Tea and the Pioneer Spirit — Packaging Overkill?

Pouches, filled with bagged or loose tea — sensible and cost effective
Pouches, filled with bagged or loose tea — sensible and cost effective

Tea steeped loose is, for many people, totally passé. Fine… people want convenience… sounds good to me. However, the “bags” that tea is now being put in for steeping are turning into fancy sachets in various shapes, and sometimes these are, in turn, packaged in special paper containers or other wrappers. Tea companies are really trying to outshine each other with their packaging, without paying attention to the tea within that package. Are we getting “packaging overkill” here? My Pioneer Spirit says, “Yes!”

What’s happened to the tea bag?
From simple flat squares and rounds, to flow-throughs and pyramids, to little cube shapes, and from materials that include paper, nylon, silk, and more, some with strings and tags attached and others with little paper leaves, the tea bag seems to come in an evermore complicated array. All I care is how easily can I cut it open and dump the contents loose into my teapot. (I try to buy loose tea as much as possible to avoid this waste.)

Davidson's Teabags, wrapped to make them easy to take with you
Davidson's Teabags, wrapped to make them easy to take with you

The next layer of packaging:
Twinings, Davidson’s, and many others individually wrap each teabag in paper. Some go to extremes with this, have specially shaped tea bags and custom fit their paper wrappers to those bags. The paper wrappers are not airtight. Makes one wonder if the price is mostly for the fancy packaging, not the tea. However, Stash’s foil pouch seals out air and moisture, and others use clear plastic that also seals. I must confess that these facilitate taking some tea bags along to the office or wherever you might be going, and they slide into tea wallets with ease. So, these seem downright practical to this lady of the prairie where those intrepid pioneers and the Indians living there who helped them knew how to squeeze every bit of use out of anything they had.

Tea Chest Filled with Taylors of Harrogate Tea Bags - British Favorites
Tea Chest Filled with Taylors of Harrogate Tea Bags - British Favorites

And these all go into…
Paper boxes and tea tins and plastic pouches are the common packaging for these bags, individually wrapped or not. Paper boxes get an outer wrapping of clear plastic to keep air out. The tea tins are usually well-sealed and reusable. The plastic pouches are best for keeping excess air out since you can fold them down as you use up the tea bags. There are also tea chests that come pre-filled with an assortment of individually wrapped tea bags, and the tea chest can be refilled or used for other purposes.

The overkill prize goes to…
Imagine this: a package that’s the same size as a Harney & Sons tin (containing 20 sachets), and that costs about 1.5 times more than that Harney & Sons tin but that only contains eight — yes, EIGHT — sachets is a specially designed box comprised of two trays holding four sachets each and then having a sliding sleeve holding them together. Now, that’s packaging overkill! So the prize goes to Tea Cubed, originally brought to light by our intrepid Tea Guy Bill Lengeman.

The prize for packaging overkill
The prize for packaging overkill

Bottom line:
As always, my main point is getting the most for your money. Why pay for a lot of packaging? My preference is for the loose tea in a pouch, but tea bags in a pouch or paper box is good, too, or even in a tin that can be used for other things after the tea is gone. Overpackaged tea seems to have the focus on presentation. Being somewhat artistic and finding the visual to be important, I don’t mind that focus. My bank account and my Pioneer Spirit, however, do. And most of the time they win that debate!

See also:
The Ins and Outs of Tea Storage Containers

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One thought on “Tea and the Pioneer Spirit — Packaging Overkill?

  1. Pingback: The Art of Tea Packaging « Tea Blog

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