Packaging Matters

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion about plastics in teabags. As this story by the BBC illustrates, a lot of bags are made of plastic. This includes the very popular pyramid tea bags which are made of a polylactic silky fabric.

This is an issue that we have been grappling with for the past 10 years. As tea lovers, we are constantly looking for innovations to help people make better tea.

Tea bag design always involves a compromise between form and function.

Loose leaf brewing makes better quality tea, because uncut leaves yield less caffeine and more flavour. Most teabags are made with cut down tea leaves. This allows the teabags to be filled by machines, but the result is more caffeine and lower quality in the cup.

Many years ago, we were asked by our food service partners to supply our tea in pyramid tea bags, in response to demand from their customers.

We searched extensively for a solution, but it became apparent that there was no-one making pyramid tea bags without the use of some plastics. We are not willing to compromise the quality of our product or increase our environmental impact simply to make a teabag of a different shape.

As a family business, we made a decision to focus our attention on quality of our teas, blending and manufacturing in a sustainable way. In order to provide our food service partners with the best possible product, we would make our own 100% compostable tea bags.

Herbal Republic teabags

We purchased and configured equipment that would allow us to use recycled pulp paper and create a square pouch which would be our CONVENIENT TEA BAG. Whilst it appears quite simple it is a 100% sustainable product. It contains no plastics, nor anything that can affect the flavour of your tea. It is simply recycled pulp and plant cellulose (to allow us to seal the pouch) and contains our own quality full leaf teas.

Gratifyingly, this tea bag has been well received and Herbal Republic has continued to market this tea bag design for over 10 years.

In 2003, we launched our Tea Kit for the retail market and our online community, who wanted the convenience of a tea bag without prepackaging. The Tea Kit combines our quality loose leaf tea with 30 compostable tea filters, and makes loose leaf brewing more portable and convenient. The Tea Kit was aimed at the retail customers and packaged in a sealed tin. We felt that the tin was great for tea storage, reusable and looked good.

We believed that the Tea Kit could convince more people that drinking loose leaf tea can be healthier, more enjoyable and convenient, whilst still minimizing negative environmental impact.

Herbal Republic tea kit (tin)

In 2008, we reconfigured the tea kit into a cardboard box, which made the product completely and more easily recyclable and lowered the price for our customers.

Herbal Republic tea kit

Some markets are still reluctant to move forward with the idea of sustainable loose-leaf tea packaging, preferring the form of a plastic-based, pyramid-shaped bag over other options. We simply will not make a product like that.

Re-thinking and improving the basics of tea-making ensured that we can continue to make great products, all of which are 100% backyard compostable with the guarantee that they will breakdown completely without the use of plastics or special facility to break down a plastic based product.

Most importantly, it means a better cup of tea, today and for a long time to come.

I am very proud today that we have been following our commitment to the environment, our future generations and will continue on the path of providing our customers not only with quality but a healthy quality product line. We still remain a family business and will probably never be the Amazon of the tea world. However, we will stay with our commitment to quality and service to our customers knowing that we as business have done everything in our power to protect our planet.

Anita Suri