The Dark Side of Tea
Tea is found across the globe and plays an important cultural and historical role. It is the most consumed beverage worldwide next to water and Canadians are no exception to this love. It is estimated Canadians drink 9.7 billion cups of tea each year.
Legend has it that the Emperor of China discovered tea when tea leaves blew into his cup of hot water in 2737 BC. It wasn't until years later that tea was consumed as a medicinal drink. Today there are thousands of different varieties of tea but all tea come from the plant Camellia sinensis. There are 5 main categories of tea: White, Green, Black, Oolong and Herbal. White teas are the purest, least processed and the leaves are picked early and the buds are dried in the sun. Green tea leaves are either steamed or pan fried. Black tea under goes the most processing. The leaves are sun dried, then rolled and fermentation gives it the characteristic black colour. Black tea also contains the most caffeine. Oolong tea is similar to black tea but does not undergo fermentation. Herbal teas do not have any leaves from the Camellia plant making them caffeine free. There are 3 main types of herbal infusions. Rooibos is a red South African bush tea and mate is made from the leaves of a South American shrub while herbal infusions contain pure herbs, flowers and fruits.
Tea is known to reduce anxiety, help with weight loss, headaches, improve digestion, constipation, boost your immune system, helps reduce allergies, improves cholesterol levels, reduces stroke risk, burns fat and helps with insomnia. Tea is high in antioxidants and green tea has the highest levels of ECGC, which has shown to help against the free radicals involved in cancer, heart disease and clogged arteries. Tea also helps you stay hydrated and is great for detoxification.
There are many different brands of tea that when you are trying to choose one it can be overwhelming. However, not all brands are created equal and many are filled with toxins, pesticides, artificial ingredients, added flavors and GMOs taking away from their health benefits. A recent investigation by CBC's Marketplace tested 10 popular brands of green and black tea and found that 9 brands contained pesticide levels and half of these exceed the Canadian standards. 8 of the 10 brands contained multiple pesticides with one brand containing 22 different pesticides. The brands tested were: Lipton, Red Rose, Tetley, Twining’s, No Name, Uncle Lee’s Legends of China, King Cole and Signal. Red Rose was the only pesticide free brand that was tested.
If you think that buying your tea at a health food store or a high-end loose leaf means you're getting a better quality product then you are wrong. Celestial seasonings is a well-known brand but a third party analysis by Glaucus Research found that 91% of their teas had pesticide levels exceeding the U.S limits. In testing by an independent lab, 100% of Teavana's teas were found to contain pesticides to the point that 77% of their teas would be banned from import based on EU important standards for pesticides and 62% contain endosulfan which is a pesticide that is banned by 80 countries including the US and Canada.
Tea companies use natural and artificial flavours to mask the taste of lower quality teas. GMO's are also making their way into teas, which means that corn and soy have been added. David's tea has become extremely popular in Canada but over the last few years they have started to add more flavorings to their teas so be sure to read the ingredients before you buy. Below are some questionable ingredients in popular teas.
The increasingly popular silk sachets and mesh bags are made of plastic. These polyactic corn based tea bag have impressed major companies due to its fancy look and biodegradable claims but the product is made with genetically modified corn. Why does the packaging of your tea matter? The food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) that tea bags are commonly made from are considered the safest plastics in terms of harmful leaching potential. However, the tea bag which holds your tea leafs while you steep it in boiling water starts to break down in hot water leading to leeching out of harmful phthalates if any are present in your tea. The risk of paper tea bags is that they are treated with the pesticide epichlorohydrin, which is considered a potential carcinogen.
Now that you're thinking you can never drink tea again what do you do? Although most of the commonly available brands do have pesticides, artificial flavors and GMO's added to them, there are companies that are devoted to producing clean teas. This chart is a good place to start when it comes to picking a brand.
Furthermore, choose an organic & non-GMO certified brand of tea. Then check the ingredients to avoid added flavours (natural or artificial) and GMO ingredients like soy lecithin and cornstarch. In terms of packaging, buy loose leaf tea and use a stainless steel or glass strainer or buy from a company that has stated they do not use harmful ingredients (Numi and Traditional medicinals have publicly stated so). If you do decide to use a tea bag then don't let it step longer than recommended.
