Zero Waste Coffee and Tea

On average, 165 million cups of tea are drunk per day across the UK

Hot beverages can be the sweet nectar to keep an adult's world turning. However, with that sweet nectar comes a lot of waste.

Here are some of my tips for ensuring that hot drinks are enjoyed with minimal or zero waste...


Coffee beans

As with every brew, this is a personal choice. 

I have freeze dried coffee granules at work, and these come in a glass jar with a plastic lid. This is then recycled, but the big trouble with this is that the jar has insets and labels of paper and plastic onto the glass jar itself, which is hard to separate without brute force.

If I have freeze dried coffee at home, I clean out the jar and use it for keeping dried goods in. 

My preference, both for flavour and waste, is to get the beans from a coffee roasters in the centre of Birmingham, Quarter Horse Coffee. They're happy to put beans both whole and ground into a box or jar to take away, which cuts any waste out before it gets to my house. I also know where the beans have come from, so can opt for fairly traded beans. 

We then have a plunger caffettiera in the cupboard for making the coffee and I'm on the look out around local charity shops for an expresso maker.


Tea leaves

I'll get this out early. I really hate tea. 

Anna loves it though, so her tips would be similar to the coffee beans; buying the leaves loose and investing in a tea pot or reusable tea bag. 

The big difference is the storage. A jar may well make the tea lose its flavour early on, so a tea caddy is the ideal solution.

The problem with most disposable tea bags is the plastic lining they put inside (yeah, I was shocked by that too!) to keep the tea 'fresh'. Really, this is just to extend its shelf life, which results in a tea bag slowly biodegrading in landfill for about 450 years due to its lining.

Another option, for those of you who enjoy herbal or fruit teas, is to grow or make your own

Mint, lemon balm and chamomile are all relatively easy to grow. These could be cut off and brewed into tea as needed, or dried out and stored in a cupboard. 



Neither Anna or I are a vegan. I've read a lot into it, and really support the ethos behind it, but right now, it's not something that I want to commit to. Maybe in the future, but for now, it's not a choice I'm willing to make. 

We both buy our milk from an old-fashioned milk float. My milkman is called Mark (I love the alliteration!) and he can drop milk off on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Two pints per week is usually perfect for me. I was surprised that milk was still being delivered in recyclable glass which can be given back to the driver – to find your local milkman you can use this handy site

I've experimented with putting a homemade nut or plant milk in a hot drink (my partner is dairy free, so to avoid the tetra packs, I've made my own from scratch) but the difference in temperatures and consistency makes for a strange looking and tasting drink. So my partner has gone milk free for hot drinks.



I don't take sugar in my tea as I'm sweet enough already (ba dum dum cha) but if you do, opting for sugar wrapped in recyclable paper, buying in bulk straight into a jar or opting for a plant-based alternative like agave syrup are the more eco-friendly options. 

On the go

I've got a collapsible coffee cup which I use to carry drinks in from home, or for when I want to buy a take away from a cafe. It folds small and fits in my bag easily, so I always have it with me.

I could also use my water bottle for hot drinks if I wanted to, as it's stainless steel and double lined. The only problem I've found with this is that it is slightly too tall to fit under some of the coffee dispensers in certain cafes, so it's usually better when I put a hot drink in it using a kettle at home.


In a cafe

Avoiding single-use coffee stirrers, sealed sugar packets and mini milk cartons cuts out the majority of waste which cafes provide. As does asking for drinks in china cups rather than a disposable. I tend to know which cafes are lower waste than others, so would opt to go there if I could choose. 

I hope you enjoyed my top tips for a special brew!