The awareness of toxic chemicals in our tea is not a new revelation. But have you considered that it is more than just the leaves. It's the leaves, the tea bag, the tea blends, the water and the kettle!
If you are thinking that you 'Just Add Water' and hey presto you have a beneficial brew, think again. During the tea making process you've probably added a mix of fluoride, heavy metals, mould, GMO, plastics and 'not so natural flavours' to the equation. Your healthy drink just got a whole lot nastier.
A few past studies…
2014 – Greenpeace study found that nearly 94% of the tea samples tested in India (from where much of the tea sold in Australia is sourced) contained at least one of 34 different pesticides, while 59% contained a toxic cocktail of more than 10 different pesticides. The study identifies 67 % of tested samples of respected Indian tea contained DTT a pesticide banned since 1989.
2015 – Beyond Pesticide's "Tea Steeped in Toxins" highlighted, among many issues, that USA's Food and Drug Administration's Pesticide Monitoring Program reports that imported tea has constant high violation rates.
2018 – A recent Chinese case study, Accumulation of Heavy Metals in Tea Leaves and Potential Health Risk Assessment, assessed that heavy metals- Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Arsenic etc – can occur in tea garden soils as a result of the application of pesticides and chemical fertilisers containing heavy metals.
Where do all these toxins come from?
TEA LEAVES & TEA BLENDS
Pesticides: High levels of toxic legal and illegal pesticides are used widely in the tea industry.
Heavy Metals: Mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium as well as other heavy metals have been found in tea leaves. Contaminants may leach from the soil, air, or water in which the plants are grown.
Aluminium and Fluoride: Tea may contain aluminium and fluoride, leached from the soil – these accumulate in the leaves over time.
- Older leaves will have more toxins and these are the ones used by many companies to make tea, since it is cheaper.
- The drinking of more than 5 litres of tea per week may result in dental or skeletal fluorosis
The average tea bag can contain leaves from as many as 20 different tea gardens from 6 different countries – so it is very difficult to know where your tea leaves are sourced.
Tea leaves are susceptible to mould growth and mycotoxins depending on how they are grown, stored and fermented and organic tea grown without fungicides are particularly prone.
“Natural” Flavours are not actually natural:
Many teas, even organic ones, contain "natural flavours" and who really knows where those natural flavours come from. When companies use the term ‘natural flavour’, typically they are using a flavour boosting science project to create a taste that they have determined you will like and will have you coming back for more.
What is the difference between natural and artificial flavours?
- Natural flavour is made from chemicals that have originated from a plant or animal. Artificial flavours may be made with the same chemicals, however, the chemicals come from a synthetic source.
- Natural flavours include the natural essence or extracts from plants. For example, Banana flavour is created by distilling the flavour molecules from a banana using a chemical solvent, while artificial banana flavour is created by mixing chemicals that result in the identical chemical output.
- The term ‘natural flavour’ is quite ambiguous. It allows companies to ‘hide’ ingredients under an umbrella term.
- Essential oils are different than natural flavours. Natural flavours, when listed as food ingredients, are basically artificial flavours – edible chemicals and extracts – but they are derived from a natural source. However they have been altered such that they are no longer the same chemical compound that was in the original natural source. Essential oils are extracted from a plant, but the result is not chemically altered.
Why are these flavours needed?
Tea manufacturers are introducing hundreds of products to their product lines to satisfy the sweet-tooth seeking candy flavoured tea drinkers. Many of these products are really no longer 'tea' or even herbal teas, but infusions containing flowers, fruit, chocolate, peppermint candies, flavouring preparations or anything else that will flavour hot water.
- Buy organic, GMO free tea from companies that report where their tea is grown and how it is harvested.
- When possible, avoid tea from China.
- Check the ingredient list religiously and skip products with added flavours (even "natural" flavours); potential GMO ingredients including soy lecithin and cornstarch, corn syrup, and other additives.
- Drink your tea plain. If you need flavour, add a little organic stevia and unsweetened coconut cream.
- When ordering tea, ask to see the box it came in OR when buying loose leaf tea, check the label too.
- Many restaurants carry inexpensive, lower-quality tea brands that are known to be full of pesticides, so consider not ordering tea while dining out or consider taking your own tea bag and simply ask for hot water.
Read PART 2 to find out if your TEA BRAND is pesticide, chlorine and epichlorohydrin free!
Read the next blog in the series: Part 2 – WHAT, MY TEA BAG IS PLASTIC?
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