Scientists develop authentic ‘tea shirt’

Scientists and fashion designers have developed a new fabric that is grown in a soup of green tea, sugar and other nutrients over the course of several days. It has been dubbed the authentic “tea shirt” – an item from a range of clothing made from Britain’s favourite beverage.

The material with a leathery texture is extremely lightweight and has been used to make shirts, jackets, dresses and even shoes, reports the Telegraph. Bacteria added to the green tea and sugar solution produce long filaments of cellulose that clump together to form thin mats of fabric that float on top of the mixture.

Once dried, it becomes see-through and similar in appearance to papyrus. However, it can be treated, dyed and moulded to produce different textures and effects. Scientists of the Imperial College London have been working with fashion designers from Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, London, to create the fabric for use in the fashion industry.

Paul Freemont, molecular biologist at Imperial College said: “The bacteria naturally produce these fibres of cellulose and they are laid down into a mat that floats to the surface.” “The mixture produces quite an uneven and random fabric. So we are working on ways of making it more consistent. Once it is dried, it feels just like leather and is really tough. You can’t tear it apart,” Freemont said.

Over a period of two or three weeks, these fibres meld together to form thin, wet sheets of cellulose that toughen as they are dried out. The project is being led by Suzanne Lee, a senior research fellow and designer at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, who has already used the material to make clothes. Lee said the idea to create the fabric came to her after a chance meeting with a biologist several years ago.

She said: “He explained that microorganisms can be used to spin cellulose and that in turn could form a textile-like material.” “I realised this answered many of the pressing issues associated with contemporary throwaway fashion such as sustainability and end of life disposal,” she added.