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Many people who enjoy tea opt for the convenience of tea bags. Just pop one in a mug, pour in some boiling water, and in a few minutes, your tea is ready.
Most tea bags are made of paper. This makes for a flat shape that can sometimes make it tricky to get the tea to infuse properly.
What most of us do to help the process along is move the tea bag up and down inside the cup using the attached string.
This works quite well, thank you very much.
Premium tea manufacturers decided it wasn’t good enough, however.
So, to distinguish themselves from the competition, many top-of-the-line and/or organic brands such as Mighty Leaf switched to a pyramid-shaped mesh tea bag.
Helping the tea diffuse better with this three-dimensional style makes for better tasting tea and a happier customer.
Mesh Tea Bag Dangers
So, what do you think those fancy mesh tea bags are made of?
Researchers at McGill University in Montreal decided to find out.
In a September 2019 study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, scientists removed the tea from premium tea bags and placed them in water heated to 203F (95C), such as would occur during the brewing of tea.
What they found was shocking.
A SINGLE TEA BAG released about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion smaller nanoplastic particles into the hot water.
PLASTIC teabags? Not so premium after all!
The difference between microplastic and nanoplastics is this:
- Microplastic particles have a thickness about the same as human hair.
- Nanoplastic particles are much smaller still!
These particles are so small, in fact, that they are invisible to the naked eye.
They are also undetectable and don’t trigger any texture sensation on the tongue when you are drinking the tea.
Here’s the most eye-opening news of all. The particles released from the tea bag “are several orders of magnitude higher than plastic loads previously reported in other foods”. (1)
In other words, tea packaged in premium mesh bags is one of the biggest sources for ingestion of microplastics.
Researcher Laura Hernandez said that the results of this study give consumers the opportunity to be more aware of their purchases.
She suggested that:
We encourage consumers to choose loose teas that is sold without packaging or other teas that come in paper teabags. (2)
Premium Tea Another Source of Single-Use Plastic
My question is why are organic tea manufacturers packaging quality tea in ….. PLASTIC?
This is utterly insane and a slap in the face to the health-conscious customers that placed their trust in these products. In some cases, people are paying a whopping $8/box for 16 tea bags or even more in some places!
Essentially, people are paying a premium for a false sense of security that they are avoiding toxins. In fact, they are ingesting more plastic particles from these tea brands than they are basically getting anywhere else including ocean-based sea salts already known to be loaded with it.
By comparison, other organic brands that use paper tea bags are half to even a quarter of the price. Buy organic tea in bulk, and you save even more.
From an environmental perspective, these plastic mesh tea bags are just another source of single-use plastic.
Not only do premium tea bags cause you to ingest billions of tiny plastic particles that contain estrogen-mimicking petroleum-based chemicals, but it increases the toxic burden to the environment as well.
If you’ve been buying premium teas under the mistaken belief that they were less toxic and a safer choice in general, guess again.
Both your wallet and your health are far better off buying paper tea bags or buying in bulk.
How to Transition Off Tea Bags
If you decide to buy in bulk (this is the best option as some paper tea bags have small amounts of plastic too), I recommend two products that make the transition from tea bags very easy.
First, get a stainless steel diffuser for brewing single cups of tea. This is the one I’ve used for years.
Second, get a small teapot specially designed to infuse tea. It is useful for making therapeutic herbal infusions or brewing 2-3 cups of tea at the same time. This is the one I use.
What do you know about this type of bag ~ corn silk?: We offer our organic, whole leaf teas packaged in single-serving corn silk pyramid tea bags
Sarah Pope MGA
The corn is almost certainly GMO 🙁 Also, is corn silk the only ingredient? I would doubt it. I think more information would be good here.
Don’t you worry about the heat plus acidity of tea leaching nickel from stainless steel?
I’d love your opinion on this.
Sarah Pope MGA
No, because the time the tea is steeping is so short. Also, tea is not really acidic enough to be a problem. It doesn’t compare to kombucha or tomato products.
My question is why are so many organic products packaged in plastic? I cannot in good faith buy organic produce that is put in a plastic container like the Costco apples and pears. I would rather wait for sales or pay a little bit more to get loose apples. I understand it is necessary in some situations but I didn’t even think about tea.
I did see this on RT America, but am grateful you provided more info on this subject!!!
It’s horrible here in France. Conventional produce is free, unpackaged. ALL the organic produce is wrapped in plastic. It’s insane. The reasoning is apparently something about distinguishing the organic from the conventional.
I just switched over from coffee to loose tea leaves and I repurposed my coffee press (French press) for brewing my tea leaves. It seems to work well. Any thoughts on using this method? Thanks!
Sarah Pope MGA
Seems like a creative approach to me!
Traditional Medicinals Organic tea bags aren’t plastic. I think they’re hemp from all the research I did today. But that said, one could also just cut/open the bag then remove the tea and use a ceramic or stainless steel tea strainer or diffuser. It’s sad that every month or so we find out what we thought was good for us is actually horrifyingly horrible or us. Thanks for your info.
Sarah Pope MGA
It is disturbing for sure. It takes a lot for me to buy a brand … I do my due diligence with pretty much everything I buy that isn’t made in my own kitchen. That said, I STILL got completely duped by Mighty Leaf … I thought those pyramid tea bags were made of cloth. Once bitten twice shy.
Isn’t it coincidental that when I read the research for this post… I dug around in my tea cabinet and could only find one Mighty Leaf tea bag for the photo in this article! LOL At least I didn’t have to toss multiple boxes, because that brand is very expensive but so not worth it because of the toxic packaging.
Actually, if anyone has a bunch of boxes of these toxic brands of tea, I would try to return them. If thousands of people do this, wouldn’t that send a loud and clear message to the manufacturer and the Bozo in a glass tower somewhere who made the dumb decision to use plastic to package premium tea bags.
Yes, you can cut open the tea, but then you don’t the convenience of a tea bag and still pay the higher price.
Thank you for sharing your research on Traditional Medicinals … the problem described in the article is primarily with the new pyramid shaped teabags. The box of TM tea that I have is flat… but I did buy this box awhile ago so maybe they’ve changed?
That’s what I do. I never brew in the bag. Those mesh bags are very disconcerting.
They say the paper ones are usually sealed with like a polymer at the top too.
Sarah Pope MGA
Yes, I mention this at the very end of the post. Thanks for mentioning this as many folks might have missed this point.
The optimal way to drink tea is to use loose leaf organic, for sure, but that isn’t always possible while traveling for example.
You can also get around this by just dipping the bottom half of the teabag in the hot water and doing this again and again for a minute or two and not let the entire teabag sink to the bottom. This way the polymer top doesn’t touch the hot water.