Mid-morning Cuppa by Louise Rawlings
Most people in England enjoy a nice morning cuppa. NHS recommends caffeine limits (no more than 1 cup of coffee or 2 cups of tea a day) but as there’s no safe limit officially, go for Swiss-water decaffeinated if you can. There are many nice artisan brands of organic tea, but this post focuses more on the normal standard brew. Here are a few tips to enjoy your builder’s tea, while making it more natural and ethical! Keep tea away from pets because (like chocolate) it contains the chemicala theobromine, which is harmful.
Tea is grown in the hottest areas on earth, so choose organic and Fair Trade if you can. This means that the tea planters get to do their jobs without having to use chemicals or wear protective clothing.
- Look for brands that don’t wrap the cardboard boxes in plastic. It’s completely unnecessary and promotes more waste.
- Look for brands that don’t use nylon strings for tea bags. Using cotton is biodegradable, so much better when you bin them. Never leave any strings (cotton or otherwise) in the garden for birds – these can strangle and choke, birds have been making nests for thousands of years, without our help.
- Make your tea with plant milk, to avoid factory-farmed dairy. Although there are lots of fancy milks on the market, it’s not likely coconut milk in your tea is going to taste nice. Soy is good (but ensure you choose brands that use sustainable beans). You can avoid curdling by adding the milk first (or warming it slightly before adding in). Although a bit higher in sugar, oat milk is good. It’s locally made, creamy and naturally sweet, so you don’t often need to add in sugar.
- If you do use sugar, choose more ethical brands like Billington’s. UK sugar brands tend not to use bone char for filtering, but using sugar cubes again means you have no plastic waste. If you use a lot of sugar, try reducing it gradually over a few weeks, this way your taste buds naturally get used to no sugar. Avoid artificial sweeteners (dodgy and tested on animals). Just naturally reduce sugar or indulge in a sugar cube or two!
- If you want to get really posh, use a teapot! Using real loose tea leaves (also sold in zero waste shops) is good for the planet, and also results in a much nicer cup of tea. Note that they are often stronger, so avoid if you have caffeine sensitivity or need to reduce caffeine (or simply drink less).
- Never buy mugs or teapots from bone china, as they are really made from animal bones. Who wants to kill animals, just to have a mug of tea? Just find a nice ceramic mug in your favourite gift store!
What To Do With Used Tea Bags & Leaves
You can of course put used biodegradable tea bags and leaves in your compost bin. Other uses include:
- Soak 2 tea bags in 1 pint of warm water, then use it to buff your wooden furniture and floors, with a soft biodegradable cloth. You can also use brewed tea to clean glass.
- Just like baking soda, keeping a bowl of loose tea or used tea bags in the fridge, can help to absorb smells. Refresh monthly.
- Place warm tea bags under your eyes, to reduce puffiness and dark circles. You can also apply used tea bags on acne spots (to reduce redness) and apply soaked tea to sunburn (tannic acid removes the heat).
- Place used tea bags in the bath. This is a great idea for herbal tea bags that you liked the smell of, but didn’t like the taste!
Tea is our national drink, and most people enjoy a nice pot of tea. However many brands tend to be made of ‘tea dust’ and packed in plastic. If you use tea bags, then choose organic brands without string (never dump used tea bags with string in the garden, as they could strangle birds that pick them up to make nests). Ideally use loose tea, for best flavour. And choose no-bone china mugs to drink from.
NHS advises no more than 2 cups of tea for pregnancy/nursing, and avoid strong teas (lemongrass, hibiscus, liquorice). Liquorice tea should also be avoided for heart, blood pressure or liver issues. Do not drive or operate machinery for at least several hours after drinking teas to help you sleep.
Loose Leaf Tea Infuser is a universal in-cup infuser basket that fits all cups, mugs and pots. This makes brewing loose leaf tea effortless and hassle-free.
This loose leaf tea gravity steeper (also in a large version) is ideal to avoid disposable tea bags. Just pop on top of a mug and watch the tea filter through the bottom. This is a simple and hassle-free way to brew loose leaf organic tea.
