A tea bag is the simplest way to enjoy a great cup of tea. It’s a straightforward concept – pre-measured, contained, and easy to clean up. It’s a great invention, but how does it work?
Tea bags are actually made from the fibers of a rather interesting plant called abaca. This relative of the banana is native to the Philippines, where about 84% of the world’s supply is grown. The abaca plant has been grown for its fiber for centuries, used in ship rigging, rope, and fishing nets. The famous “Manila envelope” was originally made from abaca fibers. Today, it’s mostly used for filter paper, although there are new developments in using abaca for clothing, bags, and even applications in the automobile industry.
It’s the perfect substance to use because it’s strong but still porous, allowing water to flow through without the tea falling out or imparting any papery taste onto the tea. Abaca is also a sustainably-grown crop, as it has perfectly adapted to its environment in the Philippines. It doesn’t need chemical fertilizer, doesn’t have irrigation issues, doesn’t compete with food crops, and it’s very durable in the case of typhoon damage or other natural issues in that part of the world. The fibers are harvested from the leaf sheath around the front of the plant, leaving the plant intact.
To make our tea bags, the abaca fiber is blended with unbleached wood pulp, making the strong and supple material that’s perfect for holding tea. Our filter paper is not treated with epichlorohydrin, a wet-strength agent that is often added to tea bags and has some carcinogenic qualities. It meets not only all FDA standards, but the stringent standards in the EU and Germany as well.
After all, great tea deserves a great tea bag.