Republic of Tea Emperor's White Tea Bags

overall rating:



Kai Douglas
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Republic of Tea products such as this white tea are often found at “natural” food stores like Whole Foods. This got me wondering whether this tea was truly a sustainable product. In researching and writing this review I found no glaring issues, which is why it's rated overall above 1. That being said, the company has put too little focus on agricultural practices in its sustainability efforts, which I think is key for the Republic of Tea to become a more sustainable company. For example, I would like to see more sourcing information on their website and for them to have more organic tea blends. My overall conclusion is that Republic of Tea is a semi-sustainable company, and if you are going to buy their products try to purchase from their organic blends if possible!

What it's made of:


This product is made of three main components: the white tea itself, biodegradable paper tea bags, and the metal container. Tea, like other crops, comes with many sustainability issues. For example, growing tea can involve the use of intense monocultures and synthetic materials that degrade water and soil quality. Whether or not those issues apply to this specific product will be discussed in the “How It’s Made” section of this review. The tea bags for this product are simple round paper bags with no strings or paper labels attached. While this takes away the convenience of removing the tea bag from the water after the drink is done steeping, it limits the material usage for this product. Finally, the unique metal tin the tea bags are packaged in is made of 30-50% recycled steel. The Republic of Tea recommends purchasing a refill bag and then storing the tea in an old tin instead of purchasing a new one. This still causes the bag the refill comes in to go to waste, so I’m not sure of the validity of this idea. That being said, the tins are very easy to repurpose and recycle.

How it's made:


Republic of Tea does have certified organic products and rainforest alliance certified products but this tea is not one of them. In fact, all I could find about this blend of tea is that it is grown in China. That means it is impossible to determine the soil and water impacts of how this tea is grown. Additionally, I would like to see more information from the Republic of Tea about how each tea blend is sourced rather than only having sourcing information on their organic products. I’ve given this section a score above 0 because in terms of raw agricultural products, tea is not as environmentally damaging as items like palm oil, meat, water intensive nuts, and dairy. In fact, tea can be harvested without the need for replanting, and a tea plant can have an economic lifespan of up to 60 years, so tea itself is not the most unsustainable crop.

Who makes it:


The Republic of Tea has definitely integrated sustainable design into its packaging and gives lots of advice to consumers about how to buy tea sustainably. For example, their website explains that their tea bags are biodegradable and can easily be added to compost bins. It also warns that not all tea bags are designed this way, and encourages consumers to verify if tea bags from other brands are biodegradable before adding them to compost. The website also encourages their customers to upcycle the metal tin the tea comes in and gives ideas for how they can be used. Finally they talk about how they are incorporating reduce, reuse, recycle into their business operations from donating reusable office items to remodeling based on LEED standards. All that being said, I would like to see more information about where they are sourcing their tea from because the impact of agriculture is very great on the planet and on laborers. I recognize that the Republic of Tea does not own the farms where their tea is coming from, but I still believe they have a responsibility to hold their suppliers to high standards of sustainable agriculture. It would also be great if the Republic of Tea could incorporate more organic products into its offerings. This would be a way for the company to show it is taking agricultural impacts into account in its sustainability efforts. If the Republic of Tea made these changes they could achieve a score above 2 in this section, but for now I’ve given them a 1.1.