Tea bags are one of the oldest uses for nonwoven materials. In fact, some of the largest players within the nonwovens industry today, such as newly-acquired Dexter Nonwovens Materials, Windsor Locks, CT, got their start within the industry by making such products. With the growth of the nutraceuticals market, the image of tea has been revamped. Where once tea was simply a hot beverage, it can now be perceived as an herbal supplement with medicinal properties. "The nutraceuticals business is a growing specialty within the tea bag industry because functional and medicinal teas are becoming very popular," explained Keith Schonbrun, director of corporate communications for commission converter Copack International, Carlstadt, NJ. "I think there is a very strong, growing market for flavorful, scented, medicinal and functional teas and, in the nonwovens marketplace, that is a very strong and growing market."
The increasing interest in herbal teas has led to a revival in using the whole leaf tea, which produces a fresher and fuller experience for the drinker compared to other teas in which the leaves are cut or chopped. To meet this demand, Copack designed a biodegradable tea bag made of a wet laid nonwoven material primarily composed of abaca, or hemp, fiber. "It's really expressly designed to hold a whole leaf tea, which is a very difficult tea to package," Mr. Schonbrun stated. "The design is spherical and it allows the whole tea leaf to expand and bloom while it's steeping. It is really a visual delight to see because you get to see the tea unfurl and the scent and aroma are very apparent as it happens."
One unique feature of the tea bag is its tag, which is an integral coiled extension of the bag itself rather than a piece of paper tied on a string that is stapled to the tea bag. This patented "Tag-and-Bag" design--which is manufactured on a machine engineered and built by Copack--has been adopted by bottled iced tea producer Honest Tea, Bethesda, MA, for its new line of premium whole leaf tea bags. To make this design work, the wet laid nonwoven used in the tea bag is specially constructed to be very strong, both in dry and wet form, according to Mr. Schonbrun. Additionally, the large diameter of the abaca fiber helps strengthen the material without a lot of additives, which could alter the tea's natural flavors. The porosity and permeability of the wet laid nonwoven is also controlled. "It has a well distributed pore size that allows us to maximize the ability of the tea bag to not only help but actually allow the whole leaf tea to expand," he commented.
Since the tea bag's launch last year, Copack has noticed much interest in its product from potential customers. The product's unique design and all-natural composition is reportedly the driver behind this interest. "Many prospective customers have shown interest in this tea bag due to its new shape, the fact that it is biodegradable and that there are no metallics, like a staple, that could affect the flavor or aroma of the tea," Mr. Schoabrun detailed. "There are no strings, so there is no extraneous part of the product that would not be biodegradable. The fact that the entire bag is usable to promote the flavor of the tea was very much of interest."
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|Date:||Feb 1, 2001|
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