Strange biofuelled tea (Day 58)

Strange biofuelled tea (Day 58)

24th July 2014

Every now again we like to bring you the quirky and unusual on Chemeng365. So today's blog features the story of the The Strange Brew Tea Company in Scotland.

Using their own words, 'The Strange Brew Tea Company are an eco-friendly tea business with a huge passion for tea, the environment and all things quirky!'

The Strange Brew Tea Company's "Tea Trike" on the grounds of Thirlestane Castle in Scotland.

So why 'strange'? Well there's nothing sinister there. The company is run by James Strange and his wife Kirsty.

But what is slightly strange is that their company provides 'mobile' tea, served from the back of a trike - not something you see everyday on the streets of Scotland.

It's a totally ethical and environmentally friendly operation. Peddle power is used to get close to their customers. The tea is sourced from the Ethical Tea Partnership. The tea comes in individual degradable tea-bags. They only use compostable and recyclable packaging. And then there's the energy to heat the perfect-for-tea hot water.

Staying true to their values they wanted to stay self-sufficient for heating, but didn't want to use fossil fuels. The option for electricity from solar power was an option, but weather, reliability and being able to generate enough power forced James and Kirsty to look again.

In the end a chemical engineering friend found them a solution. In James' own words: "All was looking lost for our eco-friendly powered hot water device…until a quick chat with a musician friend (who also happened to be a chemical engineer) mentioned biofuel.

"A few more late evenings of research led to our current fuel source - Scottish sustainable woodchip in the form of briquettes. So, in burning bio-fuel we are only releasing carbon from recently deceased tree bits, which is then recaptured by replacement trees. The fuel itself is near smokeless and almost completely combustible."

And in recent months they have been developing a new water boiler to keep the whole process as energy and fuel efficient as possible, thanks to financial investment from the Kickstarter initiative.

As chemical engineers, we often get caught up in the enormous scale of our energy and manufacturing processes.

James and Kirsty's story is a good reminder that chemical engineering can help even the smallest of businesses, and fit comfortably with ethical and environmental considerations.

We wish them all the best for the future!

Listen to the slightly quirky story of The Strange Brew Tea Company