How to Prepare a Plastic-free Cup of Tea

Recent Reports

You may have heard recent reports about how most teas contain at least trace amounts of plastic. I am here to tell you how you can prepare a plastic-free cup of tea. But first, how about a little history . . .

The Roots of Tea

You may not realize just how far back people have been drinking this magnificent beverage. In fact, containers for tea have been found in Chinese tombs, dating from the Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

And since then, the culture has been slowly spreading. First to Japan, and later to Great Britain and beyond. In fact, it was in Great Britain where tea drinking received its snooty reputation.

This was in part due to heavy taxation that led to tea smuggling. It was also part of the infamous Boston Tea Party Revolt that, in combination with other political issues, brought many of our ancestors to this country.

My Own Experiences

Growing up, I was not a fan of the iced tea that was popular in the summertime of the Midwest. It was not until my 20s during a visit to Turkey, that I became accustomed to drinking the beverage. 

A glass of tea, turkish-style, sitting on a balcony rail, looking out at the minarets.
Turks prepare a plastic-free cup of tea

In Turkish culture, it is quite common for practically anyone and everyone to offer you a glass of hot tea. In every home you visit and every shop you peruse, expect to be offered a glass of piping hot tea.

Considering I was there during the heat of summer, I found it a bit odd at first. But they tell me it is also seen as a way to sweat out the impurities, or toxins. I can definitely appreciate that.

Since then, upon reading all about The Blue Zones regions and their consumption of herbal teas; I have been making a true, concerted effort to incorporate a daily cup of hot tea into my everyday diet.

Benefits of Tea

There are sooo many reasons to make tea drinking part of your daily routine. It may just be one of the healthiest form of consumption you can engage in! Here’s why:

  1. Contains antioxidants that fight cancer & heart disease
  2. Boosts prevention of stroke & heart attacks
  3. Helps with weight loss
  4. Keeps bones healthy & strong
  5. Decrease in  incidences of tooth loss
  6. Boost the immune system
  7. Aids in the fight against cancer
  8. Ease of digestion issues
  9. Lowers bad cholesterol (ldl)
  10. Improves gut health
  11.  Reduces blood pressure
  12. May lower blood sugar
  13. Improves focus
an electric tea kettle along with tea and other additions
My little corner to prepare a plastic-free cup of tea

The Boiling Method

Pardon the pun, but this option pretty much boils down to the old fashioned teapot or the electric kettle.

The oldfashioned teapot

a caricature of an old-fashioned glass teapot containing pink liquid and flower petals, steam coming out the spout
A glass teapot is safe

It may appear completely harmless, but there are a few things to be aware of when shopping for a teapot. First off, lower qualities of stainless steel have been known to leach the heavy metals, nickel & chromium. In addition to that, any ceramic waterproofing glaze can be suspected of containing lead and/or cadmium as well.

Based on these two concerns, you should seek out pots made of either glass or high quality stainless steel. Try out one of Earth Hero‘s awesome high-quality infuser bottles to prepare a plastic-free cup of tea.

Electric kettles 

With the electric kettles, you need to be aware of their age. While I typically recommend thrifting practically everything, the old styles of these kettles may leach nickel.

You don’t want to overexpose yourself to heavy metals because they accumulate in the body over time, and can lead to a variety of health issues.

The Water

As with any water you are consuming, it is highly recommended that you filter it properly. Depending upon where you live and what your water source is, your water can contain anything from agricultural pesticides to pharmaceuticals, and more heavy metals. And then there are additives like fluoride, chlorine and/or chloramine.

There are a lot of health risks to being exposed to these chemicals, so you should always make the effort to stay informed. Go to your local water company’s web page and find their most recent water report. This will give you a list of contaminants that you need to consider filtering out.

With that info in hand, you can then select an appropriate water filter. We love our trusted Berkey because it filters out approximately 99 percent of all of the bad stuff. And those are pretty darn good numbers.

