If you’d like your cup of tea plastic-free it could be the best option. Here’s how a quirky new type of tea bag could put an end to steeping your tea (and the planet) in microplastics…
When you consider design innovation, tea bags probably aren’t the kind of space-age forward thinking you had in mind, but in case you hadn’t heard about the contribution of many of the tea bags we use daily to plastic pollution, our brews have been in desperate need of a rethink for a long time.
The microplastic problem has generally stemmed from the use of polypropylene plastic in tea bags as a ‘sealant’ to prevent tea bags from disintegrating on contact with hot water. Given that 96 per cent of tea drinkers in the UK use tea bags as opposed to leaves to make tea according to the UK Tea & Infusions Association , and that we drink 165 million cups of tea daily, parting with plastic in the teapots of our nation is a pretty urgent challenge, and one that tea company Clipper has risen to with a pretty ingenious/bananas solution…
What is it?
Clipper has just announced the launch of the world’s first plastic free, non-GM and unbleached tea bag, and bizarrely, it’s made of bananas. The bag has been over a year in the making and is formed from a blend of natural fibres based on banana plant cellulose and a biopolymer made from non-GM plant material called PLA that holds the bag together in the place of synthetic polypropylene. To add to the virtuous nature of the new kind of cuppa, all tea bags are organic and biodegradable, and rest assured that your English Breakfast won’t taste of bananas either. In fact, you might not notice much difference between your banana bag and a bog standard tea bag, as Clipper Tea brand controller Rebecca Vercoe explains:
"The new tea bag performs in exactly the same way as a regular tea bag meaning you can still enjoy a delicious cup of tea- the only difference is you can now pop in straight in you food waste container to be composted. Other brands have already committed to providing plastic-free tea bags however Clipper are proud to be the first to launch a plastic-free, unbleached and non-GM heat-sealed tea bag."
As for the unbleached aspectt, Clipper has been using unbleached tea bags for over 20 years already and the brand remains a relatively rare champion of the dark brown bag oweing to the reduction in chemical processing that it allows:
"Many tea-drinkers are unaware that the standard tea bag is put through a process of bleaching to achieve its pearly-white exterior. Some brands believe that dark tea bag paper isn’t visually appealing, and so to make tea bags look more attractive they put their paper through the bleaching process which sees the tea bag paper dipped into chemicals including chlorine. Clipper use unbleached bags meaning that they don’t go through a chemical process before reaching your cup."
Just because your tea bag looks a bit muddier doesn't mean it'll taste different either, as Clipper Tea Master Daniel Parr affirms:
"The paper used in teabags has no impact on taste, but we felt it was right to use the most natural packaging we could get our hands on. Bleaching tea bag paper is completely unnecessary and does nothing to improve your cup of tea”.
While the colour of our cup of tea is a matter of great debate (see the much referenced tea chart to avoid office tea break blunders), the shade of the bag is beside the point.
How can I get it?
If you’re wondering where to pick up your banana brew, you may have to wait a little while longer for a full nationwide rollout. Clipper is phasing in the new eco tea bag to avoid further waste - the company won’t be destroying any current products on the shelves but you’ll notice the new tea bags making their debut with a pink banner across the top right hand corner of the box. From hereon, Rebecca Vercoe assures us that the brand “won’t be going back” - plastic-free tea is the future. No one wants a mouthful of microplastics anyway and thinking outside of the box where our staple national drink is concerned is certainly a move forward towards a healthier planet. Team your tea with an eco-friendly cup and you’re golden.