Updated: Apr 4
This article was written by Bernadette Abraham - Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and AFMC-certified functional medicine coach.
When we came across this article we thought it was so interesting and such valuable information to share with our readers. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
If you’re a tea drinker, a 2019 study showed that plastic tea bags release BILLIONS of micro- and nanoplastics into hot water. (Source: https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.9b02540)
Not good. And if you need scientific validation, here’s a good article describing the potential toxic effects on human health including physical stress and damage, apoptosis, necrosis, inflammation, oxidative stress and immune responses: https://www.mdpi.com/2079-4991/11/2/496/htm
Does that mean never drink tea ever again? NO! It just means we now have an opportunity to find a better way to enjoy our tea.
How? Organic loose leaf is best. Buy a stainless-steel tea ball for the herbs or a glass infuser bottle.
Some companies also sell organic dissolvable tea crystals and powders which are other good options but they're usually more costly.
And when that’s not possible, I rip the tea bag open and empty its contents into my mug when dining out for example. Most of the herbs sink to the bottom so while it’s not ideal, it still works.
This inconvenience led me to research tea brands to see which ones use or don’t use plastic tea bags. I was already aware of the brand Traditional Medicinals being fully organic and plastic-free, but I wanted to know of more options.
So I asked my audience on Instagram to submit their favorite tea brands and we came up with a list of 36 different brands. Some were fully organic, some were not, and some offered a selection of organic herbs so the following results take that into account as well.
NOTE #1: Tea is a highly sprayed crop, so it’s best to choose certified organic herbs if possible to avoid pesticides.
NOTE #2: While I did categorize the teas based on their organic status and whether or not they use plastic tea bags, I did NOT make a note of the brands using “natural flavors” in their teas. You’ll have to read your tea ingredients to find that out.
I personally avoid the mysterious “natural flavor” ingredient designed to hijack your taste buds and be addictive because these proprietary formulas can contain upward of 100 different chemicals like propylene glycol, polysorbate 80, BHT, BHA, etc. These are considered incidental additives by the FDA and therefore not required to be disclosed on labels.
Unless you reach out to the company directly and they willingly provide the ingredients used, there’s really no way for consumers to know.
That’s why I prefer to avoid natural flavors as often as possible and tea is no exception. If companies are using quality herbs, the flavor from these herbs should be enough to satisfy your palate.
So without further ado, below are the results of my tea bag research as of Jan 7, 2022. (Please see the latest updates at the end of the article)
The following brands are certified organic AND 100% plastic-free:
The following brands don't have a full range of organic herbs but they are 100% plastic-free:
The following brands are not currently plastic-free but they mentioned that they are making an effort to make the switch to be fully plastic-free.
Please note, some companies are using natural fibers for their tea bags, however the sealant may contain synthetic ingredients so they cannot claim to be 100% plastic-free. If your tea brand is not listed here so far, please keep that in mind when doing your own research.
The following brands are currently not using plastic-free tea bags:
And finally, I did not get any information from the following brands despite several follow-up attempts. One company in particular did not want to disclose that information unfortunately. I will be sure to update this list if and when the companies do reach out.
I realize this is not an exhaustive list and your favorite brand of tea may not have been researched here. I encourage you to reach out to the company directly and ask them what material is used in their tea bags and whether or not they are 100% plastic-free (including the bag, string and tag).
Please feel free to share your responses below if you do reach out to more companies not listed here!
*UPDATES: After posting this article, I was made aware that Lipton MENA region (Middle East & North Africa) and Lipton USA use different materials for their tea bags. Lipton MENA region does NOT use plastic.