Every choice made for Tour de Tea involves rigorous assessment of impact, both socially and environmentally (indeed, one inevitably informs the other). We are fortunate to have an in-house environmental scientist with whom we consult, as well as strong business relationships with organisations who work tirelessly for the benefit of the community and environment. We take pride in being Queenland’s first tea store to prioritise and advertise a zero-waste option for customers. Since proudly promoting this, it is now something we’ve seen reflected in the operations of much larger, national tea retailers. It’s a platitude – but there are infinite possibilities for the smallest actions creating positive social and environmental impact.
As a tea enthusiast, here are some low-fuss, practical ways to consider how your daily ritual impacts the greater good.

Know Your Supplier as Intimately as Possible.

In a world of greenwashing, ethical-washing, tokenistic certifications, and complex geopolitical industries, it can be overwhelming to be across the impact of every product you purchase as a consumer – many of us are soothed by seeing stickers and affirmations of ethical and sustainable practices, but very few of us look behind the curtain. Be wary of simplistic affirmations and generalised claims. Nothing involving global industry, developing nations, or capitalism is ever simple. The easiest thing, both for your mental bandwidth and real-world impact, is to develop loyal relationships with small businesses where earnest conversations and questions can be had. This empowers you with direct, first-hand information and gives you the chance to assess the values, level of knowledge, critical analysis, and expertise that are employed within a business’s operations. Mostly, everything else is just good marketing.

Avoid Teabags.

This is a priority for a multitude of reasons. Conventional teabags contain micro-plastics which are not only harmful to our ecosystems, but also infuse into our cups and bodies in nanoparticles by the billions. Additionally, the carbon footprint of labour and materials is an ongoing burden spurned by a single-use, disposable product.
Outside of the environmental impacts, it is often likely teabags contain a lower grade of tea (or often, the lowest grade of tea). It is, of course, possible to get high-quality tea in bags, however, the cost of labour, processing, and materials often means it’s approximately twice the price of buying the same tea loose. You are much better off, economically, to invest in a one-off purchase of a food-safe tea infuser.
We recommend a large cup-infuser that can double its purpose for teapots – having room for a single spoon of tea to flourish but equally enough space for several teaspoons were it to be used in a pot. We stock one – our Lifetime Infuser, and we get a very good night’s sleep as a result. The simpler an infuser design, the more likely you are to use it. When we opened in New Farm, we made a choice to never stock little infusers that had moving parts, hinges, were fiddly, or adorably gimmicky. The whimsy is not lost on us, but we’ve seen too many abandoned at the bottom of a utensil drawer while making a cup of loose leaf tea is declared ‘too much effort’. A single purchase of a multi-use, loyal infuser has a much smaller footprint (that being said, we always have a few on the go at once, but we’ll address that below).

Reuse Your Leaves.

Not every single tea re-infuses perfectly a second time, but many and most do. Plenty of large leaf black teas offer a beautiful second infusion, the main exceptions being strong, broken leaf black teas which really give their all in the first infusion (hello Yorkshire Breakfast – here for a good time, not a long time).
Short of that, if you’re drinking quality loose-leaf tea (brewing it at its correct temperature for 2 – 3 minutes), you should know the following:
Take your infuser out after two to three minutes, and if you don’t wish for an immediate re-brew, pop it on a saucer into the fridge – it will be okay overnight (this is why we sometimes have a few infusers on the go – because variety is the spice of life).
  • Most white teas offer up to three solid infusions, and a delicate fourth.
  • Most greens offer a perfect second infusion, and a delicate third.
  • Most puerhs offer multiple infusions – unless you drink it like Hannah, who only takes the infuser out once the pot looks like engine oil.
  • Most herbals offer a decent second infusion – once again, unless you’re Amy, and steep them for ten minutes so she can extract aaall the magic. There are some exceptions within the herbal, particularly our Egyptian Hibiscus.
  • We recommend with any fruit infusions (which are mostly based on hibiscus) to brew them as strong as possible in your little pot (as over-brewing these tisanes doesn’t mutate the flavour – only increases strength). Then dilute your cup to taste. This provides the most value; increasing the total litres of tea you yield from a single serve of leaves.
Even reusing your leaves once means you’re halving your impact. Obviously, this isn’t too widely promoted; no business wants to make half as many sales. However, we are heartened that by sourcing the highest quality tea, our leaves are able to be utilised more than once. This offers huge value to our customers who are able to halve their costs just by re-brewing once, let alone three or four times. At Tour de Tea, this likely makes the price you pay per cup somewhere in the ballpark of 15c – 23c.

Compost Your Leaves – or just throw them directly onto your garden or pot plants.

One of the main tenets when opening Tour de Tea in New Farm was to minimise the ongoing waste we’d witnessed while working with major tea retailers. Disposable, plastic-lined paper tasting cups thrown away by the thousands every day, the single-use packaging instantly filling up skips from incoming deliveries, promoting teabags and sending tea out in environmentally-unfriendly packaging, to name a few.
At Tour de Tea, we are yet to throw away a single piece of plastic that occasionally passes through our hands. Any non-biodegradable materials are saved and reused. Our packaged tea is in recyclable cardboard and plant-based compostable cellulose, all tasting cups are Japanese ceramics that get washed, and most satisfyingly: all tea leaves used on-site are composted.
Composting tea leaves not only reduces food-waste in landfills but nourishes and enriches the soil in beautiful Meanjin/Brisbane. It is by far the most wholesome and satisfying effort on this list.
There is an infinite pool of ‘creative’ ways to reuse tea leaves on the internet. However, in discussions with our local community of tea drinkers, we understand and empathise that often the simplest way is the best when aiming for a change in daily habits. The difference it can make continues to pleasantly surprise; we’ve seen some of the smallest actions have a far-reaching ripple effect.

Have a chat with your fellow tea drinkers.

If any of the above conversations resonate, have a cup of tea and connect with your neighbours, friends, family, and colleagues, and compassionately keep open conversations about social impact and sustainability. It is by working collectively on these things that we can nudge those with more power to reflect our values and act in the interest of our society and the planet.