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The Green Life: Like Loose-Leaf Tea? New Products Help You Say Bye to the 'Bag

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November 22, 2011

Like Loose-Leaf Tea? New Products Help You Say Bye to the 'Bag

Libre tea glassTea connoisseurs and greenies prefer loose-leaf tea for superior taste and reduced waste. But until recently, drinking unpackaged tea has been only for the patient: You have to monitor the tea 'til it's brewed just right before dumping (or, preferably, saving) the leftover leaves.

A few companies have tried to find a solution. Libre touts its insulated glass (pictured) as the way to drink tea on the go. We tested it and concluded that while it's a decidedly clever start, it's got a ways to go before reaching perfection. 

Like other tea tumblers on the market, the glass has a built-in strainer that prevents leaves from tumbling down your throat. More unique, though, is that it takes into account the need to keep black teas from getting overbrewed. The lid has an enclosure that lets you put the tea in a compartment at the top of the glass. To brew, turn the glass over, steep to taste, remove the entire compartment, and drink straight from the glass. For lighter teas, just throw the tea leaves in the main container and drink through the strainer.

In theory, this should allow commuters to brew and enjoy while doing other tasks, like driving. But in practice, it's a slightly different matter. As the box warns, all the steam must completely dissipate before the mug can be turned upside down, else it could leak and burn you.

Thing is, the steam doesn't disappear instantly, and not even after a couple of minutes (we learned the hard way). In fact, if you've brought your water to a rolling boil, it could take more than six minutes for the steam to go away.

The good news is that the bottle is attractive and works well if you're not in a hurry or if you're fine with using water that's not piping hot. And this trinket does pretty much always does what it's supposed to if you're brewing the tea in the main compartment. Tea stays warm for about an hour, thanks to the double-wall insulation, and the strainer does well with pretty finely ground tea. And while the entire bottle isn't BPA-free, the inside is.

At $22 for a 9-ounce container, we aren't completely sold. Other reasons: It's on the heavier side, and isn't dishwasher- or microwave-safe. Competing products, like Trudeau's Tea-Mendous tumbler, are completely BPA-free and dishwasher-safe. So's the Aladdin Tea Infuser Mug.

Thermos's mug, judging by nearly 200 Amazon reviews and the fact that it relies on a similar brewing mechanism, seems a sturdier and safer bet. It's also made of stainless steel, which means no BPA.

--Avni Nijhawan

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