For many people around the world there is no more wonderous pick-me up than a refreshing cup of tea - or “Rosie Lee” if you are a cockney from London. But how environmentally friendly is it?
There are a lot of processes that go into delivering that cup of tea to your table – from growing, picking, drying, packaging and transporting the tea leaves to your local shop, to boiling the water and adding milk if you drink it the traditional English way.
All in all, these don’t add up to much actually – tea is light to transport, arrives on a ship and does not need to be air-freighted. Only a little bit of milk is added, not like a predominantly milk based drink like a latte or a cappuccino. In the grand scheme of things, a cup of tea has a lower carbon footprint than other food and drinks. A cup of white tea is estimated to cause about 50g of CO2 – that is less than a banana (at 80g) or a latte (estimated at 340g). Latte’s have such a higher carbon footprint because they are predominantely milk based – it’s not significantly because of the coffee element.
You might think that the growing, harvesting, packaging and transporting the tea leaves from China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka, or one of the other tea producing countries is the biggest carbon emitter in this process. But not so! Here is how the analysis of your cup of tea breaks down:
- About 5% is processing and transporting the leaves
- About 35% is boiling exactly the right amount of water
- About 60% is the milk
There is no need to feel guilty about drinking as many terrific cups of tea as you would like during the day. If you can try to boil only exactly the amount of water you need that is a good saving (saving you money as well), and if you can stomach it the biggest saving would be to drink it black. Let’s be honest though, if you think that tastes terrible just have the milk, and save the equivalent in another way. Maybe cut out a Latte once in a while.
If you are really dedicated to make every saving possible, use sturdy stoneware mugs that will last for years and are not prone to chipping and cracking, re-use through the day, and only wash up at the end of the day rather than using a fresh mug for every cup. You’ll save loads of time on washing up!
To sum up, a cup of tea is terrific! In the world where we are more and more conscious of everything that we do, it’s a simple pleasure not to be trifled with.