General ramblings

The Trouble with Tea….

I will start by confessing that I am a big of a tea addict. I am not quite as bad as my dear old mum was-she couldn’t even face breakfast without having had at least 2 cups, and was never more than half an hour away from her next one! But I am partial to a cuppa.
I’ll pretty much drink any tea, but my tea of choice os the classic, Earl Grey.

Now you wouldn’t think that tea would be that complicated would you?
Well it is.
As well as all the arguments about the ‘right’ way to make tea: teapot or not; bag or loose; boiling water or 90C; milk 1st etc etc, when you are trying to make the ‘right’ choices ethically, it get a whole lot harder.

I found out recently that tea bags actually contain tiny amounts of plastic, and that although I’ve been happily chucking them in the compost heap, they won’t even actually completely degrade, and will leave behind a little plastic ghost. And I’d never really thought about the fact that tea page are made from paper, and that that’s a WHOLE lot of paper…
So I decided to go Old School, and start using loose leaf tea.
I had recently discovered Williamson Tea, in bag form, and it seemed to tick all the boxes in terms of sustainability-they use sustainable farming methods, and ensure that the workers on their farms are paid a living wage, and treated fairly, and the tea is Rainforest Alliance certified. Happy Days.
Hubby did a spot of research online and discovered that we could buy Williamson tea loose leaf, and if we ordered a minimum amount (it is quite a bit-should last me a year…!) we could get it without paying P&P. More Happy Days.

But then……
When it arrived, I opened it with great excitement, to find lots of little over-packaged canisters

Williamson Tea1And to compound it, they each have a plastic seal inside:
Williamson Tea2

And I am sure that Williamson are not alone in the over-packaging of their tea.
I got all excited when I saw some tea from Bluebird Tea at a Festival recently. I was even more excited when it looked like it was being dispensed in paper bags. But my excitement was short-lived as I realised that the paper bags were plastic lined with zip-loc type closures.

I get that it’s to make sure the tea stays fresh, and that we get the optimal storage conditions for the tea, but we have a perfectly good, air-tight, REUSABLE tea caddy thing at home already 🙁
Whatever happened to buying loose tea in paper bags by the lb?
(Don’t answer that, it’s a rhetorical question!)
(Actually, do answer that if you know where I can get some…!)


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  • Reply lizlovingandlearning October 18, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    You may be interested to know that we have just planted our first tea plants here on the island of Mull, Scotland. Will be next year before we can pick the leaves. The Wee Tea Company is already producing tea and can be found on fb. Only 10% is as yet Scottish but with more people planting hopefully the percentage will increase. And we’ll certainly be planning to package sustainably!

    • Reply Jen October 20, 2014 at 10:25 am

      That’s awesome Liz! Lucky you living on such a fabulous place. And planting your own tea! I’ll find you on FB and follow with interest-thanks for letting me know 🙂

      • Reply lizlovingandlearning October 20, 2014 at 12:49 pm

        Thanks 🙂 It’s Mo Dhachaidh if you’re looking for it. Hopefully will be obvious which of the two or three options is us!

  • Reply marinaoftherocks September 17, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    I like to buy my tea from Cardew’s, in Oxford: They do lots of interesting blends too, and it always comes in paper bags 🙂 When I’m up north with the family the local tea merchant is Bolland’s (, also very good. Feels so much better to be bypassing all the mass-produced, over-packaged supermarket stuff, and to be buying from independent shops too! Plus tea from a proper merchant just tastes better.

    • Reply Jen September 18, 2014 at 11:44 am

      I need to try and find one locally-sounds great, thankyou!

  • Reply Lindsay (treadingmyownpath) September 16, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Ah, the tea dilemma! I feel your pain! I can buy loose leaf in bulk for me (have you looked to see if there is a Whittards near you? They sell loose leaf tea loose!) but I’m having a party in a couple of months and don’t know what to do for serving tea to the masses? Teabags seem obvious, but plastic-free, packaging-free ones? Really not sure where to find those!

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      Can you do big pots of loose leaf? You could try and source/make some retro tea cosies to keep them warm-would look very cute!

      • Reply Lindsay (treadingmyownpath) September 17, 2014 at 1:12 am

        That might be more practical! I’ll need to find out if this place has tea pots (and what size) but yes, I think that may be the answer! Thanks : )

  • Reply Chloe T September 15, 2014 at 7:38 pm

    Thanks for a great post, I’m with you on thinking tea is great! I think you sometimes come to Bath- have you tried the Tea House Emporium or Guillard’s in the Guildhall. No idea of the ethical credentials of their tea but i think you’d be able to buy it loose. Good luck! I did by some Sainsbury’s loose leaf (though my box has a foil wrapper) but I find that I’m a bit rubbish about getting the pot out and use bags instead. Properly brewed tea is lovely though and I have resolved to use the pot tomorrow!

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      I do venture into “The Big City” sometimes-I’ll have a look-thankyou!

  • Reply sandyfaithking September 15, 2014 at 5:40 pm

    Interesting. This website looks promising:

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:32 pm

      Oooh, I recognise the packet-I think I’ve had some of that before-will have another look, thankyou!

  • Reply Linda A. September 15, 2014 at 4:59 pm

    I am amazed to learn that tea bag paper includes plastic! Who would have thought it? I wonder if our council know that as tea bags are recommended for inclusion in our green waste wheelie bin?!

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      I’m sure it’s not enough to affect the quality of the compost that they make, and much better than them all going to landfill…!

  • Reply Chris September 15, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    I would love to find a plastic free English Breakfast loose tea. In the late 60s and early 70s I worked for Brooke Bond at that time tea was brought into Britain in large wooden tea chests which were lined with foil and then packaged into cardboard boxes with no inner plastic liner. Oh to go back to those days.If you can find no plastic tea please let us know.

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:31 pm

      Hi Chris
      Judith has left a comment that Sainsbury’s tea is Fairtrade and loose leaf-I haven’t been in yet to check out whether there is any plastic wrapper around the box or not, but might be worth a look!
      The tea chests sound wonderful 🙂

  • Reply Judith September 15, 2014 at 11:15 am

    And the elusive earl grey loose leaf–taste-the-difference-125g
    £1.50 for 100g ! Very nice too.

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm


  • Reply Judith September 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Sainsbury’s sell loose leaf tea! £1.40 for 250g and fairtrade.
    I think the co op do as well but cannot find a link. Williamson are renowned for their tins they have some with elephants on and they are expensive!

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      That’s great Judith, thankyou! Fab that it’s Fairtrade too 🙂

  • Reply sarahlennardbrown September 15, 2014 at 11:05 am

    The best people for loose tea are Wilkinsons of Norwich (nothing to do with the big Wilkinsons firm) they provide loose leaf tea in paper packages or plastic bags which I think are recyclable. They also do the best coffee beans I have ever tasted. and, more to the point the best Earl Grey and Russian Caravan I have ever tasted. Well worth a try 🙂

    • Reply Jen September 16, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      Thanks Sarah, I’ll check them out!

  • Reply lindaswildlifegarden September 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Reblogged this on Linda's wildlife garden and commented:
    Awesome have a blessed day

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