it gets sent to a larger composting centre. Many states still don’t offer that service but it’s growing and an important issue!
13. I know it’s challenging for companies to stay committed to sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. How is that you are able to do so and follow through on that commitment?
We are experts in tea but have always made sustainability a priority – not for the stamp or the latest logo, more because it’s the right thing to do. We are learning fast and as a relatively small business it’s easy for us to react quickly to changes. We are trying to be a plastic free office. Ditching the plastic butter pots and moving to a butter dish doesn’t cause a problem in our office – if there were 500 people It would be a huge project.
14. Do you have any other tips on how to choose a sustainable tea?
Choose teapigs. Job done :)
Thank you SO much teapigs for sharing more about your tea and commitment to sustainable practices! To learn more about teapigs, check out the webiste. Cheers!