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Can you carry tea on a plane (tea bags & loose tea leaves) – Detailed guide

Having some (terrible) tea & coffee on a flight!

If you know me, you would already know that I love chai. In fact, I can’t imagine spending a day without it. 

Therefore, the part that disappoints me the most about plane travel is that some airlines do not serve chai on board. For that matter, even the airlines that do serve chai on board usually only have a single variant of the teabag, and no matter how you make it, it just doesn’t end up pleasing your taste buds. 

Therefore, fed up with having to sacrifice my daily cup of chai while traveling, I finally decided to check if I could carry tea on a plane. So, as per the TSA rules and the baggage policies of many airlines, you are allowed to carry teabags or loose tea leaves both in your hand luggage as well as your checked luggage. However, you can only bring liquid pre-made tea, provided it is less than 3.4 oz or 100 ml packed in a quart-sized clear plastic bag. 

But don’t heave a sigh of relief just yet. Different types of rules apply with respect to carrying tea on a plane depending on whether you want to take it in your hand luggage or your checked baggage. 

To avoid any issues during security check or on arrival, continue reading this post where I share with you the best way of carrying tea in your hand luggage and checked luggage, as well as what to watch out for when bringing tea on a plane. 

This post is based on the TSA rules which are followed by most airlines across the world. However, some airlines and airports in some countries may have different policies regarding taking tea on a plane. Therefore, if you have specific doubts, it is best to check with the airline or refer to locally applicable laws. 

Rules about carrying tea in your hand baggage

Can you carry teabags in your hand luggage?

Carry tea on a flight

These are ready-to-drink pouches of tea that only need to be dipped in hot water before consumption.

If you intend on carrying your own tea for consumption on the flight, it is best to bring teabags. 

Bringing tea bags in hand luggage is permissible as per the TSA rules. 

Can you carry loose tea leaves in your hand luggage?

Loose tea leaves are fuller forms of tea leaves that absorb water better and bring out more flavor.

You are allowed to carry dry or loose tea leaves in your cabin luggage. 

However, using tea leaves in flights can be messy as the leaves tend to swell up and you can’t disposed them off as easily as a teabag. Thus, avoid carrying loose tea leaves for consumption on the flight. 

Can you carry liquid home-made tea in your hand luggage?

You are not allowed to carry liquid tea in your hand luggage unless you carry it as per the TSA liquid rules. This means that you will only be able to bring 100 ml or 3.4 oz tea and will need to carry it in a quart-sized clear bag with all your other liquids such as shampoo, conditioner, lotion, etc. 

Honestly, nobody wants to do that, and I am sure you would rather skip having tea altogether than putting yourself through the trouble of carrying it this way! 

Can you carry tea bought at the airport on the flight?

Carrying tea bought at the airport on a flight!
Carrying tea bought at the airport on a flight!

 In most cases, ready-to-drink, liquid, take-away beverages purchased at the airport after security check are allowed to be taken on the flight. 

However, there are a few airports (such as Cairo) where there is an added second security check right before you board the flight. In these cases, you may have to finish your beverage before boarding the flight. 

That said, if you have bought tea bags or loose leaves at the airport after security check, you can safely carry the same onboard with you. 

>>> Also check: Can you carry a razor in your hand luggage?  

How should you carry tea in your hand luggage?

How to carry tea in your hand luggage will differ slightly based on whether you are carrying it for consumption on the flight or merely packing it to take it along with you to your destination. 

Here are some rules you must follow when it comes to taking tea in your carry-on luggage –

Tea carried for consumption on the flight

As stated earlier, it is best to pack tea bags instead of loose tea for consumption on flight merely for the convenience that tea bags offer.

Further, it is best to pack tea bags in a separate container or box that you can easily remove from the bag for separate screening. 

This is because, as per the TSA rules, 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.

Airport security encourages travelers to keep their travel bags uncluttered to expedite the screening process and keep the lines moving.

In fact, during the present pandemic times, food items in carry-on luggage, even though permissible, are often asked to be presented separately for screening.

Thus carry your tea bags in such a way that you are able to pack or unpack them from your baggage quickly. 

This way of packing tea bags will also prove to be handy when you actually need to use the tea bags on the flight. Once you board the flight, you can simply take out your pack of tea bags from your overhead luggage and keep them near you for ready access. 

Tea carried for other purposes

Even if you need to pack tea in your hand luggage that you don’t plan on consuming on the flight, make sure you follow certain security-friendly best practices. 

First, as stated earlier, pack all food items separately in a manner that allows you to present the items separately for screening.

If you are carrying packaged tea, it is best to bring it in its retail condition only. Thus, make sure you do not open the package. Keep the purchase receipts handy. This is particularly important when traveling to countries that expect you to declare tea to customs on arrival. (For example, check Australian Customs rules here)

If you carry loose, unpackaged tea, you may be asked to open the container for further inspection. The decision to allow you to take the tea on the flight will depend entirely on the security officer attending to you. 

Can you carry tea in your checked luggage?

The rules about carrying tea in your checked luggage are far more straight-forward than those governing hand luggage. Thus, you can carry tea, whether in the form of tea bags or loose tea in your checked baggage. 

In fact, if you fancy, you may even carry liquid tea neatly packed in containers along with you in checked luggage. 

However, to ensure a smoother experience with the customs department at your arrival destination, keep your tea in its retail condition. Thus, as far as possible, do not open tea packages and avoid carrying loosely bought tea. Keep your receipts handy with you for inspection. 

Does carrying tea internationally attract customs duty?

In most cases, unless you are carrying enormous quantities of tea, you should not face any troubles with the customs of most major countries. 

That said, the best practice to follow when taking tea on international flights is to – 

  1. Check the Customs law applicable to the country of arrival. (Example, Australia has strictly laid-out rules about how much and what type of tea you can carry with you into Australia)

2. Declare the amount of tea you are carrying with you in the customs form. It will handed over to you before you land. 

Additionally, from the point of view of not getting in trouble with customs, check if the tea packets that you are carrying contain any dairy. Many premix tea packets come with milk powders that often attract stricter regulations in many major countries. 

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