UPDATE: Many people wanted to see “which brands”: We linked to the Glaucus Research report that tears Teavana a new one, we linked (end of the article) to Food Babe’s article which includes a complete chart of which brands she investigated, and we followed up with a lot of our own additional research into the substances in the teabag material and so on. To sum it up; Numi, Rishi and Traditional Medicinals came out smelling of roses; most of the others, not so – including Lipton, Allegro, Celestial Seasonings, Tazo, Teavana, Bigelow, Republic of Tea, Twinings, Yogi, Tea Forte, Mighty Leaf, Trader Joe’s, Tetley. All the links are in the article (which is worth reading).
Well folks, this news was a bit of a downer to be honest, but it’s important stuff and people need to know: We recently discovered an amazing article (link at the end) which gives a very detailed exposé of chemicals and other additives that have been found by lab testing in numerous common brands of tea. We also did some further investigation, which appears below.
Now I’m a tea fanatic so I was understandably upset by finding out that my favorite brew is loaded with surprisingly high quantities of pesticides and other dubious chemicals. The types of suspect ingredients found in common tea brands can be broken down into four main categories:
1) PESTICIDES. Most teas are not washed before being dried – and therefore non-organic teas almost certainly contain pesticide residues. Some tea brands (even those claimed organic or pesticide free!) have recently been found to contain pesticides that are known carcinogens – in quantities above the US and EU limits! This is completely outrageous. I dug further and found new scientific reports which are pretty scathing – not to mention scary from the consumer’s point of view. Here’s an in-depth report from Glaucus Research that illustrates what appear to be outright criminal practices. It’s essential reading and a real education into what goes on in the modern world.
2) SUBSTANCES IN THE TEABAG MATERIAL. Teabags are often made from plastics (which may leach molecules into the boiling water), corn-based biodegradable bags (probably GMO), or with paper which was treated with wet strength agents such as polymerized epichlorohydrin. Epicholorohydrin (unpolymerized) is also used as an insect fumigant and considered a potential carcinogen – and although levels present in paper products such as tea bags and coffee filters are low, they are still present. (source)
The effects of leaching from teabag material to the tea are of course avoidable if you use loose leaf tea. If you are concerned about this but still want your favorite brand, you could also try this “hack”: Empty the contents of the teabag(s) into a teapot and brew tea the traditional way with a tea strainer! (You get style points also for that – and let us know if you notice a difference in flavor from the deduction of anything that should not have been in your tea!)
3) “NATURAL FLAVORS”. Now this vague terminology is a “blanket term” which conceals the truth of these ingredients. The term “Natural Flavors” essentially means flavorings “which have their origin in nature”. In other words, it could be made from any animal or plant source and processed in many ways.
Not only do you have no true idea what the source actually was (you might be allergic to it!), nor how much processing was done to it – but some of the items that are used as natural flavors are completely disgusting in their own right. Like for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/castoreum. Yes, anything that says “natural flavors” on the label could contain castoreum, and you would never know…
4) ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS. Now if in the back of your mind you are asking yourself “why does tea need flavoring added at all?” then congratulate yourself because that is a VERY good question. The answer is that the poor plants/herbs used in its manufacture have been mercilessly subjected to the techniques of modern agriculture, to the extent that the end product is sufficiently bland-tasting that flavoring is “required” in order to make it taste the way it should! Tea should be tea! It should not need flavorings, natural or artificial! So please be sure to look at the label and watch out for the word “flavorings” or “flavors”.
Remember, the companies making this stuff are generally just interested in creating marketable products – and decisions are made for reasons of cutting costs and increasing profits. You are just part of the equation and so all the while you continue to swill down whatever, the companies will keep on manufacturing whatever… because it works! However, if sufficient numbers of people demand quality ingredients and transparency at every step of the chain, then the companies will be forced to comply by the laws of supply and demand! So you are in the driving seat! Learn as much as you can about food quality. Ask questions and make conscious, informed choices. Do your research and support independent study. Don’t let them get away with it. Every time you do this, you add to the push for positive change.
We’ve just scratched the surface here, please check out Food Babe’s full report for more detailed information and a chart of which teas came out with their reputations intact – and please share with your tea-loving friends!http://foodbabe.com/2013/08/21/do-you-know-whats-really-in-your-tea/