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Is Your Tea Bag Toxic?

Is Your Tea Bag Toxic?

Your tea bag might be kindly adding a new household PET you weren't aware of

A warm cup of tea really is one of the great small pleasures in life. Watching herbal concoctions infuse into your tea before your drink, can be an incredibly relaxing ritual, however your tea may also be infusing with something a little more deadly than potential relaxation.

There are good reasons that most organic teas and the teas supported on are sold as loose leaf. Not only is an unconfined leaf able to open out more, releasing flavours and nutrients, but the debate about what the tea bag is made of is not relevant.

In the supermarket tea market, the type of casing that tea bags are made of depends on the brand. Within a brand, the different ranges of teas are also often housed in different materials. Tea vendors tend to focus the conversation around the biodegradability or compostability of a bag, but you do well to also consider if those silky tea bags are are adding an uninvited household PET or microfibres.

What are tea bags made of?

Many of these silky tea bags are actually made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or polylactic acid (PLA). Depending on the brand, they may also be sealed with a thin film of polypropylene or acrylic copolymer emulsion to glue the sides of the bag together. 

All these plastics are 'food grade' plastics and are considered safe because they have a high melt point, which reduces the potential for chemical leaching. The problem is that is where the arguments start and the science is inconclusive at best and damning at worst.  The PET plastic for instance is the same as that used to make plastic water bottles which have been shown to release hormone mimicking pollutants and more recently, micro plastics

Paper tea bags are not innocent either. Some paper tea bags are with epichlorohydrin, a compound that is also used as a pesticide. And when this chemical comes into contact with water it is altered to create a new form called 3-MCPD, which has been linked to infertility, decreased immune system and cancer in animals. 

The best way to drink tea

The best (and safest) way to enjoy your favourite cup of tea is to invest in a teapot, metal tea ball or cup strainer and fill with your loose leaf tea in. And of course, where you can, drink chemical free - organic, non GMO, chemical free, plastic free, bleach free tea with no added flavour. (Yep, you'll just be left with the actual plants!)  And don't forget to look our for the Fair Trade or No Exploitation declarations, especiallt if the tea is from overseas.

Water temperature

Most teas will tell you on the pack these days, but the temperature at which you brew tea matters. You can burn more delicate leaves and flowers if the temperature is too high, so take the kettle off before it boils or wait a bit if it has boiled. Aim for around 70 degrees. Black teas can be brewed at higher temperatures around 85 degrees. 

If you have some leftover tea bags and are nervous about using them, there is no need to throw them out - just cut the bag open and place the leaves in your new tea ball and infuse.

Images: Unsplash - Drew Taylor / Mayella / Unsplash - Nathan Dumolao | Marisa Haris


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