You may be a long time tea lover—but do you really know what you're sipping on? The average tea drinker is likely using tea bags for their convenience, as opposed to loose leaf tea which may require some education and tools to use. And while tea bags can be filled with incredible, high-quality tea, the bags themselves are often hiding some secrets.
With a heightened societal concern around environmental health, there has grown a common misconception that all tea bags are biodegradable. While some tea bags are biodegradable, many are not—and attempting to compost them can be very harmful. In reality, tea bags are usually made with nylon, plastic, or bleached paper, and sealed with glue or other harmful chemicals. Not only are these chemicals are materials harmful on the environment, they also can be harmful to the body.
Why Should You Care About Tea Bags?
Tea Bags’ Effect on the Environment
When we compost tea bags which are not biodegradable, they may end up polluting our oceans, or clogging our water system. Because many tea bags do not actually decay like other natural waste, they may even end up harming animals.
Tea Bags’ Effect on the Body
The Harmful Effects of Microplastics
Beyond their harmful effect on the environment, tea bags can add unnecessary and harmful chemicals to your cup of tea. When tea is steeped in hot water, the materials that make up the tea bag are released into the water, along with the tea. In fact, it has been discovered that around 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nano plastic particles are released in a single serving of tea from plastic and nylon tea bags. These microplastics are then ingested by the tea drinker—leading to potentially harmful health effects and toxicity.
Tea Bag Sealants
Staples or glue are often used to seal tea bags. Both of these sealants are associated with harmful compounds that may even be carcinogenic.
Lower Quality Tea
Because the tea needs to fit inside of a bag, it must be ground up into fine dust and fannings. While this in itself is not directly harmful to your health, it means that the tea is lower quality and thus may not provide the same health benefits as loose leaf tea.
Ingredients Found in Tea Bags
Most tea bags are made with nylon, plastic or paper.
Plastic Tea Bags
Many tea bags are made out of plastic. The plastic used to make these tea bags is polyethylene, which is also the plastic used to make shopping bags and clear food wrap.
The reason that plastic tea bags are more harmful than putting your food in a plastic bag is because plastic tea bags are actually submerged in boiling water, and thus release plastic particles into your tea. Each time you use a plastic tea bag, 11.6 billion particles of microplastics and 3.1 billion particles of nano plastics are released into your cup, and then enter your digestive system.
Further, plastic tea bags, like plastic grocery bags, are very harmful to the environment. They will never biodegrade or compost, and instead will stick around and pollute the environment.
Nylon Tea Bags
Nylon is a fabric that you may know from your favorite clothing. Although it is known to have a high heat resistance (making it great for workout outfits), nylon is still able to release harmful chemicals when submerged in boiling water during the steeping process.
There is still research to be done on the potential effects of nylon tea bags, but studies have yet to confirm their safety in long-term use.
Paper Tea Bags
Although tea bags made from paper sound the least scary of the bunch (after all, paper is made out of wood and fiber—two very natural ingredients), they still come with associated risk. Instead of releasing harmful microplastics, paper tea bags may be adding a dose of bleach to your bev.
Bleach is often used in the manufacturing process for paper tea bags, because producers are looking for a very white bag to demonstrate pure, clean tea. In reality, this false image of purity is hiding chlorine dioxide.
In the same way that you wouldn't want to drink pool water, you definitely don't want to be consuming water that has been tainted with bleach.
Beyond whitening the paper tea bags, some manufacturers use a chemical called epichlorohydrin to help uphold the strength of a paper tea bag. This carcinogenic chemical only adds to the harmful effects of paper tea bags.
How Should You Consume Your Tea Instead?
While we understand the convenient appeal of tea bags, it's clear that many options out there can be risky to your health and the environment. Instead of swearing off tea entirely, we have a few options for you to consider:
Look for Tea Bags with Transparent Ingredients
If you're loyal to your tea bag routine, we understand. There are still options for you to enjoy, but you may have to do some research to ensure you're getting the best quality tea bag out there. We recommend looking for pyramid tea bags made from natural, plant based ingredients like corn fiber.
Make sure you double check if your tea bags contain plastic, and still be wary of unnatural tea bags like nylon and the additional ingredients, like bleach, in paper tea bags.
To play it extra safe, we recommend avoiding tea bags altogether. Instead, opt for a loose leaf tea option to guarantee the healthiest, highest quality tea drinking experience.
Drink Loose Leaf Tea
The best way to avoid the harmful effects of tea bags? Drink loose leaf tea. Loose leaf tea is an incredible option that allows you to enjoy only the best parts of tea. This completely plastic free tea option may require some education to get started, which is why we've made it our priority at Mosi to make brewing loose leaf tea as easy as possible.
Mosi created the world's best tea innovation of 2022 at the World Tea Expo: our on-the-go multibrew infuser. Our plastic free infuser is made out of a material used to make medical and baby devices, so you know that it is a safe option to brew your tea in. Plus, it makes brewing tea incredibly easy without the use of tea bags. This means that you can enjoy your tea at its most beneficial state for your body and the environment; this zero waste infuser is mother earth's best friend.
At Mosi Tea, we also sourced the best garden-picked tea leaves in the world for you to enjoy in a loose leaf format. If you were a diehard tea fan using tea bags, we likely have your favorite variety in its loose leaf form—or an even more exciting, delicious new tea adventure for you to try.
Check out Mosi's plastic free tea infuser and variety of delicious loose leaf teas to get started on your healthiest tea journey yet.