This post is part of our Easy, Waste-Busting Food and Drink Recipes resource.

This post shares recipes for:

  • Tea and Infusions
  • Dairy and non-dairy milks
  • Ginger beer (coming soon…)

Tea and Infusions

Tea can be tricky in a zero waste lifestyle. Generally, we avoid teabags because most brands have plastic in them. The ones that don’t (like, Scarborough Fair and Red Seal) tend to have plastic wrap around the boxes. We prefer loose leaf where possible. Sometimes you can buy loose leaf tea in bulk stores. Check our Regional Zero Waste Shopping Guides to see if this option is available near you.

Overall, we’ve found that making our own tea blends out of spices, fruit and/or foraged leaves is the best way to go (and much cheaper). Check out some of our ideas below.

Chai Masala Mix

This recipe below is taken from The Hathi Cooks’ grandma’s recipe. We adore it. Here it is:


  • 160 g. whole black peppercorn (or finely ground, same weight. Volume: 1 cup + 7 Tbsp)
  • 125 g. whole dried ginger or ginger powder (Volume: 1 cup + 8 Tbsp)
  • 50 g. cinnamon sticks (or finely ground, same weight. Volume: 1/4 cup + 2 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 50 g. whole cardamom seeds (or finely ground, same weight. Volume: 1/2 cup + 1/2 Tbsp)
  • 5 g. whole cloves (or finely ground, same weight. Volume: 1 Tbsp)
  • 5 g. nutmeg (or finely ground, same weight. Volume: 1 Tbsp)


Put all the ingredients in a spice grinder and grind until it becomes a fine powder. Store it in an airtight container in a cupboard.

How do we use the mix? We just put a 1/4 of a teaspoon in the bottom of a cup, and then fill the cup with boiling water. If you want you can add a teaspoon of honey. We love the drink just like this, but if you want to make it into an actual chai, check out the link to the original recipe, which explains how to do this (and then see our suggestions for low-waste milk options below).


  • The recipe makes a HUGE quantity of chai masala. We would usually make this with a fifth of the quantities listed (though, note, you need the kind of scales that drug dealers would use to measure out the spice quantities accurately at such small weights, so we do guesstimate a bit).
  • We keep this mix low-waste by getting the spices from a bulk store (whether Bin Inn or somewhere else that sells spices without packaging).
  • If you find the drink too spicy, you can reduce the amount of peppercorns you put in, but we really like the punchy kick this blend has!

Foraging for teas and/or making it up as you go

We spend a lot of time foraging for leaves and flowers that we can use to make teas, and also experimenting with standard pantry items like fruit and dried fruit. With the leaves and flowers, you can pluck and use them fresh, or you can dry them, blend them and store in an airtight container. So try some mixtures out! BUT make sure that if you are foraging you know what it is that you are using because some plants are poisonous – DON’T experiment (sorry for shouting). Some great ingredients for infusions are:

  • Citrus tree leaves (orange/lemon)
  • Culinary lavender
  • Dried fruits
  • Ginger and turmeric root
  • Kawakawa (please note that kawakawa is a mild blood thinner, so don’t use it if you are on Warfarin)
  • Lemon balm
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Mint leaves
  • Rose petals
  • Slices of fruit and berries

Dairy and Non-Dairy Milks

We are often asked how we manage to drink milk (dairy, vegan or otherwise), without packaging. In this post, we discuss both.

Dairy Milk

Broadly speaking, if you want dairy milk, short of getting and milking your own cow, the only zero waste option is to find a farm near you that uses a vending machine system (where you bring reusable glass bottles to refill), or a milk company that operates a bottle swap system. Check out our Regional Zero Waste Shopping Guides to see if there are such operations near you. If you don’t have a vending machine or bottle swap system near you and you want to reduce your waste footprint, you could consider reducing your dairy milk intake (say, getting one less bottle a week) by using non-dairy milk for some things instead, if you can bear it (for example, putting non-dairy milk in your cereals or baking, both of which are much less noticeably different than non-dairy milk in tea). If this doesn’t sound too horrendous, then read on to see how to get non-dairy milk without packaging…

Non-dairy Milk

People often ask us how we manage to avoid Tetrapaks for non-dairy milks because most non-dairy milks come in this type of packaging and it sure is wasteful (Tetrapaks are a composite product, made of multiple layers of different materials, so it’s a hassle to recycle. For this reason, in most parts of NZ, Tetrapaks are landfill only – not a great outcome, especially if you are skipping the dairy milk for environmental reasons)! Coconut milk often comes in steel cans that, while effectively recycled, are mostly not recycled in NZ, but shipped overseas. Furthermore, the cans are lined with plastic on the inside, as well as the plastic labels and adhesive on the outside.

