We get asked this question a lot: “Is loose leaf tea good for you?” and “Is it better for you than teabags?”. And the answer is: it depends.

Micro-plastics

The reason that teabags aren’t good for you is that most of them contain micro-plastics. These get released in the interaction between the teabag and boiling water, and we end up consuming them. This is bad news, and 2022 marked the first year when micro plastics were found in human blood stream. In 77% of the people tested, in fact.

Why are they bad for you?

Mico plastics cause a whole host of health issues. Although the precise nature of these is still being investigated, we already know that micro plastics can travel around the body and lodge in organs, and damage human cells.

Micro plastics in tea

This is precisely why, when we ventured into teabags, we decided to opt for the safest option possible. Many big companies still use teabags containing micro plastics, because these are cheaper to manufacture. Even those switching to biodegradable and plastic free option often focus exclusively on the human issues of micro plastic teabags, and ignore the planet-wide dimension.

Good for you, good for the planet?

In other words, they opt for non-sustainable teabag materials. Instead, we selected organic and non-GMO sugar cane – a totally plastic-free natural material, made from the leftovers of the sugar manufacturing process. Which means that no new land needs to be cleared and planted to support this new demand.

Summary: What to look for in your teabags

When shopping for teabags, ask yourself:

  • Is it plastic free?
  • Is it compostable?
  • Is it organic?
  • Is it non-GMO (genetically modified)?*
  • Is it made from sugar cane or a similarly sustainable material?

* According to researchers such as Scientific American, corn-based plastics are as potentially “not … much better than the plain old plastic it’s designed to make obsolete”. Their main concerns are the use of genetically modified corn – as the largest producer cornstarch is NatureWorks, a subsidiary of the world’s largest provider of modified corn seeds – and the processing and recycling of PLA.

We chose sugar cane over cornstarch, in part, because of this. Corn starch produces a lot of methane when it decomposes and needs industrial methods of composting to break down. In contrast, sugar cane naturally biodegrades in 90 days.

Choose loose leaf

The easiest way to overcome these issues though, and the most sustainable, is to drink loose leaf tea. Once you have the proper equipment, drinking loose leaf is no more difficult than a teabag, with the added benefits that you get more for your money.

When profit costs your health

The cost of teabags is as much in the bag material and bagging costs as in the tea itself, so you inevitably get less for your money. And if you don’t, on the whole it means that costs have been cut somewhere – either in how the farmers get paid, how the workers are compensated or in the quality of the tea or material used.

Added benefit – you control the quality

It’s hard to know the exact quality of what’s inside a teabag. Traditionally, teabags were made using the last dregs of a bag of loose leaf tea, as a way of using up the small, powdery bits that cling to the bottom. By contrast, when you buy loose leaf tea, you know exactly what you’re getting.

Solution

The only way around this is to shop with an ethical tea producer who uses the same quality leaf in their loose leaf teas as they do their teabags – like us!