black&white #03: no plastic in the bedroom, please
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I know I said it last week but let’s say it again. Restaurants are back and they’re blooming. Heaters, blankets and hot water bottles are now part of the armoury as staff do everything they can to keep us warm while we eat, drink and enthuse at being out and together. Even the weather – in my part of the world at least – has been kind. The only problem? Getting a table. Luckily Dishoom, a favourite Canton trade partner, doesn't take bookings for outdoor dining, which means you can just turn up at their Shoreditch, Carnaby and Birmingham sites. Good for the more impetuous.
Last year we were approached with a challenge by one of our most valued clients, an award-winning, world famous, luxury hotel group. They want to get plastic out of all their hotel bedrooms – we’re talking thousands of rooms, worldwide. Why? Because every year, 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean. Production of plastic has grown exponentially from 2.3 million tons in 1950 to 448 million tons in 2015 and is still expected to double by 2050. And less than 9% of all plastic gets recycled.
It’s an issue we have also been addressing for a long time - but the packaging industry has been slow to deliver what we need. It is crucial for tea of our calibre to be sealed within an airtight high-barrier material to keep it fresh. It has to keep out light and retain the volatile oils of say Earl Grey, infused with bergamot oil, or Jasmine pearls, a green tea infused only with natural jasmine blossom. It has to be as good the day the customer opens it as the day it was picked and packed.
Our actual teabags have always been made from a certified biodegradable material derived from cornstarch, which can go in the food waste bin. However, the teabags that are beloved of hotel bedrooms are individually-wrapped in a paper based wrap with a very fine layer of plastic (for all the reasons mentioned above). The wrap can be recycled but realistically, it rarely is.
So back to the bedroom brief from our hotel partner: they wanted loose leaf (not even unwrapped teabags). The individual portions had to be sealed for hygiene and to stay fresh with a reasonable shelf life. And they were clear as clingfilm: no plastic, whatsoever - not even bio-plastic (more on that another day).
The options are few when it needs to be super-airtight but we hit the spot with little mini tea cans. They are cute, useful and infinitely recyclable. Filled with just a couple of servings of loose leaf tea, they can be taken home and used repeatedly to take tea out and about with you (don’t you?) or for spices, pills – you get the idea. This week, we’ve been given the go-ahead. We’re just waiting for their announcement and then we can share pics. We might even make them available for extremely special tasters of super rare teas.
- Jennifer Wood, Founder