The Truth About Pesticides in Tea
We love drinking tea in my house. My oldest son is an avid herbal tea drinker and he cannot end his day without a nice cup of Tulsi Red Chai Masala, Lemon Ginger or Rooibos Chai tea. Of course, every tea I buy is organic and from what I believe to be the most reputable companies. When I started doing research on the best, toxin-free teas on the market, I was astonished by what I found. I was clearly deceived. Here are some key takeaways from my research on toxic tea:
Toxic Tea Contains Fluoride and Pesticides. Many organic teas contain multiple pesticides, heavy metal residues and fluoride. If the tea leaves are sprayed with pesticides, and many of them are, then not washed off, those toxins will wind up in your tea cup. Heavy metals and fluoride come from the soil that the tea plant is grown in and it accumulates in the leaves over time. Older leaves will have more toxins and these are the ones often used by many companies to make tea, since it is cheaper. A study published in the Journal of Toxicology in 2013 found that over 70% of the teas that they tested contained very high levels of lead and 20% had aluminum and other metals.
"The organic teas had significantly higher levels of lead contamination if left steeping for more than 15 minutes than the regular teas. Otherwise there was no significant difference in levels of contaminants between organic teas and regular off the shelf teas." The organic teas from China seemed to be the worst. We think buying organic is somehow protective but here is a good case in point that you need to know where the tea is grown, how it is processed and the practices of the company.
Mold in Tea Bags. Tea leaves are susceptible to mold growth and mycotoxins depending on how they are grown, stored and fermented and organic tea grown without fungicides are particularly prone. Several studies have shown numerous types of molds on tea leaves, including Aspergillus and many mycotoxins such as Aflatoxin, Ochratoxin and Fumonisin. These mycotoxins are damaging to DNA, can cause birth defects and are carcinogenic. The fact that you can be exposed to all this from a cup of tea is disturbing.
GMO Teabags. Even organically grown and harvested tea might be found in tea bags that are made from plastic, GMO corn and bleached paper, all of which leach out into the hot water and get absorbed by our body. Some paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a plastic that helps to keep the bags from breaking. The problem is that epichlorohydrin can break down in hot water and be released into your tea. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has reported this chemical can cause cancer and infertility.
“Natural” Flavors are not actually natural.
Many teas, even organic ones, contain "natural flavors" and who really knows where those natural flavors come from. The FDA states, “The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. Natural flavors include the natural essence or extracts from plants.”
What is the solution to the toxic tea problem? Here is how to avoid buying toxic tea:
1) Buy loose leaf tea and brew your own tea from scratch.
2) When possible, avoid tea from China.
3) Buy organic, GMO free tea from companies that report where their tea is grown and how it is harvested.
4) Check the ingredient list to make sure there are no added flavors or GMO ingredients added to the tea leaves.
5) Many restaurants use tea brands that are known to be full of pesticides, so consider not ordering tea while out to eat.
Healthiest Tea Brands to Drink/ Toxin Free Teas
Based on this research, there are only a few companies that I will now be buying tea from for my family. I have been assured that they are USDA certified organic, Fair Trade Certified, non-GMO and do not use any chemicals or natural flavors. The top 3 pesticide-free tea brands are: Numi Tea, Buddha Tea and Mountain Rose Herbs.