Some good quality and easily available teas are Traditional Medicinals, Numi, Rishi and loose-leaf teas from Tealish (based in Toronto). I highly recommend finding a loose-leaf tea place near where you live and don't be afraid to ask them questions since you are putting this into your body.
Nicely written Harmi,
9/20/2016 06:47:52 pm
Many are very allergic to any type of soy.
3/17/2014 02:39:15 pm
8/3/2014 11:46:47 am
8/5/2014 08:27:22 am
4/18/2017 05:22:36 am
Can you please tell me if the Red Rose bags that enclose their tea are safe or harmful?
8/20/2014 12:19:28 am
Could you analyse David's Tea teas ? I love them but I really am concerned about the pesticides they may contains.
9/1/2014 07:58:47 am
Could you please list some safe teas that can be found in Canada? Thanks!
3/5/2019 04:20:01 pm
my favorite Canadian tea is from tea leaf co, great prices & great tea- I order online as I am located in the US- shipping to me is also very affordable
6/13/2019 01:16:08 pm
Shhhh. Let it be our secret.
9/13/2014 12:17:27 am
Hi. I'm joining Mariane in asking if you could find out about David's teas. I really appreciate the information you've provided here. It is very valuable. Thank you.
10/19/2014 10:18:15 pm
I know some of there Japanese green tea is organic and certified by Ecocert. Again all sounds great but it doesn't mention anything about no pesticides . I even tried looking on Ecocerts website to no avail.
1/29/2015 03:01:51 am
I wrote to david's tea and that's what I got from them " Our teas come from several different plantations, but I am happy to let you know that all of our teas go through extensive testing including harmful pesticides and heavy metals. All of our products to date have passed stringent screening tests and are safe for human consumption."
10/5/2014 08:10:59 am
10/9/2014 06:15:32 am
I buy 'Pukka' teas at Organic supermarkets.... would love to know if they're good or bad... :/
1/26/2016 08:32:58 am
What is wrong with the added natural flavorings?
1/26/2016 10:16:20 am
One problem I have read about recently in regards to added natural flavorings is that so many things can be classified as natural you really have to be careful and wonder why the need to add them some are actually used to manipulate how our taste buds respond to foods and actually like something we normally would not. Sounds good to some people who want to eat/drink more healthy but do not have a taste for certain foods but you never know what that "natural" flavor is. Our bodies once detoxified from all that is unnatural will have a taste for good and healthy food/drinks without adding things into their "research" such as HEK-293 (aborted human fetal cell line). Thats just one very popular natural flavoring, you have to really think how many things can be classified as natural, a label that says natural for me is a red flag, and a trick to consumers to sell us what is not healthy, natural does not make something healthy and it doesnt mean it is something you would normally consume that is why they label it natural rather than actually stating what it is. Here is some information on how they research flavor but you can find a lot of information as long as you look it up with credible references, this situation below has a lot to debate as some indicate the company actually uses HEK-293 as a natural flavoring while the companies claim HEK-293 is used in research. Im still researching the topic myself to find the truth but you would be surprised what can be considered natural,
1/26/2016 01:21:16 pm
This is mind boggling! Thank you for your clarification.
1/26/2016 10:54:47 am
Oh I also forgot to add this link it explains more about what natural flavors are, hope it helps :)
1/26/2016 01:57:12 pm
You are very welcome :)
7/21/2016 02:19:05 pm
Is it ok for kids to drink green tea?
1/14/2018 03:30:15 am
The reports or information about David’s tea products is concerning.. they don’t even address pesticides on their site and it’s odd the information on where they source is not provided .. I am gathering it’s China and other places
1/26/2018 10:36:43 am
I am looking for information on uncle lees green teas and other information on pesticides that may have effects on type 2 diabetic. pls advise if Canadian products/websites/ magazines have information. Also I have tried to locate interpetation of these so called certification logos and how reliable their information is. this is important for anyone to know, especially seniors. Thank You.
12/24/2020 06:35:17 am
I enjoyed reeading this
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2/5/2022 02:14:13 pm
In my opinion, there is no dark side to tea, and there are only upsides. First, tea is the most magical thing ever invented, so there cannot be a dark side, just not possible.
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