Tea is the most popular beverage across the globe and most of its drinkers can’t think of starting their day without a cup of tea. Also many health conscious people are turning to drinking green tea to keep them healthy and energetic. How many of you have stopped for a couple of minutes to think about where the tea is coming from and how healthy is it for the environment to bring you this cup of joy?
Tea as a beverage itself is not very unfriendly to the environment as it is very close to its natural state and not much processing is required to bring it to the table. Still there is no doubt about the inherent disadvantages of any crop that needs to be grown on a large scale, especially if it is grown in specific regions of Asia, Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. The cultivation of tea is concentrated in these regions, thus it means that huge pieces of land (in this case hill slopes) are dedicated for its cultivation.
Tea plantations are generally huge and need much maintenance. Huge plantations result in displacement of local species of animals and plants. Huge tracts are cleared of the local ecosystems to create space for these plantations.
Tea plantations need to be fertilized regularly and also protected from infestations of any kind.
This results in the use of plenty of chemicals. This chemical not only degrades the soil but also runs off into water sources. The degraded soil is then further fortified with more chemicals thus compounding the problem over and over again.
The beverage is derived from the dried tender tea leaves and buds; this means that unlike other crops the entire plant is not uprooted each time. In fact an individual tea tree can provide with tea leaves for multiple decades.
Tea leaves and buds are snipped off from the top of the bush and allowed to dry naturally for sometime. The duration would depend on the type of tea being manufactured.
The withered leaves are then pressed in rollers and then dried again with the help of heat generated with the help of wood, oil or gas or a combination of these fuels.
Mostly they use wood for the purpose. Depending on the wood source it could mean depletion of the forests.
Packaging and transportation also lead to environmental concerns. The loose leaves are usually packed in lined packages which are comparatively less of a threat. It is the tea bags that cause concern. Earlier the tea bags were made of special paper from the banana tree making them biodegradable but now the tea industry is increasingly using nylon which is causing concern among the greener population.