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Proper tea is cheaper too – how to save pots of cash

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In Britain, we drink an astonishing 165 million cups of tea a day. A day! That’s 60.2 billion a year, according to the United Kingdom Tea Council.

Tea isn’t that expensive – most tea bags seem to cost less than three pence, as long as you buy them in bigger packets – but they do add up.

When I was a student, we had a washing line where we hung up used bags ready for a second go. I can’t say I recommend it.

But I’ve been wondering about tea bags. How much extra do we pay to buy our tea in ready-made little bags, and would it be cheaper to buy loose leaf tea instead?

The price of a bag

It feels like tea bags should be more expensive. After all, the company has to measure out little portions of tea and seal them in bags – even with machinery, that’s got to be pricier than simply filling boxes with dried leaves.

So I’ve been comparing the price of loose leaf and ready-bagged tea:

Tea bag brand Price  Tea leaf brand Price  Difference
Sainsbury's Fairtrade Red Label Quality Tea Bags (80 per pack - 250g) £1.33 Sainsbury's Red Label Tea 250g

£1.35 Leaf tea 2p more expensive
Tesco Tea Bags (80 per pack - 250g) £1.31 Tesco Quality Loose Leaf Tea (250g) £0.99 Leaf tea 32p cheaper
Yorkshire Tea Gold Tea Bags (80 per pack - 250g) £3.00 Yorkshire Tea Gold Leaf Tea (250g) £2.29 Leaf tea 71p cheaper
ASDA Chosen by You Tea Bags (80 per pack - 250g) £1.00 ASDA Chosen by You Loose Leaf Tea (250g) 98p Leaf tea 2p cheaper

So in three of the four examples, leaf tea was cheaper. However, the difference was sometimes just a couple of pence – although with the bigger brand it was more than 70p.

I often buy the Sainsbury’s fair-trade tea, so it doesn’t make much sense to me to switch. However, it’s clearly worth comparing the cost with your favourite brand.

We have a couple of tea balls to make a cup of loose leaf tea without making a whole pot. However, many people prefer the taste of a teapot full of leaves; just remember you’ll need a sieve to serve!

Other kinds of austeri-tea

This did get me thinking about other versions of tea. The UK used to infuse all sorts of things in hot water to make drinks, including nettles and rose hips. You can even still buy ready-dried versions in health shops, although at vastly inflated prices.

So could I make a tasty, hot drink using plants I’ve foraged for? There’s no shortage of nettles near where I live, so I donned some gardening gloves and went picking.

Having read instructions on preparing nettle tea from, I knew to target the youngest, smallest plants as they grow bitterer with age.

Unfortunately, this time of year there weren’t many new plants to choose from, but I did my best.

I then carefully cleaned them (having chosen the ones hopefully out of reach of most dogs!), and covered them with boiling water. Once I’d removed the leaves, I was ready to enjoy – or otherwise – my first cup of nettle tea.

Nettle tea is apparently a source of iron, calcium and folic acid. However, I fear it may be an acquired taste.

Even with a hefty squeeze of lemon, it tasted pretty odd and it took two spoonfuls of sugar for me to drink it.

I think that, for now, I’ll stick to tea bags and leave the foraging to Bear Grylls.

What do you think? Is tea too expensive? Have you tried stewing your own hot drinks? Share your thoughts and experiences with other readers in the comments below.

[Related feature: Five reasons to drink herbal tea]