This infuser globe for loose tea makes it easy to brew a nice cup of tea, with loose leaves. The larger globe size means the tea leaves have more room to breathe, for better flavour. Instead of cramming tea leaves into a smaller standard infuser, use this for a better cup of tea.
You can use as little or as much tea as you want, to suit your tastes. It’s also big enough to use in a teapot. Just add loose leaf tea into the infuser, place in a mug and fill with freshly boiled water. Leave to brew the required time, remove and enjoy. Stainless steel. Gentle hand wash. Not for microwave or dishwasher.
This tea infuser for loose tea is the perfect gift for anyone who likes a nice cuppa. It allows the tea leaves to move freely, so you get more flavour out of your blend. It has collapsible handles to fit any cup and most teapots, so you can now enjoy a nice cup of tea the traditional way, without any tea bags.
To use, just add loose tea into the infuser, then place the infuser into your mug. Fill the mug with freshly boiled water, then place the lid over the infuser to capture the heat and aroma. Leave to brew for the required time, then remove the infuser and place in the upside down lid, to avoid spills. Made from stainless steel. Gentle hand wash. Not suitable for microwave or dishwasher.
This loose leaf tea starter kit includes all you need to indulge in a pot of indulgent tea. You’ll find a glass teapot with an inbuilt filter, a tea scoop and 50g of your chosen blend of Hoogly Tea. Choose from any of their teas including black, green, white, herbal infusions or rooibos (including sweet flavours like Danish pastry and ginger biscuits).
Switch to Reusable Tea Bags
This Set of Reusable Tea Bags makes an ideal alternative to tea bags. It includes an organic cotton grocery bag with 4 tea bags made from cotton and bamboo. Handmade in England, they are simple to use. Just add 1/2 teaspoon of your favourite organic loose tea to one of the bags, and place in hot water. After use, just empty the tea leaves into the compost bin (or throw away, they won’t do any harm). Then rinse the tea bag and use again. You can wash the bags by hand or in your washing machine (place inside the grocery bag, so they don’t get lost.
This Organic Cotton Reusable Tea Bag is ideal to replace plastic commercial tea bags. Many tea bags are not biodegradable and use a lot more energy and resources. This bag is made from certified organic cotton, and the unbleached organic cotton string is long enough to use with mugs or a teapot.
After use, you can wash the tea bag and use it again. You can also use it to replace disposable filters. To use, just add loose tea and enjoy a fresh cuppa. Then rinse or wash and enjoy again and again. After use, turn the bag inside out and compost the tea leaves. Soak in cold water to help prevent stains, and then hand wash in your sink with a little biodegradable washing up liquid, then a quick rinse under the tap. Line dry. For a deeper clean, soak the tea bag for a few hours in vinegar and water (apple cider vinegar or white vinegar – 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water). If you are using milk, hand wash after each use. If drinking black, rinse and reuse 1 to 2 times (same day) and then hand-wash.
These reusable cotton tea bags are made from organic cotton muslin. Sold in a set of 2 to biodegrade, just add loose leaf, pull the cords to close the bag, place in a mug and add freshly drawn boiled water.
Self Fill Unbleached Paper Teabags are ideal, if you prefer a tea bag. These are sold in packs of 50. Just use and wash and reuse, to avoid the use of disposable tea bags.
Good Brands of Tea
Maverick Coffee Company is a family affair, that offers sustainable tea and coffee from West Sussex. Everything they do is focused on helping the planet, as well as tasting good. All the unique blends are sourced from trusted suppliers, and meet quality ethical standards.
