Compostable Teabags: Why we use them for a Better Brew
NUDITEA started out as a loose leaf tea business. We were (and still are) really passionate about loose leaf tea. It’s better for the planet, and you get much more for your money as a consumer. From lugging packs of tea around while we were travelling, to pouches of NUDITEA, increasingly dented, following us around on camping trips, we love a good cup of loose leaf tea.
We love the ceremony of it. Scooping some fragrant leaves into a strainer. Slowly pouring over the water as the steam rises into your face. Patiently waiting for three minutes that seem more like ten, but relishing the mindfulness that this invites. An opportunity (or excuse) to sit and do nothing, to be present for a full three minutes in an otherwise busy day.
Had you told us when we started that we’d branch out into teabags, we would have been surprised.
And yet here we are, with a full range of teabags for our lovely customers and NUDITEA Partners.
So how did it all start?
Bag it Up
When we attended our very first London Coffee Festival, we had a handful of NUDITEA Partners (our shorthand for all the lovely cafes, restaurants, yoga studios and shops that stock us).
The minute we set foot there, we knew that we had found our people. Everyone was kind, welcoming and, most importantly, passionate about all the same things as us.
From exhausted Coffee Brand owners who nonetheless spent hours of their precious free time looking for the very best compostable packaging with a decent barrier (to stop all those yummy smells from leaking out, and the product from going stale), to cafes devoted to being as green as possible by recycling their coffee grounds (don’t worry, not for you to drink! Into innovative and amazing things like skincare and plant food), we met the very best people.
And we were honoured, if not a little surprised, when many of them emailed us after the event to tell us that they wanted to work with us!
But the thing with cafes is that they’re busy. If you’ve ever been in a queue for your favourite latte, you’ll know the hustle and bustle that’s ingrained into the very best coffee shops.
Thousands of things are going on at once, often at the very capable hands of just one or two baristas.
While they were all keen to work with us, they were also keen not to add extra work to their already laden plates. We heard the same thing again and again: please can you also do teabags?
Bear in mind that this was still in the era of lockdowns and restrictions, when many cafes could no longer offer lovely spaces to sit in and have a cup of tea. And waiting 3-5 mins for a cup of tea to brew, no matter how delicious, means takeout queues around the block, and baristas having to, on top of everything else, keep an eye on tens of cups of tea, all brewing for different lengths of time.
So we understood their plight and it opened our eyes up to something we hadn’t considered until then. While we loved our tea loose, was it fair to assume that everyone had the time and desire to brew a cup of tea exactly how we did? Wasn’t that the same as creating a coffee that you could only brew in a Chemex? What about all the other people who would love to enjoy a cup of our tea, but in a way that better suited their lifestyle?
So we did what we do best when faced with a challenge – we hit the books (and websites). We looked at everything, from essays on micro-plastics, to studies of various compostable materials. Finally, armed with some knowledge, we started to take a look at everyone that we knew who offered compostable teabags. And we kept coming up against the same answer: use corn starch.
Never content to just leave it at that, we decided to dig a little deeper. Why cornstarch?
Well, cornstarch does offer a great barrier which doesn’t break down in hot water, while also being capable of decomposing back into the soil, without any micro-plastics.
And we could have left it at that. But we wanted to find out even more. Was there something even better than corn starch out there? Something that didn’t need huge swathes of new land to be deforested in order to grow? Something that could be grown readily in most soils, without the need for pesticides?
Which is how we came across the magic answer: Sugar Cane.
Sugar cane and everything nice
Sugar cane is already grown in huge fields across the world, to be made into everything from toffee to caster sugar. So it’s readily available – but so is cornstarch, right?
Well, sort of. Unlike Corn, to use Sugar cane for your teabags means using a waste product that has no further uses. So once all the sugar has been extracted, the remaining husk is made into a very thin, silk like material. So we happily settled on this. A truly sustainable option, which didn’t increase the pressure on the earth to produce more for us.
Grown organically, using non-GMO sugar cane, our teabags use the very same whole leaf that you’ll find in your loose leaf packs, wrapped in silky sugar cane material, which dissolves back into earth after 90 days.
Which means that you get the exact same experience as brewing a pot of tea in your teapot or strainer, and you can take this experience on the go, without this convenience damaging the planet (as most things that create greater convenience unfortunately tend to do).
Back to bags
Despite our initial reluctance, we’re so happy to have ventured into teabags. From sharing our story with others who are inspired to switch to more sustainable takeaway options, to opening our teas up to a whole new customer base of people who are too busy to brew tea loose, we’re glad that we did it, but most importantly, we’re glad that we did it our way.
By using non-GMO, ethically and organically grown sugar cane, we have offered our customers, our NUDITEA Partners (and also ourselves!) a really easy and convenient way to enjoy the quality and mindfulness of a loose leaf cup of tea, while being better for the planet too.