It goes without saying that we're always tasting new tea around here. And then yesterday I caught Richard in the tasting area, slurping away from a ceramic mug and a paper cup that looked like they were filled with water.
Yup — a water tasting. But it's not what you think. See, Richard loves the taste of the water in here in Basalt, Colo., which comes from a natural spring on top of Basalt Mountain, above town. We don't even have a water filter on our office sink. What he was really finding out was what his favorite water tastes like in each of these cups. It seems he's been looking for an environmentally-friendly paper cup that we can use and recommend to coffee shops that serve our teas.
Plenty of paper cups tout how green they are. Typically they're made of some percentage of post-consumer (recycled) fiber, and are fully compostable because they're lined with Polyactic Acid plastic resin, a biodegradable substance made from renewable resources like corn.
So I joined him at the slurpfest, thinking my wimpy tastebuds are going to register "wet" and not tiny nuances in the water. But no — the difference was immediately clear. Water from the ceramic mug tasted like water — that is to say, it tasted like nothing. Water from the paper cup tasted like paper, and seemed to have a drying effect on my tongue.
"The earth-friendly cups I've tried have had a strong paper taste to them — they're missing some sort of nasty ingredient that doesn't have a taste," Richard says. It makes sense. That ingredient (an oil-based plastic coating) keeps all other paper cups from leaking, but also from breaking down in the landfill.
But wait. Does this little taste really matter? In the tea business, it does. Tea is a delicate drink, and doesn't have the overwhelming qualities of something like coffee to wipe out whatever strange taste might be lurking in your paper cup.
And so, our quest for a better paper cup continues, having tried about three types so far. So I'll pose this question to all of you: do you have any suggestions on an eco-friendly paper cup that allows the taste of your tea to shine through, rather than the taste of your biodegradable paper cup? We're listening ...