It’s always nice to sit down and enjoy a good tea. It’s very versatile; it wakes you up in the morning, it helps you digest after lunch, relaxes you in the afternoon, and prepares you for a restful sleep at night.
Today, we have at our disposition so many different kinds of herbs and flavours, with their own respective beneficial properties. They come wrapped up in delicately designed tea boxes which feel more like an item to gift to others (or yourself), than an everyday consumable. Just looking at the funny pyramid-like tea bags, it’s tempting to grab one. But, are we aware of the environmental impact of such a small tea bag?
Let’s go real quick through the basic steps of creating a tea bag, and then I will share with you what I believe is; the most planet-friendly way of drinking tea.
One small tea bag in your daily cup of tea sums up to more than 5,3 billion kilos¹ of tea in bulk per year, worldwide. About 80 percent comes in a tea bag, so this gives about 4,2 billion tea bags a year!
Tea bags can be made out of simple paper or abaca plant (a type of banana plant), but companies are increasingly using nylon and PET, which causes concern with regards to chemicals. Here on the left picture there are tea bags made out of abaca, on the right tea bags made from nylon.
Nowadays, tea bags come in specially designed shapes; round or pyramid-shaped. This requires extra material (e.g. paper) to produce, compared to the traditional rectangular shapes. Did you know that adding up all the paper an average family uses per year (toilet paper, packaging, tea bags, etc.) is the equivalent of 6 trees a year? (And don’t forget to multiply this to our total population, 7 billion.)
Most tea bags are bleached, to achieve a pearly-white color. This bleach, however, contains toxins (dioxins, furans) which might diffuse into your tea due to heat.
Billions of tea bags end up as waste in the landfill. Only some are made of biodegradable paper and can be used as compost. If it's compostable, it will say on the packaging.
Luckily, tea bags are not amongst the most imminent threats to our environment. But, why not try out a more planet-friendly way of drinking tea?
Let me introduce to you to a less conventional tea, yerba mate:
In comparison to tea bags, which might be bleached, made from nylon and ends up in the landfill, yerba mate is much more planet-friendly. The yerba mate consists of a re-usable cup made from pumpkin, the herbs are a kind of green tea and come in bulk of 1 kilo or half a kilo, and after usage the herbs can go straight to the compost. No bleaching and no trash.
Also, when drinking tea with a tea bag, the bag is only used once, and goes into the bin. The yerba mate can last several hours, depending on how many times we drink. One yerba mate preparation equals three tea cups with bag in general.
In terms of price, on average a tea box with 20 bags (40 grams) costs 2€. A pack of yerba herbs of 1 kilo costs 7€, equaling to 500 tea bags of 40 grams. This means that the yerba in bulk is 10 times cheaper in comparison with a tea bag!
The main benefit of the yerba herb is that it keeps energy levels up. It has the same effect as coffee, but it's healthier. The yerba mate is one of the most popular drinks in Argentina and Brazil, especially with students as it helps to maintain concentration. On top of this, there are also other benefits: It's antioxidant, helps burn faster carbohydrates, helps with digestion, good for physical endurance and it's also delicious.
In this video I explain how to prepare the yerba mate:
On top of this all, the yerba mate will impress your friends at get-togethers when you say that even the pope, Obama and Gisele Bündchen drinks mate ;)
If you don’t live in Argentina or Spain, it can be a bit tricky finding the mate cup and the yerba herbs. That’s why I want to share with you how I stock up on it! If you want to give it a go, you can find the mate cup, metal straw and the tea herbs in bulk here.