We avoid all this packaging by making the milks ourselves! You’ll be surprised by how easy, and how cheap this is (seriously). Not only that, but by making it yourself, you skip all the preservatives, additives, salts, sugars, and oils that often get added to packaged non-dairy milk.

Our go-to milk of choice is oat milk because it’s basically free it’s so cheap to make (and because it’s easy to find NZ-grown oats), but you can make other milks too! We have never tried soy milk because it seems like a bit of a process, and finding unpackaged soy beans is not the easiest trick in the book, but here are the ones we can share with you (scroll down to find the one you want):

  • Oat Milk
  • Nut Milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • Rice Milk

1. Oat milk


  • 1 cup of oats (jumbo rolled oats or steel cut – if using steel cut oats, soak them for 2-4 hours in cold water and then drain before using)
  • 3-4 cups of water


  1. Put oats in a blender with one cup of water.
  2. Blend for a few seconds.
  3. Add the remaining water, one cup at a time, blending for a few seconds before adding each cup.
  4. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl/jug/bottle in order to separate the milk from the chunks of mashed up oats.


  • Homemade oat milk can be a bit ‘slimey’. Steel cut oats produce a less slimey texture, and so you may prefer to use these over whole oats.
  • How much water you add depends on how rich/thick you want the milk to be. So go by your tastes when deciding how much water to put in.
  • We reserve the left over oat mush that you collect in the sieve and use it for other things. For example, you can chuck it into your morning porridge or cereal, use it in baking as an oil/fat substitute, or mix it with herbs/spices/salt/grated veggies and then bake in the oven to make slapdash oatcakes!

2. Nut milk


  • 1 cup of your nuts of choice (i.e. almond or cashews)
  • 3-4 cups of water


  1. Soak the nuts overnight in a bowl of cold water.
  2. Drain the nuts from the soaking water.
  3. Put nuts in a blender with one cup of water.
  4. Blend for a few seconds.
  5. Add the remaining water, one cup at a time, blending for a few seconds before adding each cup.
  6. Strain the mixture through a cheese cloth/piece of muslin into a bowl/jug/bottle in order to separate the milk from the chunks of mashed up nuts.

NB: You can reserve the mashed up nuts left in your cheesecloth and use it to pad out baking, or mix it in with homemade pestos.

3. Coconut milk


  • 1 cup of shredded/threaded coconut
  • 2 cups of boiling water


  1. Boil two cups of water in a kettle.
  2. Put the cup of coconut in a heat resistant bowl.
  3. Pour the boiling water onto the coconut and then leave the mixture to sit for 15 minutes.
  4. Pour the mixture into a blender/nutribullet and blend it up.
  5. Strain the liquid through a sieve. The liquid is your milk.

NB: You can retain the coconut mush left behind in your sieve for various things, like adding it to breakfast/baking. Make sure to keep the mush in the fridge. After about 48 hours it will start to ferment – at this point it’s nice with some lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper as an almost cheesy-like topping or side dish. Be careful though, if you leave the mush too much longer it will start to smell and taste like foot.

4. Rice milk


  • 1 cup of rice (either cooked or raw)
  • 4 cups water
  • Optional: 4 dates (or other sweetener) for sweetness


  1. If you are using non-cooked rice, you will need to soak the rice in very hot water (not boiling) for a couple of hours OR in room temperature water overnight. After the soaking period is over, drain the rice in a sieve.
  2. Place the rice (whether cooked or not cooked) and your sweetener (if using) into a blender with one cup of water. Blend it for a bit, and then add the rest of the cups of water one at a time, blending in between.
  3. Strain the liquid through a thin tea towel (the gaps in a cheesecloth/muslin are too big for rice milk) into a bowl. This liquid is your rice milk!


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