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Enjoying a Sustainable Cup of Tea

I was a coffee drinker in my early adult life until I lived in Japan. Green tea became my daily hot drink, loose tea steeped in a hot pot, often reusing the same leaves for cups later in the day. Drink- ing high quality leaves, when reused, made it more affordable than the single-use tea bag from packaged boxes. Either alone or as a social experi- ence, I found that drinking good whole leaf green tea, fragrant and mildly steeped, slowed me down enough to enjoy the tea and appreciate the mo- ment.

I left Japan, continued with loose green tea for around five years but eventually I succumbed to the convenience of green tea bags, often used just once. Sometimes, I’d even buy these bags in bulk. I very recently have begun exploring more sus- tainable tea drinking practices. I’d like to share five of these practices in this ‘tip of the month’ BASC column.

1. Reuse your tea leaves. Whether using tea bags or loose tea, I’ve found it easy to get three cups of tea from the original bag or loose tea.

2. When done with the re-used paper tea bag, rip off the string and staple, place in the garbage and then put the tea bag in your food waste con- tainer for composting.

3. If you use tea bags, avoid plastic bags since the hot water breaks down the bag enough to re- lease billions of micro- and nanoplastics into the beverage. Yes, billions...(see https:// www.discovermagazine.com/health/plastic-tea- bags-release-billions-of-microplastics-into-every- cup)

4. If you go to a tea shop or coffee shop and need your hot beverage, “to go”, bring an insulated flask so there’s no need for a paper hot cup. Hot “paper” cups are not compostable, since they con- tain plastic to maintain cup stability when filled with hot water. The worst part of disposable hot cups are those plastic lids. Just say no to disposa- ble cups and plastic lids!

5. A sustainable alternative to tea bags: Explore the pleasures of loose tea. Loose tea is afforda- ble when used (and reused) in stainless steel tea

“strainers”. Loose tea practices mitigate the un- necessary waste of paper, cardboard, and staples used in the packaging of tea bags (this may seem trivial, but the profligate use and waste of tea bags worldwide does add up). In addition, Sara Finkle of our BASC group writes, “Once you have tea strainers in your home, it's easy to grow and forage your own herbal tea. Lavender, nettles, mints, rose petals, etc. are easy to pick and dry yourself. Or you can support local folks who grow their own teas like Laurel of Rambling Rose in Kings Valley or the Minto Island Tea Company in the Salem area. Check out what’s for sale at the Corvallis Farmers’ Market. Finally, if you shop at Oregon Coffee & Tea in Corvallis, you can fill your own jars and avoid using a plastic bag, just like you can at the coop.

In my back yard, in an old repurposed laundry room sink, mint planted before we moved into our house in 1993 just continues without human su- pervision, green leaves blooming each spring. The laundry room sink mint is low maintenance, need- ing just a bit of watering in the summer, and the sink keeps it from spreading all over the yard. I pick the leaf stalks in the fall, hang them to dry in the basement, crumple the leaves, store in con- tainers, and we have mint tea for the winter.

Enjoy your tea!

By Ken

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