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The big three in teabag paper.

The production of long-fiber paper for teabag manufacture is a highly specialized operation. The world is supplied almost entirely by three producers of filter media for the converting to finished teabags: Dexter Nonwovens, Schoeller & Hoesch, and Crompton.

Dexter Nonwovens

Martin J. McCormick, sales and marketing manager for Dexter, explained that Dexter Nonwovens was the first company to produce specialty filter papers for the converting to finished bags by tea packers. "Starting with the first teabag papers introduced decades ago," he said, "Dexter product design teams continue to provide innovations in teabag filter media, including a complete selection of patterned and specialty logo materials.

"As packers around the world serve tea drinkers with a wide array of shapes and sizes of teabags, Dexter product teams provide the right design and construction of filter media to suit virtually every need."

In recent years, Dexter was challenged to resolve a problem inherent to the performance of conventional, non-heatseal double chamber teabags.

"Under certain brewing conditions, when teas are hit with hot water, there is a considerable off gassing," explained McCormick. "When the off gassing is extreme, tea leaves can escape into the cup, causing displeasure to the tea drinker. Dexter's product design team developed a new formulation which helps prevent leaking teabags. This innovation in filter paper design is now registered under the name DEXTITE[R]."

As the largest operator of inclined wire paper machines, Dexter has the greatest capacity for the production of teabag filter papers. The company has manufacturing facilities in North America, in Windsor Locks, Connecticut; and in Europe, in Chirnshide, Scotland and Stalldalen, Sweden. Dexter also maintains sales/technical liaison offices in 10 countries.

Schoeller & Hoesch

Horst J. Dannhauser, division manager, long-fiber papers, said, "Schoeller & Hoesch was established in 1881 in Gernsbach in the Black Forest. The company today is among the world's leading manufacturers of specialty papers - particularly for cigarette tissue, teabag papers, and bible-printing paper. We import our pulp from everywhere in the world, but not from the Black Forest (because of environmental problems). Imports come from Scandinavia, North and South America, the Philippines, and Ecuador. For some purposes, we also use hemp and flax from southern Europe."

The company operates subsidiaries in South Carolina, in the U.S.; the Philippines; and France and has three additional sales offices in Germany. Exports are worldwide, and there are very few countries they don't export to. Schoeller & Hoesch has a dominance in Germany and the European Community, but also sell to the U.S. and the U.K., and all the Commonwealth countries.

In the area of long-fiber papers, teabags are the company's most important product. Special techniques in the processing of the fiber and the manufacture of the paper create a large number of minuscule pores. These pores maximize diffusion of the tea and minimize the escape of tea dust, while enabling even the finest of tea particles to be packed with ease.

Great importance is given to ensuring that the paper is unbleached and environmentally friendly, neutral in taste, and physiologically safe.

Since 1990, Schoeller & Hoesch has wholly owned Newtech Pulp Inc. in the Philippines, where a plant located on the island of Mindanao specializes in the production of pulp from Abaca fibers. A development team supervises every development of Abaca pulp - all the way from plantation to the end use.

Crompton Specialist Paper Makers

Crompton's position among the world's leading suppliers of teabag paper is backed by its experience since the early 19th century in the production of long-fibered paper. Exporting to over 70 countries, Crompton has been closely involved with the teabag paper business ever since buying the patent, in 1938, for manufacturing long-fibered papers from Manila hemp.

The company operates three mills, dedicated since 1974 exclusively to the manufacture of long-fiber paper. The Simpson Clough Mill was commissioned in 1946 at Heywood in Lancashire, close to the original site of the company at the Elton Mill at Bury, in the heart of the paper-making industry in northern England. At the Elton Mill, polypropylene is extruded to form the artificial fiber used for heatseal paper.

In 1965, a purpose built mill came on stream at Lydney in Gloucestershire, with the installation of what was then the world's largest paper machine of its kind, the PM7. In 1970, a second machine was added. More recently, the plant has been greatly extended by the installation, in 1996, of the world's most advanced long-fibered paper machine, the PM9.

With this machine in production, Crompton's potential capacity has increased by 60%. Located on the banks of the River Severn, the mill has access to an abundant supply of fresh water. The total concentration on long-fiber papers has established Crompton as the largest producer of these papers in Europe.

Heatseal paper is produced by adding a web of synthetic fibers onto the natural fiber, to produce the structure required for a heated bond. Crompton's patented Superseal paper uses a thicker thermoplastic base layer which, when heated, produces a seal which extends throughout the fiber layer. This bond can withstand hours of boiling in water without disintegration.

Like the other two main manufacturers of teabag paper, Crompton pays close attention to environmental problems. In the company's own production of long-fiber pulp, none of the pulp is bleached. Imported supplies of wood pulp are carefully monitored to ensure that no chlorine is used in the bleaching process; instead, the active agent is hydrogen peroxide. Increasingly, in some grades, there is use of unbleached wood pulp. Manila hemp pulp is always used in unbleached form.

The Shape Of Teabags

The suppliers of teabag paper are not involved with the geometry of the end product, whether double-chamber, square, rectangular, round, tetrahedral, or so-called pyramid bags. Those decisions on shape are ultimately made by packers' sales departments, who assess what shape is best from a marketing viewpoint.

The original double-chamber teabag, established almost 60 years ago, is traditionally made with non-heatseal paper, produced with 100% natural fibers. Non-heatseal paper is also used for string and tagbags. Heatseal teabag papers are produced with 75% natural and 25% artificial fibers, depending on the specific grade requirement.

Into the Future

What will be the future shape of teabags? Probably all shapes will continue to co-exist. The newest, from the market viewpoint, are the round and the pyramid shapes.

The round teabag was established about five years ago in Britain. Its advantage is that a round teabag fits better into the round bottom of a teacup. Otherwise, a rectangular teabag is curved up by its corners, swimming a little bit. But there's no technical difference in the make-up of the bag. It's the same material, just a different shape. Optically, some claim the round version looks better, and thereby may boost market share.

For patented pyramid bags, there is no doubt that the tea has more room to expand. A design which permits better movement of the tea may have an influence on the infusion. Time will tell whether the concept can win increased market share.

Dexter Nonwovens, Scott House, 1 Mid New Cultins, West One Business Park, Edinburgh EH11 4DH, Scotland. Tel: (44)(131) 458 2000, Fax (44)(131) 458 2020.

Dexter Nonwovens Division, Two Elm Street, Windsor Locks, Connecticut 06096. Tel: (1)(203) 654-8300, Fax: (1)(203) 654-8301.

Schoeller & Hoesch GmbH, P.O. Box 1155, D-76584 Gernsbach/Murgtal, Germany. Tel: (49)(7224) 660, Fax: (49)(7224) 66274.

Schoeller & Hoesch N.A. Inc., 128 Berkeley Circle, Summerville, South Carolina 29483. Tel: (1)(803) 821-6105, Fax: (1)(803) 821-6128.

J.R. Crompton Ltd., Elton House, Wellington Street, Lancashire BL8 2AS, England. Tel: (44)(61) 797 2645, Fax: (44)(61) 797 5314.

Reg Butler is a Oxfordshire, England-based journalist who has been covering the tobacco and travel industry for over 40 years.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
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Title Annotation:Dexter Nonwovens, Schoeller & Hoesch and Crompton
Author:Butler, Reg
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Oct 1, 1997
Words:1292
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