My doctor convinced me to give up caffeine. I thought I was going to die, but two weeks in, I have rediscovered tea. Not black highly caffeinated tea, but the variety and overwhelming world of tea that resides here in Dallas. I began uncovering the underground tea culture, in our own backyard, while also investigating the environmental impact of high tea time.
Tea bushes have some built in sustainability — only the top 1-2 inches of the plant are picked during harvesting and not ripped out of the ground. Some tea plants can produce high-quality product for more than a century. But the carbon footprint of tea concerns the entire life cycle including how the leaves are grown, processed, shipped, packaged, brewed and discarded. The United Nations Environment Program calculated it takes 8kWh of energy to process one kilogram of finished tea, compared with 6.3kWh for the same amount of steel. Drying the leaves takes electricity or wood to create heat, which reduces moisture in the leaves.
Most tea is grown on agricultural lands in Asia and Africa, land that was once natural habitat. Monocultures such as tea farms reduce biodiversity in our environment. But the biggest factor of tea farms across the world is food miles. By the time you sip the tea out of your cup, it has traveled thousands of miles to get there, taking energy and contributing to carbon dioxide emissions.
So what tea should you drink? Loose leaf is higher quality and has less environmental impact than lower quality bag tea, which many people refer to as “dust tea.” Tea bags require excess packaging, ropes, paper and more. It’s better to buy your tea in bulk and use a tea infuser. Tea infusers can cost less than one dollar, up to fancy travel mug designs. They’re simple to use and the best news is, if the tea is high quality you can reuse the tea more than once! Choose organic blends that do not use pesticides on their crops ensuring a healthier product and environment.
What do you do with your used tea? Several options include compost the tea, let it dry out, use in your cupboard to absorb moisture and in your refrigerators for odor. Try a sprinkle of used dried tea in your kitty litter to reduce the smell.
Did you know so many places in Dallas offer tea time? I was shocked at the underground tea aficionados that must exist in this city. The Adolphus offers an Afternoon Tea ($42 and reservation needed) that features scones, pastries, lunch plates and an assortment of teas crafted for your meal, such as, “Washington State pears blended with Ceylon and China black tea and sweet caramel. The perfect after dinner dessert tea or afternoon treat.” More cost efficient, the French bistro Lavendou offers a French High Tea Time, with what looks like amazing pastries. Need some friends to join you for tea time; there are several groups on Meetup.com, in the DFW area, who meet regularly to enjoy tea. Or maybe ask The Cultured Cup, the worldwide tea experts in North Dallas.
But you don’t have to go high class to enjoy tea. Try the fermented functional drink known for high health benefits, kombucha. Kombucha is produced by fermenting black or green tea using bacteria and yeast. The outcome is a fizzy refreshing drink produced in a variety of flavors. To be honest, I tried kombucha many years ago and hated it. My doctor convinced me to give it another chance and here I am raving about it. It’s all about what variety and brand you get. Be careful of sugar and caffeine content. My favorite = Synergy Triology.
Kombucha also comes on tap at some select restaurants and tea spots around town. I headed to the local coffee shop, Mudsmith on lower Greenville, to get a pour of the draft cranberry pomegranate kombucha made by Holy Kombucha, based out of Forth Worth. As I sipped my kombucha writing this article, I thought, I may have lost my coffee, but I’ve gained an incredible variety of tea here in Dallas.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.