The luxury loose leaf tea and biodegradable pyramid bag burst with flavour. Each tea is hand-blended, and the beautiful eco-tubes look so good, you won’t want to hide them away in a kitchen cupboard. Even the plastic-free letterbox-size refill bags can be composted at home. The range includes:
- English Breakfast Tea is blended with leaves from India, Kenya & Sri Lanka
- Peppermint & Green Tea is packed full of antioxidants
- Red Fruits is packed with berries and fruit pieces
- Roobios is naturally caffeine-free, so perfect for an evening tea
- White Pear & Vanilla is a natural winter warmer
Clipper was the world’s first Fair Trade tea company, and has an extensive range of teas, all in sustainable packaging. Everything can be composted from the paper and card to the unbleached paper tea bags. The range includes:
- English Breakfast Tea
- Organic Assam Tea
- Green Tea with Lemon & Echinacea
- White Tea with Peppermint
- Lemon & Ginger Tea
- Fennel Tea
- Chamomile Tea
- Nettle Tea
- Earl Grey
- Organic Decaff
Gourmet Teas from Leftover Cacao Shells
Tea in the Moment is a unique brand that blends tea with the outer shells of cacao (a by-product of the chocolate making process), to produce teas that taste like dark chocolate. In many blends including Rose Cacao (similar to Turkish Delight) and Chocolate Orange. Avoid these teas for pregnancy/nursing.
Teas (that help refugees)
Nemi Teas (London) offers whole leaf organic tea blends, in biodegradable packaging. These Fair Trade teas provide employment to refugees, to give them local work experience and job readiness skills, to enter the workforce and integrate into broader society. Also available as loose tea, the flavours include:
- English Breakfast Tea
- Earl Grey
- Green Tea
- Cardamom Chai
- Spicy Chai
Charitea (UK) is a unique company that makes lovely iced teas in glass bottles, then uses profits to fund social projects around the world. Made from organic and Fair Trade ingredients, the leaves are bought from co-ops and plantations around the world – from the Sri Lankan mountains to the hot South African sun. Each bottle gives 5 cents to the foundation that already has raised over 6 million Euros for social projects in the growing regions. It’s best to avoid caffeine for pregnancy/breastfeeding.
You can buy CharitTea in cafes, restaurants and health shops, or buy in bulk online at Drinking Helps (they also offer trade pricing for wholesalers). Unlike most tea, this company is independent so not owned by one of the big food companies. Only the ChariTea green is not vegan (contains honey) but everything else is fine, and the iced teas are sweetened with a little natural agave syrup. The range includes black tea (for a proper English cuppa) and a wild rooibos red tea from South Africa.
Lemonaid to Change the World!
Lemonaid is a kind of sister company that is sold on the same premise, but for sparkling real lemonades, also in glass bottles. The projects that benefit in developing countries include solar collectors (this helps to rid Africa of dangerous and polluting kerosene lamps), sustainable agriculture and peace projects for children, especially those who suffer from sexual exploitation).
Warm & Soothing Ginger Tea (Minimalist Baker) is very easy to make, and is a nice change from caffeinated black tea. Very strong and easy to adjust, you can add cinnamon to make the tea more sweet, or fennel to help an icky digestion. You could also add some orange peel for zesty flavour, or tumeric to make it an anti-inflammatory tea.
Ginger is a fresh spice from the east, and traditionally known to help an upset tummy, although excess ginger should be avoided in pregnancy, as it contracts the uterus, and could cause an early labour. For everyone else, it’s a good way to settle an upset stomach, and can also be used to prevent travel sickness.
Making your own tea is better as you get the benefits of fresh herbs and spices, without the dried out flavour of some commercial teas. And no plastic packaging. All you need is a kettle!
A great way to hydrate, try this Iced Tea from Long Island (Crowded Kitchen) made with black tea, and a refreshing citrus taste.
Wild Tea is a book to brew your own tea, from foraged ingredients. Discover the uses of 40 homegrown ingredients, wiht brew-it-yourself recipes. You can brew your own tea blends and infusions, using berries, roots, seeds, leaves and flowers to make night-time and hangover teas, mint and barley tea, and even dandelion coffee. Other ingredients can be used such as ginger, cinnamon, and valerian.
Time for a (vegan) Afternoon Tea!
