Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Having some 'Green' Tea

I have never really been a tea drinker... having my introduction to the caffeine monster 'coffee' during my graduate studies days I've always found the taste of black teas to be, well, weird. I'm a pretty solid peppermint herbal tea drinker as it's been the only thing that has helped with stomach pains... Over time it's become something of a gradual change- it's so rude to say no to tea while visiting someone.

Then I discovered some pretty darn tasty non-milk teas. YUM! Currently steeping? 'Through the grapevine' white tea. Wee!

How can eco-fying your tea drinking habits matter? Well...

In Canada alone we consume over 2 billion litres of tea each year (over 52 million gallons). Like the story of coffee, tea plantations have similar working conditions (i.e. terrible slave labour wages). Monoculture tea farms in places like India have been found to support nearly 50% fewer birds than rainforest-grown tea and pesticides like DDT are still being sprayed on tea leaves. One study found that green teas from China and Japan not only contained high levels of pesticides but lead. Yum (Ecoholic, 2006).

According to the WWF, the main impact of the tea industry is the conversion of habitat. In Uganda and Kenya large areas of forests were cleared to make way for tea plantations which impacted local wildlife and fauna. A decrease in wildlife as well as soil quality (including 50% less earthworms in tea plantations) has resulted in less productive land, decrease in biodiversity and increase in chemicals.

Further, tea processors use wood for drying the tea leaves, and it's not like they're using 'reclaimed wood' to dry these leaves. Nope, natural forests are being cut down for the drying process. Although many plantations are now forced to plant their own personal stash of trees due to a decrease in natural availability (since they cut them all down), 1.5 to 2 kilograms of wood is needed for 1 kilo of tea. According to the WWF, the tea sector has become the largest consumer of fuel wood.

We need to consider the packaging involved in every little steepable tea you use. Each bag contained in an airtight package complete with a small paper and string, those packages contained in a box or container which may be wrapped in plastic. It's ridiculous.

How to have a nice low-impact (and also coincidentally better tasting) tea experience?

First an easy and ultimately yummier step- buy loose tea. As Alton Brown would say, tea is not meant to be squished into a tiny little bag or tea ball... it's meant to expand and grow in something like a tea strainer so the flavours and meld and spread to create delicious yummy-ness. Seriously, it's way less packaging and will give you much better tea. Why not?

I have tried the cloth bags as well as the tea balls (hah) and found them difficult to clean and very inconvenient to use. Although stainless steel has an initial eco-footprint cost, over time and with years of use it will pay off. My favourite tea strainer- a stainless steel open dealy that hooks onto your mug. Super easy to clean and allows the tea leaves to really grow and release all that yummy tea goodness. David's Tea (a Montreal company) sells some pretty awesome ones (I have this one... and this mug for work... love love love).

Buy Fair Trade Organic tea. Once you step into the loose tea world it's actually much easier to find yummy organic tea. Many fun tea shops that have walls loaded with different loose teas also carry fair trade and organic varieties. You just have to ask. In Halifax you have JustUs! Coffee that sells fair trade organic loose tea, David's Tea and Sawadee Tea House on Granville Street (a jem!).

Bring your mug. Tea can be in a reusable mug, just like coffee. You can either put your already steeped tea in your coffee mug and off you go, or you could try a reusable mug specially made for tea. There are different kinds of infusers and I know Andrew had a bit of trouble with his (it leaked....) so really do some research before hand.

What's your favourite tea? (I know you have one, Yogi(ni)s are such tea drinkers!)

article copyright of EcoYogini at ecoyogini.blogspot.com


  1. I only drink tea at home as I refuse to pay cafe prices for hot water and a teabag!
    We use fairtrade organic teas - they are teabags for convenience but the bags come loose in a cardboard box - no plastic! Plus I've found used teabags make fabulous compost - as do used leaves and coffee grounds for that matter.

  2. Usually I'm more of a coffee girl, but of course I happened to be drinking tea as I read this! It's some no-name, probably eco-terrible brand a coworker gave me for a holiday gift, but it's good with cookies and I'll compost the bag. :) I too love the tea ball for loose teas, and I'm so happy that the hippie grocery where I spend all my money recently added a bulk tea section. Score! Oh, and my all-time favorite tea is peppermint, with a little sugar or agave nectar.

  3. Hi eco yogini, first time commenter :)

    For years, tea has been pretty much my only source of hydration! The variety is just enormous.
    My favourite by far is green tea. To act enviromentally responsible, we always boil up a huge jug of tea. With green tea you basically do not need to worry about any kind of waste: just use two jugs (one in which you actually let the tea - just the leaves no bags, eggs or anything- steep and then use a strainer to separate leaves and tea into another jug). Another tip: we use cans for storage which we take to the tea store so they can give us a refill without wasting another wrapper.
    And green tea in itself is a perfect natural example for re-use as you can use the leaves for up to 3 times or more (depends on the tea plant and your gusto though).

    Have a good day! Lea

  4. Awesome post! I almost only drink herbal teas from loose herbs - no bags, no waste!

    I love chamomile at this time of year, spiked with some cardamom, cinnamon or vanilla. Mmmm....

  5. Wow, I didn't know the history behind tea & the scalping our planet took to make tea "civilized". I also didn't know about fair trade teas. Thank you for the tip!

    When we were in Sedona for our wedding, we visited an amazing vegan restaurant that had a delightful tea selection; complete with hippie names that made me feel like I just smoked a fatty. I'll research the brand I found & flavor that made me giddy & will send it to you. Nummmer-Nummmer-Nummer!

  6. I have soooooooo many different kinds of David's Tea. I love them all. I prefer loose tea. I have a clear teapot with built-in infuser. My daughter and I discovered David's Tea in Moncton and we fell in love immediately.

  7. libre tea mugs are great travel options- and canadian! they have a glass on glass version (they're double walled) or a poly-n-glass, which although is plastic, is great for klutzes like me to prolong the life of the mug!!

    as for favourite teas... hmm, peppermint #1, and i have a great green tea with coconut mix. yum!!

  8. oops, meant to link the glass'n'glass- http://libretea.com/shop-libre/libre-glassn-glass/

  9. Being British, I am a tea addict! Living in the US has only furthered my obsession since there are so many great loose leaf tea providers here.

    My favourite teas are overwhelmingly black, particularly Yunnuns and some of the Indian blends. However, I drink a fair amount of green tea in the afternoons, and have every kind of tea you can imagine in my cupboard (including mate, rooibos, and tisanes).

    I used to work in a tea store and that led me to an interesting realisation: don't be fooled by company made slogans like 'equa trade' or 'equal trade'. These are NOT fair trade certified, and are usually made up by companies to seem more worker friendly than they are. Do your research, folks! I see this kind of trick a LOT in the tea world, and it took me a while to figure it out.

  10. don't forget world tea house which is in downtown halifax across the street from Neptune theatre. They have loose tea and fair trade etc.
    I bought a tea ball thingie from there and have been using it and drinking loose tea, trying to lose the tea bag habit. I like black tea, ceylon and assam mixed:) I also drink herbal tea, prefer it loose and not commercially packaged but also have green and white and commercial organic peppermint in my cupboard along with just us chai and earl grey.

  11. This is one of the great thing.. very nice.. keep posting..

  12. I love loose leaf teas as well but I'm picky with the flavor of my tea. My current favorite is not loose leaf but it tastes soooooo yummy. Try Numi's Ruby Chai. I think you can find it at Uncommon Grounds. I had to go to a local distributor of coffee and tea to find some boxes.


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