Guilt-free tea

Guilt-free tea

96% of us drink our tea from a teabag, but did you know, many of our favourite teabags contain plastic.

Britain is a nation of tea drinkers, with around 165 million cups drunk everyday! Around 96% of this consumption is from a teabag - but did you know, many of our most beloved brands teabags contain plastic!

Well, what a revelation at the start of my plastic-free journey. NO TEA?! Should I just quit now? Well luckily for me, there are some alternatives...

1. Loose leaf


Perhaps the most obvious of alternatives. Maybe not the first choice for a convenience-loving tea drinker like myself but I wanted to give it a try.

I bought mine from Imperial Teas of Lincoln on Steep Hill. I went for a classic English Breakfast tea, which at £5 for 100g is a pricey option but knowing I'm supporting local business is always a win, and it's a nice treat.

I also found a lovely gold tea strainer which I just had to pick up! (This can be my Reward for using tea leaves!).

The tea itself was great. A proper cuppa. Half a teaspoon makes a nice, strong brew so I think 100g should last me a while. You may also have noticed the plastic bag it came in, but this is no normal plastic bag!

"That's awesome!"
Jade Oliver
A very excited customer

After asking what the loose leaf came in (they don't mind you asking), Ben from Imperial Teas gave me a choice of a ready-made option in a fully recyclable plastic bag, or a measured amount in a new eco-plastic bag they're just rolling out.

This eco-plastic is plant-based and means you can pop it straight into you're compost bin at home. How great is that! The tea will save for around 6 months in these plastic bags, so I've transferred mine into an air-tight glass jar for saving.

Imperial Teas are also in the process of updating their cardboard containers to include a loyalty stamp, encouraging shoppers to bring back their old containers to re-use again, helping to reduce wastage. Great idea!

I would highly recommend popping in next time you're in town if you fancy a treat. The vast amount of choices may seem a little overwhelming but the friendly staff will help point you in the right direction.

2. Teapigs

After a little online research, I found lots of sites pointing me in the direction of Teapigs. They offer a wide variety of teas, and were also the first tea brand to be awarded the Plastic Free Trust Trade Mark in May this year.

Plastic Free TM

Teapigs ‘tea temples’ are actually made from a mixture of corn starch and paper so they’re 100% plastic-free and biodegradable.

Their containers are cardboard so are easily recyclable. Even the inner bags the teabags come in are plastic-free. They're made from a material called ‘Natureflex’ – a renewable wood pulp converted into airtight packaging.

As well as keeping your tea fresh, it’s 100% compostable so you can pop it in your home compost bin.

What I did learn from their handy online guide however, is that although the 'tea-temples' themselves are plastic-free and biodegradable, they're not necessarily compostable.

The teabags use a bi-product of corn starch called 'Soilon', a bio-plastic which can only biodegrade under high temperatures. Teapigs advise you to pop them in with your food waste bin – something my local council currently don’t provide. So although they're plastic-free, I won't be able to dispose of my Teapigs in an environmentally friendly way just yet, so I'm choosing to stick with loose leaf for now!

3. Aldi's ‘Specially Selected’ premium range

Again, a little digging online bought me to Aldi's 'Specially Selected' teas. These tend to be fruit teas in a similar looking teabag to the above Teapigs. There seemed to be a bit of controversy however as to whether these are biodegradable or not. But surely if they're plastic-free they should be biodegradable?

I decided to get in touch with Aldi and find out for myself. They got back to me within a couple of days and said:

The teabag paper we use does contain a very minimum quantity of food safe wet strength resin [which is] in place to allow the paper fibres to bind together better...this is common practice with all teabag paper manufacturers globally.
Aldi Customer Services

So essentially, yes, their teabags do contain plastic, if even in the very smallest of amounts, which prevent them from being fully biodegradable.

They sound like they might be a nice starter-alternative to help cut down on plastic, but I'm going to try to avoid these teabags and stick with the plastic-free loose leaf option.

Can I get a guilt-free cup of tea?

I'll be sticking with loose leaf for now, as at least I know for sure they don't contain plastic at a consumer level.

I'll be working hard to find some suitable, everyday-alternatives that won't stretch the budget, and look out for plastic-free packaging. 

I'll also be keeping an eye on bigger brands such as PG Tips and Yorkshire Tea, who are both currently in the process of trialing new plant-based alternatives hopefully launching later this year. Fingers crossed!

And remember, there are other alternatives to tea. Gin for example is my favourite...