Monday, December 2, 2013

Tea You Can Feel Good About

The Climate Crusader is an avid tea drinker, but recent news about potential toxins lurking in her daily cuppa have her thinking.

I am a tea hoarder. As of today, I have 34 different kinds of tea in my tea cupboard. That's a lot of tea. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that I drink a lot of tea as well. I've never been able to stomach the taste of coffee, so tea is my hot beverage of choice. I drink all kinds ... white, green, black, oolong, rooibos, herbal, fruit infusions. I rarely meet a tea I don't like.

This was my tea collection 10 months ago
This summer, however, I noticed some news reports floating around that caused me concern. FoodBabe posted an article called Do You Know What's Really In Your Tea? Apparently, conventionally-grown teas often contain pesticide residues, which don't really sound all that appetizing to me. In addition, many tea brands contain catch-all ingredients like "Natural Flavors" or "Artificial Flavoring", that can include a whole lot of things, many of them not so good.

As if all that weren't enough to turn you off your afternoon cup of tea, there may be nasty stuff hiding in the material the tea bag is made of. Many higher-end tea brands use silky-textured sachets, which are made of plastic, PLA (plastic made from organic substances like corn starch) or food-grade nylon. Plastics are known to leach chemicals into food, especially when heated. Like, say, when you pour boiling water over your tea bag. Sadly, paper tea bags may not be any better, as the paper is often treated with chemicals as well.

FoodBabe isn't alone in sounding the alarm, either. An article posted to a New York Times blog discusses how lead has been found in green tea leaves, especially from China. While the article does point out that the lead doesn't migrate from the leaf to the tea, I still don't really like the sound of that. Dr. Mercola also raised some concerns around green tea on his site.

So, what's a tea aficionado to do? There are a few simple steps you can take:
  1. Buy organic - In order to be certified organic, tea, like other food products, can't be grown using pesticides. It also can't contain genetically-modified crops, or artificial colors and flavors.
  2. Choose loose-leaf - By choosing a loose-leaf tea, and brewing it in glass or stainless steel, you can avoid any chemicals that may be lurking in your tea bags.
  3. Buy local - Even before reading this article, I'd started shopping at a local, independently-owned tea shop. They blend their own teas in-house, and carry many organic teas, so I can know exactly what I'm getting. Plus, I feel good about supporting a local business.
If you're feeling more ambitious, you can even blend your own tea. You can find out how to do that in this Green Phone Booth post. And bonus points: specially-blended teas in pretty glass jars make excellent (and affordable) holiday gifts.

Are you a tea lover? Are you concerned about chemicals in your tea? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

3 comments:

Green Bean said...

I feel so clueless. I had no idea about these problems. I tend to buy organic but have been sketchy on the loose leaf teas. I excuse my tea bags by composting them but you offer (yet another reason) to skip the bags.

I'll need to keep my eyes open for tea shops. There is one in my sister's town but every blend has natural flavors. Bleh!

Thanks for the enlightening post!

robbie @ going green mama said...

Agree with GB - this was an eye opener. Many thanks!

Sara best green tea said...

very helpful post, i think tea is the best herbal on the earth, just we need to contrĂ´l our shop "brand shop" for me tea is my daily drinker i can't stop drinking tea since 2008 right now i use the best green tea extract and my body is good

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