Interestingly, the first records of tea consumption go back to third-century China, meaning it took a millennium and a half for tea to become a staple of British tradition, before it was introduced to the American culture. Today, tea is one of the most enjoyed brews all over the world.
Drinking tea has numerous health benefits, there’s no doubt about that. But, a recent survey conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation – CBC found that nine of the ten most popular brands of tea in North America contain toxic pesticides. Pesticides may protect plants against insects, but these substances are made of harsh chemicals that are detrimental to human health.
The thing is, the presence of pesticides in tea seriously reduces 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 limits allowed.
Namely, the CBC News investigation found that several popular tea brands including Twinings, Lipton and Tetley contained high amounts of these toxic substances.
Pesticides in Tea
Several popular tea manufacturers were included in a CBC News investigation on pesticide levels:
- Red Rose
- Lipton (Pure Green Tea and Yellow Label Black Tea)
- King Cole
- Uncle Lee’s Legends of China (Green Tea and Jasmine Green Tea)
- No Name
In a quality control laboratory, the researchers used a single testing method (as the one used by the national Food Inspection Agency) to determine pesticide residue on dry tea leaves. The study results revealed that more than half of all the teas tested contained pesticide residues that were above the recommended allowance. Plus, 8 out of the 10 tea brands tested were also found to contain multiple chemicals, with one of the brands containing over 22 different kinds of pesticides.
Endosulfan and monocrotophos – two types of pesticides found in the teas tested, have been found to seriously harm human health and the environment. It’s because of this that a number of countries have requested for these chemicals to be banned.
Which Are the Best and Worst Tea Brands?
Although most of the tea brands tested contained pesticide residues (except for one brand), several brands were extremely high in pesticides, whereas the others had allowable amounts.
Below is the list of the 3 tea brands highest in pesticide residues:
- Uncle Lee’s Legends of China (Green Tea)
This particular tea brand was found to pack over 20 different types of pesticides, including endosulfan. We already mentioned that this chemical is under scrutiny and will possibly be banned in several countries due to its harmful effects upon human health and the environment. Studies have linked this substance to side effects such as tremors along with a number of other adverse effects on the nervous system. In some cases, its consumption was fatal.
- Twinings Earl Grey
Aside from being one of the favorite tea brands on the market, this brand also had the third highest pesticide content with ten different toxic chemical compounds. According to the researchers, Twinings’ Earl Grey mostly contained acetamiprid, a toxin linked to severe nausea, muscle weakness, hypothermia, convulsions and vomiting in people.
- Tetley green tea
This tea brand showed higher levels of both acetamiprid and chlorfenapyr; the latter can be fatal to people even in small doses. However, cases of chlorfenapyr poisoning show that the chemical works slowly in the system and can cause fatality up to two weeks after initial ingestion. Tetley’s tea has been found to contain 18 pesticides.
Unfortunately, the findings related to the pesticide-laden tea brands did not make much difference in the tea industry. James O’ Young, the vice president of Uncle Lee’s Legends of China, the brand found to pack the highest amount of pesticides, defended their tea brand claiming that it more chemical-laden than other tea brands available on the market.
This is his statement given in an interview: “If you drink tea, regular tea, I don’t care what brand is that, the fact of life, this agricultural product does have pesticides.”
But, it appears that Mr. O’ Young has disregarded the fact that one tea brand out of the ten tested was actually found free of pesticides in the CBC’s investigation. Red Rose was the only tea brand that was completely free of chemicals. This fact is extremely important because it shows that tea can be manufactured without retaining any pesticide traces in it. Also, it proves that the representatives of major corporations choose to deceive their consumers about it.
The winner – Red Rose
The study found that only Red Rose, one of the ten teas tested for pesticides, contained zero pesticides. This tea brand is also Rainforest Alliance certified, meaning the producer farms sustainably, without making unnecessary environmental damage or destruction. In addition, this company is committed to improving the working conditions of their employees and abiding by the Fairtrade legislation, all of which makes Red Rose the healthiest and most ethical tea brand.
The difference you can make is to choose pesticide-free products and support minor companies rather than put your health at risk by buying chemical-laden tea brands from larger manufacturers.