Vegan Afternoon Tea by Brigit’s Bakery (London)
There is not many more occasions more English than an afternoon tea! But you don’t have to dine at the Ritz hotel to enjoy one. Like many ‘traditional pastimes’, the truth is not always so pretty. Most afternoon teas served these days use factory-farmed milk and battery eggs, inferior tea and a few cucumber sandwiches, making the experience highly over-priced, considering what it is. However, there are some delightful plant-based afternoon tea options to be had around the country. Or even better, make your own! Avoid caffeine for pregnancy/nursing.
Of course, the main ingredient is home-made plant-based scones. This post has plenty of recipes, from traditional to fruity to cheesy!
Choose a Good Jam!
Beach Plum Jam (Fare Isle)
People in Devon (home of the scone) say it’s jam first, then cream on top. Sounds right, or things could get a bit messy! You could make your own jam (you brave thing, you!) or if bought, choose a good brand. Now is the time to support your local farm shop or lady in the market who makes her own. They will be packed with local fruits and less sugar, and taste better. And it’s a good way to support your local economy. You could also find good jam if your community has a local canning movement.
How to Make Vegan Clotted Cream
You can’t buy vegan clotted cream as yet, but you can make it. You can find a recipe for vegan clotted cream at Wallflower Kitchen (made with coconut cream, vegan cream cheese and icing sugar). You can sweeten with icing/powdered sugar for best results. However, know that a lot of icing sugars contain egg (some are filtered through bone char), so choose a plant-based version like Suma or use a little stevia to sweeten instead.
Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake (Bojon Gourmet) wrap the berries and juices in a blanket of vegan whipped cream, sat on homemade scones.
Serve with Cucumber or Vegan ‘Egg’ Sandwiches
These are the two sandwiches of choice for an authentic afternoon tea. So it’s good bread, lashings of vegan butter and some sliced cucumber. The way to stop them going soggy is to sprinkle the cucumber slices with salt and leave for 10 minutes, then pat dry with a reusable kitchen towel. You could also use your favourite vegan cream cheese to protect the cucumber from the bread! Try this recipe for Vegan Egg Salad Sandwiches (So Vegan) that uses tofu with turmeric (for the yellow colour) and black salt (the sulphur makes it taste and smell like real egg!)
A Pot of Organic Tea
We have a whole post about that! See how to make a proper pot of tea! And be sure to serve your afternoon tea in ceramic cups, or a pretty no-bone china mug (real bone china does indeed come from animals killed to make it). Cupsmith Organic Afternoon Tea is a delightful blend of organic Chinese and Indian teas with jasmine, rose petals and bergamot. The little plastic-free pyramids allow the larger leaf tea to brew properly, then compost after use. Emma draws and paints all the packaging herself, inspired by a picture-perfect house in the village near Cupsmith HQ!
Scones are very popular, so why not forgo the plastic packaging and animal ingredients, and bake your own? Here are a few nice recipes to try. In the US, scones are called ‘biscuits’ and often served for breakfast with gravy.
Fruity Vegan Scones (The Veg Space) is a good recipe to make your own, without all the plastic packaging! The updated traditional scone is made with plant milk, palm-oil-free vegan butter and some good organic flour. Smother with vegan butter, and serve with good jam and vegan whipping cream.
Keep scones away from pets due to toxic ingredients like fresh dough (can expand in the stomach), dried fruits and nutmeg. Also avoid xylitol (just a few dropped crumbs can be lethal).
We often think scones come from Devon. But in fact they originate in Scotland, where a ‘bannock’ (Gaelic for ‘cake’) was made with oats and wheat flour. The Duchess of Bedford says the exact time to enjoy a scone is 4pm!
Vegan Cheese Scones (The Veg Space) contain chives. Light and ‘buttery’, these contain mustard and vegan cheese. Good as mini scones for a vegan canape. Chives are the tiniest members of the alliums, their botanical name derives from the Greek for ‘reed-like leek’, and the English name comes from the Latin name for ‘onion’. Popular in French and Swedish cuisine, they are used with salad and potatoes. Chives (and all allums like onions, scallions, leeks & shallots) are toxic to pets.
Gingerbread Scones with Cranberry Glaze (Short Girl, Tall Order) are sweetened with molasses with hints of ginger, and topped with a naturally coloured cranberry icing with sugared cranberries. Molasses is the good stuff that is removed from refined white sugar. Sweet and sticky, it’s rich in iron (keep covered, to avoid ants and bees finding it).
Vegan Blackberry Lime Scones (Short Girl, Tall Order) are soft and flaky. Made in one bowl, these have all the flavours of a summer afternoon. Limes aren’t local but complement the blackberries, which often people have a glut of. If forating, only pick ripe berries that easily come off – not below knee height (may be splashed by rain or urinated on by dogs!)
Most people in England love a good cuppa. So in this post, we’ll look at the teapot itself. Where to find a greener teapot, and new ideas for creating a simple ‘instant cup of tea’, without using tea bags or plastic waste.
Avoid caffeine for heart problems, anxiety and insomnia (check with GP if on medication). NHS recommends pregnant/nursing women drink no more than 200g of caffeine daily (1 mug of filter coffee). Or give it up completely at this time. For tea stains, dissolve baking soda in warm water, or add 1/2 teaspoon of oxygen bleach, fill mug with boiled water, and wash after 15 minutes.
Firstly, don’t buy bone china teapots (these really are made from abattoir waste, stick to good ceramic or porcelain if you can). Most of these items are dishwasher-safe but not for microwaves (never microwave baby or pet food, they cook food weirdly).
Falcon Enamel Teapots are rugged and beautiful, and highly functional. As well as teapots, you can use them on the hob (including induction to heat water as a stovetop kettle). Great for camping too! In small or large.
Globe Teapots are designed by a London potter, perfect to extract the flavours of loose-leaf teas, with a long elegant shape to prevent drips. In three sizes, for 2, 4 or 6 cups.
Brown Betty traditional teapots are made from fine stoneware and very durable and drip-free, in beautiful colours. Designed to be used with matching teapot filter basket (which has a simple lid-locking mechanism to let loose leaf tea brew perfectly).
For Life Stump Teapots are beautifully designed and stack well, so good for shops and restaurants. They are made from ceramic and include a stainless steel infuser, with an attached hinged lid, for ease of use. The handle has easy access, to control infusing time.
Kinto Glass Teapot is the perfect companion for whole-leaf tea. The sleek design lets you watch your tea brew, then drain and pour using the stainless steel lid, with silicone seals. Easier to clean too than traditional teapots. Use with the matching tea strainer that is made from stainless steel. When steeped, you can use the lid as a coaster, to stop spills.
Brew One Cuppa (with real tea leaves)
Chatsford Mug Infuser is ideal for making tea for one in a hurry, with no desk or space for a pot. Just add one teaspoon of your favourite tea, add ‘just off the boil’ water and enjoy a proper cup of loose tea. Recycle or compost your leaves, and rinse out the infuser for next time.
Whittard Mug Infuser has soft-touch silicone shoulders that perch on the rim of your cup, then the stainless steel infuser is etched with little w-shaped holes. The nifty silicone lid doubles as a drip tray to store the infuser, once your tea has brewed after a few minutes.
Reusable Tea Bags
Reusable tea bags are ideal if you prefer bags, but want loose tea. You just add your tea leaves, close the bag and add freshly boiled water. After use, turn the bags inside out to compost the leaves, then soak in cold water, wash by hand, rinse and line-dry. For stains, soak in two parts water and 1 part apple cider (or white cleaning) vinegar and rinse (if used with milk, hand-wash after each use). Vesta Living Reusable Tea Bags are made from organic cotton (add tea leaves, close the cords and add freshly boiled water).
Eco Living Reusable Organic Tea Bags are also made from organic cotton and unbleached cotton string (long enough to use with teapots). Never leave string (biodegradable or not) in the garden, as it can strangle or choke (birds have been making nests for thousands of years, without our help).