Tea waste


Made in

Plant-based 167 Recycled 121 Textile 89 Corn starch 7 Sodium alginate 14 Tea 7

Tea waste

Photos: Cheng Cheng

The Tea Program

The Tea Program is a research project that explores the possibilities of using tea to create materials and products.

As a biodegradable material, tea is used to create a range of souvenirs for everyday family rituals, incorporating bio-manufacturing and craftsmanship, to reflect sustainability and showcase the natural beauty of the unique material.

Tea drinking is famous as a traditional and widespread form of leisure in both the East and West. While studying in the UK, Cheng was contracted Covid-19, drinking tea became an essential part of her daily life to decompress and heal herself. At first, she connected with her motherland and family by recording and recalling the fragments and stories during tea drinking. Cheng then sought to tell their stories through tea by collecting tea from individuals, friends and local restaurants after drinking it, shaping personal and group identities. Since 2020 she has been practising and questioning: how tea can be used as a material to tell and preserve the stories and memories of individuals and groups? and how can we go beyond the traditional values of tea?

The collection focuses on commemorative objects, amplifying their materiality and emphasising the importance of memorialisation in the human experience. The objects use antique symbols and attempt to embed them in a more extended history of materials. The pigments used in the objects originate from the tea leaf, so the whole plant is used for production. The containers are made from tea with added starch, flour and water. Recipes such as vases and candle holders include tea mixed with a bio-resin.

Additional information

Firstly, the collected tea is sorted, dried, dehydrated and then ground to a powder. Afterwards, the materials are reassembled and processed at low heat to form a clay-like substance. In this case, the addition of sodium alginate will polymerise the tea to form the object.

Information submitted by the maker and edited by the Future Materials Bank.


Tea, corn starch, sodium, alginate