easing into winter with loose leaf tea.

How to brew zero waste loose leaf tea | Litterless

This post is sponsored by Arbor Teas, makers of sustainable, organic teas in compostable packaging.

Well, here we are. Daylight Savings and November and suddenly Chicago is dark and cold. My friends know that winter is not my favorite time of year (understatement), but each November I do my best to get cozy and embrace what's coming.

This year, it's made a little easier with my secondhand electric kettle (only secondhand in that I took it from my brother), which boils water in under a minute, as opposed to five to ten minutes on the stovetop. Heaven! And, with the constant cups of tea made with the hot water from said kettle.

I've mentioned before that there are three main ways to think about brewing tea if you're aspiring to zero waste: buy tea in bulk, grow the herbs for tisanes yourself, or buy tea in compostable packaging. You can learn more about the first two options here, and today, we'll be chatting about the third way - purchasing tea in backyard compostable packaging - in partnership with the folks at Arbor Teas, who've shared their favorite tea blends for getting cozy and their tips for brewing zero waste tea.

Zero waste loose-leaf tea | Litterless

Whether you're choosing a blend from them or another bulk option from the grocery store, the folks at Arbor Teas have a few recommendations for brewing loose-leaf tea:

-Use a large tea strainer (instead of a tea ball, like the one I was using until recently). You want to make sure the tea leaves have space to expand once the water is added, so that they can emit the most flavor possible. Here's the one I'm using in the photograph above. Chelsea at Arbor Teas said even a kitchen sieve will work - it's good to know that you don't need to have anything fancy, and that maybe something you already own will do the trick!

-Store loose-leaf teas in opaque, airtight containers. You can get away with clear containers, like glass jars, if the jars are consistently kept in a closed cabinet. I store my tea in a mismatched collection of jars in a kitchen cabinet - small jars with teas I just want to sample, larger jars full of my mainstays like rooibos. And, note that most tea remains fresh for about a year, so plan to use it up within that time.

-Brewing the loose-leaf tea can be as easy (or as complicated) as you'd like. Though it's not quite as easy as dunking a pre-filled teabag in hot water, I love the small ritual of pouring the leaves into the tea strainer. You'll use about one teaspoon of loose-leaf tea per cup of water for most teas. Green teas should steep for 2 - 3 minutes, black tea for 3 - 5, and herbal teas for 5 - 7. But, as long as you like the taste of what you're making, you can't really go wrong. You can find a more detailed guide to timing and measuring teas here, if you'd like to delve deeper.

-You can mix teas yourself. Love fruity green teas? Mix a more standard green tea with something like a fruity herbal tea. If you have some peppermint tea and some chamomile tea to use up but neither lights you up, mix them together and see what you think. Pull down some cinnamon sticks from your cabinet to warm up a normal black tea. Make teas as strong or as weak as you want. With loose-leaf tea, you can run the show in a way that you can't with pre-bagged tea. So, experiment!

Zero waste, loose leaf tea | Litterless

This winter, I'm gravitating toward cozy and festive-feeling teas like a cranberry spice tisane, which is rich and fruity, or a ginger turmeric, which feels like a tonic when winter sicknesses hit. For black tea lovers, they also have a holiday spice black tea blend, with orangey and citrus-y notes.

About the packaging: Arbor Teas loose-leaf teas come packaged in bags that can go straight into the compost - whether you compost commercially with a pick-up provider or you compost in your backyard (the bags are backyard compostable, down to the paper labels on them). So, when the cardboard box arrives, you can recycle it and the paper receipt, tip the tea carefully into a jar or container, and stick the packaging in your compost.

New York folks, you can find Arbor Teas in stock locally at Package-Free Shop in Brooklyn; for the rest of us, their website is right here. Other tea drinkers out there: what have you been sipping on recently? Here's to staying cozy this season.

This post is sponsored by Arbor Teas. As always, all thoughts are my own. Thank you for supporting Litterless and the brands working to make supplies for the zero waste community.