Hope Armstrong
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Food

Life-Affirming Plastic-Free Tea

A toasty mug of tea has always been a grounding daily comfort for me. The way it warms my hands. The way it commands to be experienced before it gets cold. The way it coats my throat like lava flowing down the chillllest of volcanoes. I’ve always been a tea bag kinda gal. With a couple of decades of tea bags under my belt, my jaw unhinged a couple of years ago when I realized that most tea bags contain plastic.

Tea bags are one of those innocuous things in life I hadn’t questioned. Even when I did, I figured it was just paper. And then when those silky bags became popular, on a subconscious level I appreciated it even more, thinking it was high-end. It didn’t dawn on me it’s lower quality. Pure plastic. Turns out, most tea bags contain plastic—nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

A recent study at McGill University tested four conventional plastic tea bag brands. They found that a single plastic tea bag in boiling water releases billions of microplastics per cup.

So what can you do? I like to buy tea in bulk, in my glass jar. Then I brew it in a stainless steel mesh strainer. Some grocery stores and cafes sell tea in bulk. If you can’t find it package free, look for loose tea sold in a reusable or recyclable tin. Otherwise, if you can only find it in a plastic bag that’s still less waste and saves you from the boiled-plastic-in-tea grossness.

If you’re set on tea bags, here are a few brands with plastic-free bags: Teapigs, Numi, and Clipper (classic string and tag style, not the square ones because they’re heat-sealed with plastic).

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