Plastic-free tea: accomplished

[Later. Head thwack! I forgot to add the pictures!]

Hubby and I were out in the ‘burbs last weekend, near one of my favorite Metro-accessible Persian groceries — Yekta; 1488 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852 near Twinbrook station — for canned goods, perhaps some sweet-treat and (fingers crossed) tea not packed with any plastic. And with a tiny caveat, I found it.

the tea package, unopened

end of package, with label

For $6, I got this 500g packet of Barooti Gulabi Tea. Gulabi being a trademark of G. A. Randerian Limited, of Kolkata (Calcutta), India. You can get it online, too: an example. What gave me hope was the outer milky-colored wrapper; that’s not plastic, but glassine, a kind of oil-resistant paper once commonly used for tasks given to plastic film today. (More about glassine later.)

tearing into the tea

the tea, ready to brew

The only plastic I found on the outside was the shiny seal — my caveat — pictured in the first second photo: a piece of mylar so small I didn’t bother to weigh it. Past the glassine was a label glued in place — I confess to a bit of Christmas gift unwrapping-like excitement — to the pinkish (probably recycled) paper layer, under which was a square of cardboard to help the loaf of tea keep its shape. Past that was a wrapper of foil-coated paper. There could be plastic sandwiched in there, but I’m doubtful: it’s awfully thin, and apart from that shiny seal and a UPC label, I doubt the packaging has changed much in decades. But for the record, the inner foil-coated layer weighed 3g.

Now, for the tasting. Not too tannic, a little malty. Not green tasting. I bet most people brought up on Lipton’s would accept it and think it better than usual. A dark liquor. Ices well. I bet it would be good spiced, too. A winner.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. Hi Scott. Another option for tea could be bulk tea (bring your own container) from a natural foods store like Whole Foods or whatever is in your area. My Whole Foods sells bulk teas without packaging. Do you know if the bulk stores in the D.C. area do? (Oh, and don’t know if you noticed the latest comment I left on my blog regarding sugar — I did find organic fair trade sugar in the bulk bin at Rainbow, a natural grocery store in SF. So it does exist. I guess it’s a matter of asking your natural grocery to carry it.)

  2. Ah, the bulk options here in D.C. are pretty poor, in part because the co-op situation is dire and they are nearly inaccessible without a car. My closest Whole Foods did away with their bulk herbs and spices. The organic grocery where I get my bulk quick oats has bulk tea, herbs and spices, but (1) their selection is very old and (2) very expensive. The same sack of tea would cost $35 in bulk. Which is why I would looking for an alternative.

  3. If you ever decide to kick caffeine, keep in mind the possibility of growing your own herbs for tea. There is lots of info about this from the frugal people.

    Back when I was a fair trade coffee roaster, our company put bulk coffee displays in one or two of our cafes but I don’t think they were very popular. People preferred the plastic bags. Hopefully that has changed. Offering a discount for people who use their own travel mugs was a more popular waste reduction policy.

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