The Stir Tea range of loose-leaf tea is sold in resealable foil pouches in a variety of sizes. These pouches (and the label that is affixed) are manufactured in New Zealand and then lovingly hand filled by the Stir team at our Queenstown base. We also offer our small discovery size bags which are sold in a small clear home compostable bag.
The journey to reach our current packaging solution is ever evolving, balancing the quality parameters for storing tea dry leaf with consideration to how we can reduce our environmental footprint.
Why we chose to use foil pouches for our tea range
Tea is a hydroscopic product, easily absorbing moisture and odours which destroy both the quality and flavour of tea. A foil bag provides an effective barrier against odours and moisture. The bag when empty, it could be refilled or repurposed by the customer (we offer a fill your own bag container option as part of our stall offering at Remarkables Market – ask us how this works). Read more about our initial brief for our bags toward the end of this article.
Our packaging journey to date:
● May 2023 – White foil bags with one label **. We have eliminated one laminated label from landfill by condensing the information on the back and front label onto one larger front label. This means when the bag is at the end of its life our customers can simply cut off the front label and the balance of the bag can be placed into the soft plastics scheme.
** 2023 - We are still in transition phases with some of our foil bag and label stock. This means that when you order you may receive a mixture of our silver and white packaging as we close out existing lines and labels.
● May 2021 – Discovery bags released in the home compostable clear bag:
If you have purchased from us before you will have received a complimentary sample of tea in a clear bag secured with a wooden peg. We choses a bag that is made of a clear natureflex material which is home compostable. Each discovery bag comes with a beautiful little wooden peg which allows you to fold the bag and peg it between brews.
● 2019 – Sourced NZ manufactured foil bags with the material in these bags meeting the criteria of the NZ wide soft plastics recycling programme. We then were challenged by the amount of bag coverage from our front and back labels, discovering they covered too much for the scheme. This made us question how we could reduce our labelling and have resulted in the 2023 changes reducing two labels to one.
● 2008 – In 2008, we released the Stir brand using imported, resealable foil bags. We chose to offer loose-leaf style tea as we feel it offers a far better tea experience than tea bags and we wanted to avoid the use of plastics associated with teabags and other packaging.
More about our initial vision and the lengths we went to exploring alternatives:
When we released Stir in 2008 we extensively researched packaging options for loose leaf tea. By selling tea in a loose leaf style we had eliminated any of the plastics associated with individual teabags however we had to come up with a functional solution for the outer packaging.
Because of the hygroscopic nature of tea, meaning that it easily absorbs odours if not stored properly, we needed a robust food safe material that provided a barrier for moisture, light and smells. We decided on foil bags as the most suitable option. By offering resealable packaging it also gives our customers the opportunity to either reuse them or repurpose them when empty.
The packaging had to be made of food safe material, ideally manufactured in New Zealand, and could become a part of the NZ wide soft plastics recycling programme.
Over the years we have explored a variety of packaging options which on the surface looked to be highly environmentally friendly such as rice and manila paper bags. The issues we encountered were that they were heavily coated with plastic on the inside, offer a limited or no barrier to the air and were not be any friendlier to the earth. Consequently, they weren't suitable options.
We are very open to any suggestions you may have on alternative packaging. If you know of a food safe material that can offer an outstanding barrier to air, light and moisture over the life of the tea then we would love to explore this.
In the meantime if you are wondering how you can reduce your tea packaging footprint here are some suggestions:
Start a Tea Club - For online customers we offer our larger size bags which are discounted. So perhaps a bunch of friends can start a tea club and place one collective order for a large bag and then have a tea party to distribute the larger bag into their own smaller airtight containers.
Bring your refillable container to the Remarkables Market - We offer a service whereby customers can bring their own containers to the market one week and we bring it back the following week filled with their favourite tea (and we also pop in an extra 10% of tea to encourage our customers to do this). This market runs from mid October to mid April each year and this service has proved popular with customers who bring either their empty Stir Tea foil bags back to reuse or a container of their choice. We are currently exploring drop/off collection points outside of the market time - this is a work in progress for us.
Repurpose your empty Stir Tea packaging - Once empty these resealable packets are great for storing bulk food like nuts/seeds/cookies in the pantry or provide a light and reusable container for snacks to take with you out and about. Please note some stronger tea varieties may impart their flavour into your new contents (we think this might be the best of both worlds).
Thank you for choosing to drink loose leaf tea:
Tea Leaf - Earth to Earth ......
Sometimes in the rush of making a cup of tea it is easy to forget that you are getting a measure of plant goodness with each brew. All true tea is from the leaf and bud of the camellia sinesis - a vibrant glossy leafed evergreen plant. Any used tea leaves that you put into your compost or onto your garden will complete the circle of life and return to the earth.
Loose Leaf Vs Tea Bags
Over time there has been debate and discussion about the level of plastic used to seal teabags which might be proven to be non-biodegradable. Advancements are being made in this sector of the industry and while the manufacturers claim the amount per bag is small when this is applied across the amount of teabags that are being used it could have a significant impact on the environment. You can take heart from that fact that by choosing to drink loose leaf tea you are not contributing to this issue.
Posted: Thursday 18 May 2023