I was sent some reusable teabags to review for Boobalou. I’ve worked with Boobalou before. They stock all sorts of eco friendly products – reusable, washable, biodegradable alternatives to everyday products. Right up my street.
I was excited to try out the teabags. They are handmade by the uber talented Made by Gituce (I’ve reviewed her cloth sanitary pads before, which you can read here). Made from food safe muslin, an organic cotton yarn as a string and a natural wooden bead. I was sent a couple in each size. The smaller ones are 80 pence each and suitable for a single cup. The larger ones are 95 pence and better for a pot, or if you like a really strong builder’s brew!
I also received a little laundry bag for keeping them altogether in the washing machine. You can also buy this from Boobalou for £1.50.
The products in this review are all made with white stretch knitted mesh but they are also available in black airtex mesh and white polyester mesh. I did find that my white ones stained after use, which is much to be expected from being soaked in tea. But if that might bother you, go for the black airtex version. Problem solved!
They look dinky and feel lovely. The quality is everything I’d expect from Made by Gituce and I know that Jo from Boobalou has an expert eye for sourcing the best products for her business.
Now I have to say, I’m not completely convinced about the eco credentials of this product. Modern teabags are fully compostable so, even if you chuck them in the bin, they aren’t as damaging in landfill as other disposable items. We also have stainless steel tea infusers. These have been around for centuries, they’re reusable and don’t require any special washing. However, the manufacturing process for stainless steel is almost certainly more damaging to the environment than the process for making mesh teabags. So it’s swings and roundabouts really.
But I am all about choice. Having several options for making your cuppa can only be a good thing but which IS the best choice? I decided to put all three to the test. We all know how important it is to have a decent brew. So I carried out a highly scientific controlled* experiment to find out for you which makes the tastiest tea.
(*amateur at best!)
In the name of fairness I bought PG Tips teabags and PG Tips loose leaf tea. I put one teaspoon of white sugar in each cup. The cloth teabag and the steel infuser each contained one teaspoon of loose leaf tea. I stirred each cup three times and brewed each cup for 90 seconds precisely. I then added 30ml of semi-skimmed milk to each cup. See?! Highly scientific!
In terms of colour, they all looked very similar.
I tasted them myself and thought I could tell the difference but I knew which cups were which so I drafted in The Husband to do a blind taste test.
He said exactly the same as me. He thought Cup C (disposable teabag) tasted weaker and a bit more flowery than the other two. Cup B (steel infuser) tasted every bit as good as Cup A (mesh bag) but it did have a ring of scunge around the top and there were some loose dregs of tea in the bottom of the cup when we’d finished. Great if you know how to read tea leaves, not so great if you accidentally swallow a mouthful of them.
In terms of washing, the conventional teabag went straight into the compost bin. The steel infuser has a spring-loaded catch so is very easy to tap out into the compost bin/food caddy. The mesh bag was a bit more faff. I have to be honest, trying to turn a cold, wet bag inside out to shake out the leaves wasn’t much fun but it was very easy to rinse and wash afterwards. And (this is the crucial bit) it did make the best cuppa out of the three.
My conclusions? I’m a bit mixed on this one. Having a decent cup of tea is vital to the survival of Britain. We all know this. Wars were won off the back of a good cuppa. A hot, sweet tea after a sudden shock is positively medicinal. We’ve all been given a horrid brew at some stage and had to politely force it down without pulling the “bad tea” face. The reusable teabag was a bit of a faff to clean. But there’s no doubt in my mind that loose leaf tea tastes better than a conventional teabag and the mesh bag didn’t leak like the steel infuser. We rarely want to make a whole pot and these affordable mesh bags make it easy to do a great-tasting one-cup brew in times of urgent tea need.
EDIT (8/8/2014): Just to clarify, after one use I emptied the used tea leaves into my food caddy. I then rinsed the bag out under the cold tap. Later I washed it in the sink in warm water with washing up liquid before doing the rest of the dishes (no dishwasher here!), followed by another brief rinse under the tap. I think once in a while I’d use the mesh laundry bag to wash all the tea bags in the machine for a deeper clean. The laundry bag will keep the bags together and stop the beads and strings getting caught up.