How sustainable is your tea time?
This post is sponsored by Arbor Teas. Thank you for supporting the brands that I trust and that support my small business!
Picture me sitting with a cup of tea in my hand, inhaling the fragrant steam rising from my small tasting cup. It feels so good to pause and enjoy. Sometimes I let my mind wander and imagine the journey of those tea leaves and all the energy and resources that went into making it. It’s impossible not to feel grateful for it, don’t you think?
One thought leads to another, some questions surface. Are we using those energy and resources wisely or are we wasting them? Are we being kind to our planet?
I have good news for you. Did you know that growing tea does not need irrigation water? All our beloved tea plants need is rain, which makes growing tea sustainable from a water consumption perspective. On the flip side of the coin, this makes it vulnerable to rising temperatures, drought and irregular rainfall, in short, climate change. As an example, we’ve seen this more and more in recent years in India in Darjeeling and Assam and it has affected tea production and quality.
Fear not! There’s so much we tea lovers can do on a daily basis to save energy and resources, to reduce waste and to ensure that our favorite leaves keep being grown and our favorite beverage produced.
“According to a 2015 life cycle analysis of Darjeeling tea, it turns out that the energy required to simply heat up the water to brew your tea rivals ALL the energy (serving for serving) it takes to grow, manufacture, and deliver it to you in the first place. So, being careful not to boil more water than you need can make a big impact!” (more details here)
Let’s take a closer look at our tea time to identify what we can improve. Even one apparently small change can make a huge difference in the long run! Here are the questions we should all be asking ourselves.
-Where does it come from? Using filtered tap water (if possible) is more sustainable than bottled water (plastic bottle and transportation needed).
-How much am I using? Heating more water than necessary wastes water and energy.
-How are they grown? Organic and biodynamic agriculture methods are more sustainable than conventional.
-How far did they travel to get here? Homegrown teas and herbal teas travel less but that is not always an option for all tea types. Worth considering nonetheless.
-How are they packaged? Loose leaf teas are more sustainable than tea bags.
-What does the outer packaging look like? Reusable and compostable packaging is far more sustainable than disposable. Did you know that Arbor Teas packaging is backyard compostable?
-Can I re-steep the same leaves multiple times? You can if they are high quality, so that delicious flavor doesn’t go to waste.
-How am I disposing of the spent tea leaves? Compost is far more sustainable than trash and benefits the soil. Pro tip: instead of keeping your vegetable scraps in a bin under the sink, you can freeze them. Voilà, easy and odorless.
-How much am I using? Is there a better way to heat the water? If you can heat your water to the right temperature rather than boiling it and letting it cool down, you can save some energy.
-Disposable cups and straws for tea on the go? A reusable travel mug is so much more eco-friendly!
Want more eco-friendly tea brewing tips? Right this way.
To celebrate a sustainable tea time, let’s taste some exciting teas together!
Brewing parameters: 176F for 3 minutes in a regular-sized mug with large infuser basket.
The dry leaves look surprisingly similar to yaupon, mostly leaf fragments and stems, but it’s more yellow in color. It smells like genmaicha and umami while brewing. Savory, umami, roasty notes on the palate.
Brewing parameters: 205F for 4 minutes in a regular-sized mug with large infuser basket.
Dark wiry leaves rolled lengthwise with golden tips. Smells sweet and chocolatey while brewing. Fruity, chocolatey and malty on the palate. Thrichomes floating in the tea (a good sign because they carry flavor compounds).
Brewing parameters: 190F for 3 minutes in a regular-sized mug with large infuser basket.
Sweet and slightly peppery on the nose as it steeps. Sweet, floral with a returning complexity on the palate and a peppery quality that lingers in the mouth.
Brewing parameters: 205F for 5 minutes in a regular-sized mug with large infuser basket.
Yaupon is a species of holly and the only caffeinated plant native to the United States. The dry leaves look like flakes. While brewing it smells earthy, reminds me of the smell of a strong black tea with a slice of fresh lemon. It tastes earthy with herbaceous and citrus notes. As it cools, it has some roasty notes in the aftertaste (a bit like Japanese hojicha) even if it is unroasted.
Which one would you try first? Let me know in the comments below.
A heartfelt thank you to Arbor Teas for partnering with me on this post. Opinions are my own.