We Couldn't Help But Wonder: Is Loose Tea Allowed On A Plane?

Waiting in line for airport security can be a stressful and exhausting process. While you may have double-checked the online guides clarifying exactly what you can bring on the plane, there is always that risk of something in your carry-on bag getting flagged and possibly confiscated.

With many of your possessions, a thorough screening will usually suffice, but when it comes to food items that aren't safe to fly with, they end up in the trash. With liquids like peanut butter, honey, and wine, any amount above 3.4 ounces will need to be checked in your luggage before going through security. However, some of the drier food products can leave flyers confused. This becomes a problem if you only have a carry-on bag and plan to bring home souvenirs like loose-leaf tea. 

Since there are many foods that you shouldn't eat on a plane, including the hot water, you will want to enjoy your tea once you've landed — that is, if you can get it through security with you. While TSA (Transportation Security Administration) does generally allow unused tea bags and loose-leaf tea on planes, the amount matters. And in most circumstances, loose-leaf tea will be allowed on international flights coming into the U.S., which is perfect for American tourists bringing back their authentic Royal English breakfast tea. 

TSA can get confusing with its guidelines

According to Still Tasty, if you are bringing tea into the U.S. with coca, barberry, and loose citrus leaves, you won't be able to get it through American security. If you are traveling on an international flight from the United States, you should research the protocol of the country you'll be landing in because they may have their own restrictions, even with tea in your checked bag. 

When it comes to the tea itself, TSA considers it a powder during their screening process. Therefore, limiting the amount you travel with to no more than 12 ounces is advised because security might flag it as a safety risk. Having your tea in its original packaging may also help it pass through security. If that's not possible, or if it's already been opened, securing it in a clear plastic bag is advised.

TSA can also be somewhat unpredictable. Occasionally you may be able to pass through security with more than 12 ounces of tea leaves if it's divided into separate containers, but you would risk the possibility of getting it confiscated. The way you pack your bags can also influence whether or not you get extra searching from security. Ideally, you don't want your loose-leaf tea inhibiting TSA's ability to scan your other items. If all of this sounds stressful, the good news is that placing your tea in a checked bag will alleviate much of the concern.