Ok, even here at Teaturtle, we understand that using tea bags is more convenient. But have you opened a tea bag to see its contents? If you did not, you should. You will see that most of the time the bag contain tea dust and broken leaf particles.
Fanning or dusts are used to fill tea bags. These small tea leaf particles are be found at the bottom of a tea barrel or the bottom of a tea bed (where tea leaves are dried). Once the larger tea leaves have been gathered, these fannings are collected and kept for tea bag use. Broken tea leaves or dust allow for a fast release of tannins which gives tea its colour but lacks flavour and depth. They can also result in bitter and astringent brews. Larger leaves hold more of their essential oils which infuse to make a drink with full flavour and its aroma potential.
Debating about tea bags vs. loose tea is like comparing a bad wine packed in a wine box and a good wine in a bottle… Know what I mean? Just open the bag to see the difference…
The environmental impact of tea bags.
How can a small thing like a tea bag can represent a potential environmental disaster? Because at first, tea bags are a waste of paper. And most of them are not biodegradable. Bagging tea market represents also an important source of pollution: the packaging of tea into tea bags – tea bags individually wrapped, using paper, carton and plastic blister – besides using energy and resources that are discarded, also tends to concentrate profit in wealthy countries. By buying loose-leaf tea, you not only reduce waste and resource usage, but you make it more likely that a greater portion of the price you are paying reaches the producers
You wouldn’t believe the chemicals used in tea industry and all these have an environmental impact. Plastic tea bags can leak toxins. Putting plastic tea bags in hot enough water will begin to break down. When this happens, toxins are released into the tea. Though one cup of bagged tea won’t do any harm, consistently drinking this could cause health issues. The more you drink tea in plastic tea bags, the more chemicals you put in your body – especially if you steep several times the same tea bag. Some of the bags used to contain tea are made with paper. But what you may not know is that the paper has been chlorine-bleached. Yes, unless you buy your tea from an environmentally brand, most of the tea you consume is wrapped in white bags. White stands for “clean”.
All the loose leaf tea Teaturtle uses for our monthly subscription boxe are sourced from small-scale tea growers. Its these small scale growers that produce most of the tea in countries such as Kenya and Sri Lanka, but receive low and fluctuating prices for their produce and are the most vulnerable in supply chains controlled by large companies. Increasing supply chain pressures to reduce tea prices are often passed onto them, reducing already-low incomes and pushing them into further poverty. Tea growers earn a fraction of the price tea fetches on the international market and in shops in Europe and the US.
Workers in the tea sector, much like in other sectors dominated by plantations, have little power to voice their opinion to estate management or negotiate for higher wages and better working conditions. This imbalance in power between workers and management has left workers in successive cycles of poverty, given the limited alternative employment options in these countries.
Fairtrade works with both small-scale tea farmers and workers on tea plantations. Fairtrade Standards are designed to improve employment conditions and protect the rights of workers on plantations and to support members of smallholder organisations in gaining more control within the tea supply chains and increase their incomes. Fairtrade Standards for tea act as a safety net against the unpredictable market, ensuring growers always get a price that covers their costs of production.