Brand design

Archaeology of the tea bag – a study in waste

Many years ago now I was an archaeologist. I studied academically and went into the field though I never practised the art. However, I maintain a fascination in the process of discovery through the peeling back of layers, and by the peeling back the discovery of knowledge.

This too can be done with something at first sight as mundane as the tea bag, or, more strictly, the container in which the tea bag is enclosed. liptons AThere is also something here to be said about the lure of packaging. Why, for instance, do I choose this brand over others on the supermarket shelf? Does the typography draw me in? Consider that nice interplay of calligraphy in the tail of the y in Quality embracing the word tea. Ah, I can smell the blackness of it already. Maybe too the way Lipton is nicely announced within a border. It speaks of prestige – a badge fit to be forged in brass and screwed permanently to a wooden chest that once might have taken the tea from its origin in India to the land of plenty and of hope and of demos – England.

But no. It is the colour. That yellow and red captivate the eye. That is why I buy Lipton (also it is one of the cheapest, yet not THE cheapest). Lipton exudes quality. And note, in the top right corner a logo certifying this tea as Rainforest Alliance. liptons BNow what exactly does that mean? Being green in colour this logo must be good. It says this tea has passed certain tests and measures set up by this or that group. I feel good about that too. Why, I have cheap tea (but not THE cheapest) and it is Rainforest Alliance certified. Great.

Wait a moment. As I dig into the packet I find myself confronted by a redundancy of packaging. As an archaeologist I am used to having to peel away layers in search of the evidence I seek. In this case I seek tea. I do not seek cellophane. I do not seek foil. I do not seek more thin card. Liptons C1At each obstacle I rebel. Lipton promotes, as it may, Rainforest Certified tea. Why not also Packaging free Alliance tea?

If like me you are disgusted at the amount of wasteful packaging then please let us begin a campaign. Less packaging, more tress, less landfill, a greener world. Our grandparents managed buying tea loose and in a paper container. Why not us?

liptons D


3 replies on “Archaeology of the tea bag – a study in waste”

Personally what I hate are the stupid little strings that tie the teabag to a little paper tag? What’s that about?
In a perfect world I’d buy all my tea loose (I drink gallons of the stuff a week), but failing that I prefer a simple box, and within it 40 square teabags joined at the hip in twos…. such as the magnificent ‘Yorkshire Gold’ put out by Taylors of Harrigate. It’s a bit pricey but deeelicous all the same. Failing that… good old Brook Bond PG Tips or Tetleys, neither one of which can be accused of over packaging as they simply stuff as many bags into a square box as will fit.

I actually have loose tea first thing in the morning and whenever I can. In Australia it’s Dilmah’s and occasionally a local blend made by Madura. When I was living in the UK I too drank PG – loose the best. Thanks for your comments Martin and much enjoyed your odyssey in Italy. Keep up the great work.

Just opened a box of Lipton, and the packaging filled the trash can. There are 4 boxes inside, with some awful gold cellophane. Ridiculous. Am going with loose tea.

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