The Tea 

fresh tea leaves that have just been harvested
Loose leaf tea is one element to prepare a plastic-free cup of tea

Tea plants are considered “hyperaccumulators,” which basically means they suck everything out of the soil and store it in their leaves, including the bad stuff. This “bad stuff” can include chemicals like fluoride, lead, aluminum, arsenic and pesticides.

Therefore, it is crucial that you look for high quality, organic teas. Besides avoiding the pesticides and heavy metals, you will also experience a tea free from artificial flavorings, colorings and genetically modified organisms.

Due to the extremely acidic nature of the tea leaf soil, the accumulation of heavy metals tends to accelerate. I mentioned earlier about the dangers of heavy metal toxicity, but fluoride is also toxic to the body, and has been found in teas due to its existence in the soil.

Here is a link to the results of an investigation done by Greenpeace in order to learn the effects of pesticides used in growing tea leaves in China.

The Bags

several teabags lined up
The quality of the teabags is crucial

For the best health protections, your tea bag should be completely free of plastic and all other chemicals; or, better yet, opt for the loose leaf variety. Etsy.com carries a large selection of organic loose leaf tea to choose from.

Most paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a known carcinogen. Fortunately, there are some compostable disposable tea bags as well as reusable organic cotton versions that can be safely used instead.

The silky tea bags are the worst because they are made from plastics like nylon or polypropylene that are very unstable when immersed in hot water. That means the chemicals end up leaching right into your drink.

You may have read some of the recent articles that came out in regard to all the microplastics in these nylon tea bags. This is bad news for our bodies as well as our oceans and sea creatures that are the final receptacle for this overabundance of plastics.

These are all good reasons to learn to prepare a plastic-free cup of tea!

What to Buy

So, to be clear; organic, non-gmo looseleaf teas are the best option when you would like to prepare a plastic-free cup of tea. Beyond that, you will do well to seek out the more ethical brands that state their bags are epichlorohydrin-free. Here is a good list.

Keep in mind that coffee and tea shops tend to carry the cheapest “crap teas” available.

When out shopping at your local grocery or any other retail location, check the ingredient list for potential GMO ingredients that include soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup, and other additives that spark suspicion. The words “natural flavors” is often reason to run the other way.

Types of Teas

There are so many, but following are 10 of the most popular varieties.

Green tea is one of the oldest and healthiest drinks that we have available to us. Just don’t opt for the retail version as they often contain high doses of sugar and other additives.

Black tea involves a lengthier processing than green tea, as it’s leaves are first dried in the sun. It results in a stronger, more bitter flavor that often requires a little bit of milk to stifle.

Oolong tea is processed like black tea and can taste more like black or green teas based on the length of its leaf oxidation process.

Matcha tea involves drinking the actual ground up green tea leaves, so that is why its health benefits are some of the best out of all the varieties. Just be wary of the more westernized green tea latte where the benefits are offset by the additives.

Yerba Mate is sourced from the Amazon Rainforest. It is unusual in its high caffeine content, 80 milligrams! 

Chamomile tea is a mildly bitter, slightly floral and sweet tea that comes from the edible flowers of the chamomilla plant. It is known for it’s relaxing properties and is often used to treat insomnia.

Chai tea is basically black tea with some steamed milk and Indian spices mixed in, making it creamier and one of my favorites. Be aware though that many coffee shop versions are absolutely loaded with sugar.

Dandelion tea is often used as a healthier coffee substitute. I have yet to try it, but hope to soon!

Pu’er tea is a fermented green or black tea with many benefits to gut health as well.

Chaga tea is very popular right now for the many health benefits of the chaga mushroom.

a variety of teas separated in a muffin tin
So many delightful variations of clean teas

The Cup

Lastly the cup you use also has an effect on the toxicity of your tea. Glass or high-quality stainless steel, free from any glaze, is your best bet for a toxin-free cup of tea.

How to
How to brew clean teas

One final note: Remember to steep your tea for no more than 3 minutes in order to avoid any extra heavy metal contamination from the teabags.

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10 comments

  1. Wow as I’m sitting here drinking morning tea, it almost makes me want to dump it out. I too have been trying to go a little more green. I didn’t even to think about the kettle I was using. Great post, Thanks.

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