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Reasons Why We Only Sell Loose Tea

Why we only sell loose tea
Why we only sell loose tea

Everyone knows them: tea bags. Some 95% of Belgian and Dutch tea drinkers use them. Partly out of ease, partly because you have a lot of freedom of choice thanks to the huge range on offer.

At Tea Kulture, we only sell loose tea. No tea in bags. Why? First and foremost for ecological reasons.

In the beginning, you had the paper tea bags. But for a while now, pyramid-shaped silk bags have been popping up more and more. For the latter, it is easy: the bags are largely made of plastic (PET, PLA or nylon) and should not go on the compost bin. Recycling is also difficult because it is difficult to separate the tea and the bag after use.

For paper bags, the story is more difficult. This is because a tea bag has a number of technical properties to fulfil. It has to remain intact throughout its lifetime AND it has to be able to withstand hot water. Normal paper immediately tears when it comes into contact with water and therefore does not meet these requirements.

Polypropylene is used as a solution, a substance that allows bags to be “sealed”. But it is also a microplastic that is not compostable, and which remains undigested in our environment for decades. 

People with a compost bin have probably noticed it too: tea bags are not always fully biodegradable. Most tea bags break down only 70 to 80 per cent. The remaining part, about a quarter, contains, among other things, the microplastic polypropylene.

We do not comment on the health consequences. This is still the subject of extensive research. Of course, it is not nice to know that plastic particles can be released when drinking tea from a sachet.

Moreover, this plastic causes problems in terms of recycling. OVAM, the Belgian government agency responsible for waste processing, recently banned tea bags from VGF waste because of these microplastics.

* Source: https://vlaco.be/search?text=theezakjes 

Fortunately, several tea producers are working on plastic-free tea bags. Some alternatives are already available on the market, for instance, including tea bags made of soilon (a corn starch-based bioplastic) and abaca (a banana variety). These bags are perfectly biodegradable in industrial compost plants, but break down laboriously in the compost bin. This is because the decomposition of these materials requires a constant high temperature, something that, for now, can only be done in an industrial compost plant.

Obviously, this form of compostability is a big step forward compared to non-compostable plastics. However, the development of the ideal solution will take several more years.

Does this mean that using loose tea leaves is 100% sustainable? Of course not. But it is the most ecological way to prepare your tea today: tea leaves themselves are 100% compostable. And when you let them float freely in a teapot, they can release all their delicious aromas undisturbed. Better for the environment, and you can enjoy a delicious cup of tea.

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