Make your own tea bags from recycled fabric to avoid plastic and waste + summer tea recipe

18 December 2014
Tea is a favorite beverage of mine. Right now I am sipping on a cup of chamomile. I can remember the first time I tried chamomile. I was with my sister in my grandmother's kitchen and we were sitting in front of her old Aga wood stove. She boiled the water, put two tea bags into our mugs and waited for them to cool before handing them to us after swirling in a bit of honey. She warned us that we would not like it. But we did. Maybe we were trying to be grownup. But that is where my love affair for tea started.

Before I went plastic free I used to enjoy a tea bag plonked into my cup morning, noon and night. I originally gave up pre-packaged tea due to the endless plastic shrink wrapped boxes or the boxes with little plastic holes or the foil wrapped loose tea. It got too much trying to figure out if half of it was recyclable. But it turns out there was more than just plastic outside the box as journalist Taylor Orci uncovered in her article on the hidden plastics in tea bags.

Earlier this year Lindsay of Treading My Own Path wrote an article on her blog about the scandalous amount of plastic that are in teabags. Once I looked at the actual life of a pre-packaged tea bag, beyond the plastic, I realised how many resources actually go into making a single tea bag and how wasteful it was. It was then that I decided to stick to loose leaf enjoyed in my tea pot or metal tea ball.

I use a teapot at home with a built in diffuser and a metal tea ball at work. I like to enjoy a cup of tea when I am flying (I’m an anxious flyer) but I don’t consume anything on my flights because I want to avoid plastic and create no waste. I can’t take my teapot with me. I tried taking my metal tea ball on flights and holidays but found that they drip quite a bit when I pulled them out of my cup and would drench a cloth when I wrapped it up for disposable later. It was messy.

So I decided to make my own fabric tea bags. Apart from being reusable they are easier to wring and store away until I can compost the tea leaves (read: usually dump into a garden). Then I just wash, dry and reuse. Too easy.

Another pro for the reusable cloth tea bag is that you can measure out exactly the amount you need. Whereas with teapots a lot of people do not measure the proper amount and end up wasting tea leaves. The suggested measure is 1.5 teaspoons per person.

Making my own tea bags that I can use over and over and over again is a smarter and more sustainable choice when compared to the production of tea bags plus the added packaging they come in and the environmental footprint created when all the different elements are brought together then finally shipped to stores. I want to enjoy my tea knowing that I am creating little impact.

The plain simple truth is that pre-packaged tea bags bought from stores are not necessary. They are convenient. A lot of resources go into making a tea bag that will last 5 minutes (or more if you hold onto it for a second cup).

By not buying tea bags and making reusable tea bags the following materials can be saved:
  • Shrink wrap plastic
  • cardboard box packaging
  • foil/paper sachets
  • paper or plastic bags
  • string
  • staples
That is a big list of resources and over the course of a year it adds up. Plus there is the added chemicals like bleach and plastic pollutants in some brands.

How to make your own recycled cloth tea bags

This tutorial for making your own tea bags is great for the beginner sewer (like me!). As I am teaching myself to sew I have started with hand sewing and learning the basics. No doubt whipping these up on a sewing machine would be soooo much faster. So if you have one you can follow along and swap the hand sewing for your sewing machine. Be kind, I am a beginner. Mum that was specifically at you.

1. Take a piece of scrap paper and cut out the desired size of your tea bag. This will serve as a template. I made mine 5cm x 6cm. Pin the template to your fabric and cut out two pieces. I just fold the fabric over so I don’t have to cut twice.

2. Hold them together.

2. Start sewing on either the left or right hand side about 1.5 cm down from the top and sew along the edge right around to the other side. You are going to need that 1.5 cm gap at the top in the moment. I sewed a back stitch for this part.

3. You should now have a little pocket. Yay! Now take the top and fold one side over and iron so it lays flat. Do the same to the other side.

4. Sew the bottom of the fold to the fabric being carefully not to sew the pouch together. I use a small slip stitch so it is barely visible. This is because I am yet to master sewing in a perfectly straight line. Do this all the way around.

5. Cut a narrow bit of fabric, about 0.5cm in width and however long you want the tea bag string to be.

6. Attach a safety pin to the end of the string and thread it through the top holes on either side. Remove the safety pin and turn your little bag inside out. VoilĂ , you have made a tea bag. If you have a sewing machine I bet you are already enjoying a cup of tea.

These little bags can go beyond just a tea bag for yourself. Imagine creating a mix of your own tea and gifting to a friend. Or storing dried flowers inside the pouches to keep your clothes smelling of spring. 

Before you run to the fabric store STOP! Visit your local Op Shop and find a second roll of cotton, hemp or linen item, ask family and friends for scrap material or perhaps you have some of your own. Second hand items have been through the wash meaning that any nasty chemicals would have come out of the fabric. You could even find something worn with holes in your wardrobe like I did. If you would prefer to use new fabric try choosing organic and ethical that has not been treated with anything. The fabric in this tutorial is an old cotton shirt that I had cut up for rags.

Rosemary and Lavender tea recipe

Remember the rosemary I was drying out? I made it into a tea with dried Lavender that I picked locally and let dry too.

2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon dried lavender
Lemon and Honey (optional)

Make your own tea bags from recycled fabric

This is a tea that can be enjoyed hot or cold. If you have lemon verbena add it in lieu of the lemon. Never add tea to boiling water. Let your kettle boil and sit for 5 minutes then add. Boiled water will burn your tea. I steep my tea for 5 minutes. If putting in cold water let sit there for an hour before serving.
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