I can imagine that a British traveler, with their well-known love of a cup of tea, might think it important to know whether or not you are allowed to take tea bags on a plane with you on a trip, particularly if traveling abroad.
Fortunately in most instances you can take your favorite tea bags in your carry on bags with you when traveling and also in your checked luggage. But if flying internationally it can depend on the country you are visiting so you will need to check the local regulations.
Apart from British tea lovers, many other people like to take their favorite tea with them on vacation, or a business trip, to drink in their hotel rooms while they are away.
Others may find some of the perfumed and flavored teas relaxing so may want to make themselves a cup on the flight with some hot water supplied by the cabin crew.
The following information gives the full rules regarding taking tea bags through airport security, on a plane and international through customs.
Can you bring tea bags through airport security?
You should have no problems at all bringing tea in any form, either in tea bags or loose tea, through the security checkpoint in your hand luggage in any country.
However, loose tea is generally treated as a powder so the restrictions that apply to powders of carrying no more than 12 ozs might apply, depending on the discretion of the security agent you deal with at the security checkpoint. It would be advisable to leave the tea in its original packaging, if possible.
If traveling from a US airport the Transportation Security Administration state the following on their tsa.com website:
Tea (dry tea bags or loose tea leaves)
Carry On Bags: Yes
Checked Bags: Yes
Solid food items (not liquids or gels) can be transported in either your carry-on or checked luggage. Liquid or gel food items larger than 3.4 oz are not allowed in carry-on bags and should be placed in your checked bags if possible.
TSA officers may instruct travelers to separate items from carry-on bags such as foods, powders, and any materials that can clutter bags and obstruct clear images on the X-ray machine. Travelers are encouraged to organize their carry-on bags and keep them uncluttered to ease the screening process and keep the lines moving.
Read “How to pass through airport security quickly” for more airport security advice.
Can you bring loose leaf tea on a plane?
If you intend traveling with loose tea leaves then, provided you don’t intend to take very large quantities, you should have no problems taking tea leaves through airport security and on a plane in your carry on..
Loose tea leaves will probably be treated as powder, which has particular airport security rules, so could be subject to the maximum 12 ozs rule.
Can you bring tea bags in checked baggage?
You can take as many tea bags in checked baggage as you like and the same is true when it comes to traveling with loose leaf tea.
The only thing you need to consider is, if you are traveling internationally, that the country you will be entering allows you to take tea bags or loose leaf tea through customs and into the country. See the section below about declaring tea at customs.
Can you bring tea bags on international flights?
Whether you are flying on an international flight or a domestic flight really makes little difference as to your ability to bring tea bags or loose tea on a plane or not. What is more important is if you intend to take them into the country you are traveling to rather than just using them during the flight.
You can certainly bring tea bags on an international flight to make tea on board the aircraft.
If you want to take them into the country with you then you need to check that country’s regulations. See the next section.
Do you have to declare tea at Customs?
Having a few tea bags in your carry on luggage may seem insignificant but you may have to declare it if traveling to some countries since it falls both within food and plant categories.
Even if you are allowed to bring it into a country you may still have to declare it on the customs form you will be given to complete by the cabin crew before you land. Failing to declare it could bring a fine so make sure you complete the customs declaration carefully.
As an example, Australia has some pretty strict rules regarding what can and can’t be brought into the country and specifically bringing tea base or loose tea leaves. The Australian government website states:
Plain black or green teas and plain black or green teas with flavoring
These teas are allowed into Australia from any country if the tea is in clean and new packaging (unopened) and free of live insects and other contamination.
Herbal tea bags
Herbal tea bags are allowed into Australia if:
They are commercially prepared, packaged and labelled.
The tea contains ingredients of plant origin only.
All material in the tea is thoroughly dried.
The weight of each product (blend) within the consignment is no greater than 1 kilogram per blend.
However, although it can be brought into the country IT MUST BE DECLARED on the customs form otherwise a penalty will be imposed and the tea confiscated.
You should check the website of the relevant country you are traveling to in order to check their customs regulations.
How to travel with tea on a plane
There are a few things you should consider doing when you will carry teabags or loose tea in your carry on bag.
- Where possible, particularly if you are carrying a larger quantity of tea bags in your carry on bag, try to keep them unopened in the original packaging.
- If you are taking loose tea then ideally don’t carry it in a plain resealable plastic bag as it is likely to at least be pulled aside for further testing. Keep it in the original package.
- It may well be that you can buy almost any type of tea you may want at your destination so perhaps consider not taking it with you and buy it there instead.
If you found this article on can you bring tea bags on a plane useful then some of my other airport security articles may be of interest: