The earliest record of people drinking tea was in third-century China. It took nearly 1400 years for it to become a staple part of British culture, before being brought over the Atlantic to North America. Now over 80% of households across the continent drink tea at least once a week.
As the popularity of tea continues to increase year on year the health benefits of the beverage are continuously placed at the forefront of many company’s marketing materials. Whether the tea is green, brown or red, the virtues of tea drinking have perpetuated the continued surge in tea sales. However, a study by the Canadian news service CBC has found that of the ten most popular brands of tea in North America, nine of them contain toxic pesticides.
The presence of these pesticides undermines the health benefits of tea, as many of the toxins present are well-known carcinogens and the numbers found in some of the brands were far higher than the scientifically backed ‘allowable’ limits.
Pesticides in Tea
The investigation by CBC Marketplace was undertaken in 2014 and found that through either direct treatment or field runoff; nine of the ten most popular teas in Canada were contaminated with pesticides. The nine teas were:
- Twinings – Earl Grey
- Tetley – green tea
- Lipton – yellow label black tea
- Signal – orange pekoe
- Uncle Lee’s Legends of China – jasmine green tea
- King Cole – orange pekoe
- No Name – black tea
- Uncle Lee’s Legends of China – green tea
- Lipton – pure green tea
Although all nine of these brands were found to have pesticides present, some had a comparatively low level, which is unlikely to cause any noticeable health damage. Six of the nine were below the ‘allowable’ limits, but three of them possessed a dangerously high number of pesticides.
The worst three
- Twinings Earl Grey One of the classier tea’s on the list also has the third highest pesticide content with ten different toxic chemical compounds. The pesticide that was identified most frequently in Twinings’ Earl Grey was acetamiprid, which was has been proven to cause severe nausea, muscle weakness, hypothermia, convulsions and vomiting in people.
- Tetley green tea
Tetley green tea has been shown to have elevated levels of both acetamiprid and chlorfenapyr, the latter of which has been shown to be fatal to people even in small doses. Cases of chlorfenapyr poisoning indicate that the chemical works slowly in the system and can cause fatality up to two weeks after initial ingestion. The CBC report showed that Tetley’s tea had 18 pesticides in its finished product.
- Uncle Lee’s Legends of China green tea
green tea, Uncle Lee’s Legends of China green tea is officially the most toxic tea available in grocery stores. Alongside ten times the ‘acceptable’ levels of acetamiprid and chlorfenapyr, this brand also has dangerous levels of bifenthrin. Bifenthrin has been extensively studied and has been shown to increase the likelihood of developing cancer.
The winner – Red Rose
Of the ten teas tested for pesticides, Red Rose was the only one to have absolutely ZERO.Their orange pekoe tea is proof that it is possible to make a delicious, healthy hot beverage without damaging the health of their customers or the environment.
Alongside Red Rose’s lack of pesticide use, they are Rainforest Alliance certified, meaning they farm sustainably, without unnecessary natural damage or destruction. As a company, they are committed to improving the working conditions for their employees and adhering toFairtrade legislation. All of this makes them the healthy and ethical tea of choice.
What About Natural Tea Brands?
Just because a brand claims to be natural, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t look closely at what they’re really offering. Ultimately, it’s always up to us as the consumers to make wise decisions about what we’re putting in our bodies.
Some popular natural brands such as Yogi, Trader Joe’s and Tazo have come under public scrutiny for use of pesticides, adding in “natural flavors”, and even using GMO ingredients. While the internet community made the issue widespread, aside from this report on Teavana, there weren’t many high-level reports available to the public to back every claim. Nevertheless, it did make a difference!
Yogi especially seems to have made a number of changes in the past 2 years in response to their consumer’s outrage, including removing any known traces of pesticides. Unfortunately, “natural flavors” is still listed as an ingredient to date, leaving room for unaccountability. Overall, we’re happy to see that some companies are listening to the public and making the right changes one step at a time. If you’re left wondering what to buy, two organic tea brands that have an excellent reputation are Traditional Medicinals and Numi.
For the benefit of your health and the conservation of natural ecosystems avoid brands that indulge in pesticide use. If enough of us take a stand against pesticides companies will be forced into changing their production habits. A small individual change in the right direction can make a profound difference…