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Loose Leaf vs Tea Bags: Which is More Eco?


Loose leaf or bagged tea, which is better for the environment? Keep reading for our take on the matter, as well as which brands to sip from.

Loose Leaf vs Tea Bags: Which is More Eco?

by K T Wallace


Loose leaf tea or tea bags – both popular hot drink alternatives, but which one is friendlier for the environment? As conscious consumers, we regularly assess our lifestyle choices and the prices each one can cost our planet. We first need to consider the difference between the two types of tea, and how eco-friendly they each may be.

What is Loose Leaf Tea?

In an argument of loose leaf tea vs tea bags, loose leaf is often seen as the more luxurious of the two. A packet or tin of loose tea consists of large dried tea leaves. Loose leaf tea is allowed to diffuse in hot water for several minutes before being strained into a cup for drinking. Often brands selling loose tea will advertise that you won’t find ‘tea dust’ amongst loose tea. This refers to the much smaller pieces of tea leaves that can, by contrast, often be found in tea bags.

What are Tea Bags?

Tea bags are characterised by a small pouch, often made of filter paper or silk cotton, and filled with dried tea. This will then diffuse into a cup of hot water through small perforations in the bag itself. Unlike loose tea, tea bags are made popular by their undoubtable convenience over loose leaves. Many people are happy to compromise the perceived quality of the latter for the ease of throwing a tea bag in without the extra step of having to strain loose leaves. Between loose leaf tea and tea bags, the latter is also likely to have a higher caffeine content because of the more finely-ground nature of the tea content. 

Which is More Sustainable: Loose Leaf vs Tea Bag?

When it comes to loose leaf vs bagged tea, the question of how sustainable they are comes into play. A huge argument against tea bags has always been their huge carbon footprint compared to more ‘raw’ loose leaf tea. This is largely down to the composition of the actual bags containing the tea. Traditionally these contained microplastics that result in a much longer decomposition time, now more made from eco-friendly materials are bobbing to the surface. 

Of course, the precise environmental impact still varies massively from brand to brand. Many sellers now use fully recyclable and plastic free tea bags, bridging the gap between loose leaf and bagged tea in terms of sustainability. There are also plenty of brands leading the way with services like ethical tea subscriptions for both varieties.

Loose Leaf & Bagged Tea We Love

Whether you prefer your tea loose or bagged, here are our top picks for sustainable brands that provide both options.

  1. Nuditea
  2. Bird and Blend Co.
  3. Hampstead Tea

Nuditea

Created in 2019, Nuditea aimed to create the same conscious buzz around tea that coffee has attracted in recent years. Their blends are available as loose leaf tea and tea bags. All packaging, blends and tea bags are all totally plastic free and compostable. Ingredients come from trusted suppliers and responsible sources which uphold high ethical standards.

Bird and Blend Co.

Bird and Blend Co. provides a huge range of both loose leaf tea and tea bags in some wild and wonderful flavours. Currently carbon neutral and aiming for net-zero emission, their high-quality loose leaf tea is a great pick when factoring sustainability into your tea-drinking habits. For those who’d rather use tea bags over loose leaf tea, there are plenty of plastic free and biodegradable options available. 

Hampstead Tea

Whether you opt for loose leaf or bagged tea, Hampstead Tea provides an ethical and sustainable solution for your favourite hot drink supplies. They were the first brand to bring stitched – not glued – tea bags to the UK, and strive to use plastic free and compostable packaging in their products. As well as being Fairtrade certified, their loose leaf tea and tea bags all come in a wide variety of blends to suit all tastes.

Sustainable Lifestyle, Fashion & Travel with The One Edit

If you’re unsure on the difference between vegan and plant-based or which sustainable jewellery brands to try, The One Edit’s helpful guides are here to keep you in the know on all things eco.