With an ambitious goal of a zero-waste supply chain, TEALEAVES is ranked as a leader in sustainable tea by several media reviewers. Indeed, they focus not just on biodegradable but compostable products, and that too, home compostable. They have also built great community and collaborative partnerships for food sustainability and biodiversity. Their approach to sustainability is akin to their philosophy of blending: understanding and harnessing the richness of complexity. With a belief that a truly sustainable supply chain requires deeper analysis than a mere examination of carbon footprint, TEALEAVES examines the lifecycle of their products, including materials, ingredients, and the social and environmental impact. However, I see great potentials in their sourcing, transportation as well as packaging, and I believe their massive effort underway would create a greater tomorrow in the foreseeable future.
TEALEAVES source their tea, herbs and botanicals from the best tea gardens around the world in over 80 countries. They are extremely selective with the teas they source and only use the top three grades of tea. At TEALEAVES, only the best teas are picked entirely by hand, and only the bud and top one or two leaves are plucked. Once picked, leaves are dealt with differently depending on the type of tea desired. Their total reclaimed, rejected or recalled products that are composted (tea, herbs, spices) are 400 kg.
Once sourced, all of their loose leaf teas and botanicals are blended by hand in Vancouver with the goal of creating the most exquisite cup of tea through the art of blending. When transporting all the ingredients, they avoid air freight whenever possible to reduce the carbon footprint. The tea from the Vancouver blending center is distributed via truck to the neighbouring warehouse facilities in the United States and by sea freight to the international warehouses to reduce transportation emissions as much as possible. Even though they are trying their best to reduce carbon emissions in transportation, I still see large potentials in reducing footprint - for example, is it really that necessary to select leaves from 80 countries and then discard those that do not meet a certain level of standard. Maybe an optimization of the sourcing and transporting process could make a big difference.
The products collection are aiming for zero-waste and transitioning to be packaged in NatureFlex, a home compostable material. As the term “biodegradable” is not a clear indicator of how sustainable a product is, TEALEAVES focuses on compostable, which means an item must decompose within a specific allotment of time without any trace left behind. With this focus, their home-compostable tea bags are made from renewable PLA (Polyactic Acid), which is 100% plant-based and derived from corn. Their home compostable envelopes are made from NatureFlex, a backyard compostable renewable material that is FSC Certified and made from certified birch and eucalyptus wood pulp. Unlike petroleum-based plastics which take 100-500 years to decompose, these envelopes take only a few months to break down, just in the backyard.
This brand also carries a line of gorgeous loose leaf teas, sold in tins. Loose leaf is always an easy sustainable switch, as it is almost always 100% devoid of plastic, often very high quality, and more fresh. Aluminum is an infinitely recyclable material, meaning TEALEAVES tins are both easily recyclable and/or reusable. They are very honest about the data, and revealed that their packaging materials that were recycled (tins) are 10 kg overall as a company. Packaging materials not recycled and discarded are 30 kg - therefore it is roughly about 25% their packaging are actually recyclable currently. I hope to see the percentage growing in the next few years.
TEALEAVES have established strong relationships with growers and suppliers of raw materials for over 25 years. They employ a direct method of sourcing, working directly with gardens to select our teas and botanicals. They engage with the highest quality gardens to procure their best yields, building sustainable, long-term relationships and minimizing intermediary costs to gardens.
With an aim to help create a movement that demonstrates that the for-profit sector can be part of the solution, TEALEAVES has fostered multi-layered partnerships globally to address the challenges that are currently being faced in the industry. With a close working relationship with The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden, this brand has realized how intrinsically linked our planetary well-being is, and how important environmental stewardship is, which led them to share these insights at the World Biodiversity Forum in Davos, Switzerland in 2020. They also are focused on supporting institutions such as the UN Development Programme and UN Biodiversity.
TEALEAVES has also launched a new project, entitled “In Good Taste”, which seeks to reveal the truths and myths behind the science, theory and practice of taste, so that you can use that knowledge to design a better life. With a focus on our current shifting climate and ever-changing environmental landscape, TEALEAVES uses this medium to question how our tastes can be used as a powerful tool to create positive impact, and not simply a sense we succumb to. Working with physicians, farmers, foragers and fishermen, designers, educators and journalists, “In Good Taste” explores the reclamation of our taste buds so that they drive us to products that are healthy, sustainable, and regenerative.