mrmopar said

Pesticides in tea

I just want to give Scott at Yunnan sourcing a pat on the back for testing the tea they sell for pesticides. They are starting with the 2013 teas. Here is a link for the info

30 Replies

A year ago Greenpeace announced that they had found pesticide residues in Lipton tea sold in China. The claim as I recall, was that growers were encouraged to use them and that the tea Lipton bought was harvested at a time when it would be of lesser quality and have more need of pesticides.There were denials from Unilever and counterclaims by Greenpeace, but shortly after all the reporting (at least here, that I could see) ended. Was that resolved? Is Yunnan Sourcing decision to test in part at least because of the scandal?

LuckyMe said

Teavana recently too was discovered to be selling pesticide tainted teas ( Although the report came from a biased source, a market short seller, Teavana never really repudiated the report beyond issuing a denial.
Mentions Teavana as tested by an independent lab. Also talks about what “natural flavours” means.

Sammerz314 said

Yes, agreed. Very good work.

mrmopar said

Foolongthehill, I am not as to why they started testing but I think it is good move for them as a supplier.

It’s great that they are testing their tea and although I haven’t ordered from them before, that fact certainly makes me want to give them a try. I’m curious though, did they mention or do you know why it is apparently only their Pu-erh teas that they are testing? Is it that they believe other types of tea can’t be obtained without pesticide residues above limits?

mrmopar said

Oh that’s a good question. I don’t have an answer but I think they pride themselves in providing great puerh products to their clientele.

Articles like this are sparking lots of discussion.

I think more and more tea companies will want to share how they test the teas they sell. People are becoming more aware and want to know.

Great article. It summarizes a lot of these concerns in one place.

Excelsior said

I have had some great tea in, and from China. There are great online Chinese Tea retailers and I am sure there teas are of high quality. Yet I have seen and experienced things there that I would not have believed before.

AvidArtist said

I had just heard about this Teavana pesticide thing, which is what made me search the forums here for this topic. After reading the food babe article on this (thank you for including the link to that) I am absolutely only drinking Numi Tea from now on, and also the other brand that she said is safe, Traditional Medicinals tea. I don’t like the idea of pouring carcinogens and harmful pesticides into my body. I’m really glad I looked into this. How horrible would it be to get cancer from doing something you think is good for your body, like drinking tea. :(

I’d just like to add that awareness of the issue is a good thing, but there is no need to limit yourself to the tea companies recommended in the article. There are countless teas out there waiting to be enjoyed. Many tea suppliers have organic products. Art of Tea uses only organic components, for one.

Brent said

I suspect that the problem is more widespread than most people imagine. And, without consumer/supplier pressure, it will get worse. Add to this the fact that “organic” tea from most countries is little more than just a word. Though, this is getting better.

Gianna said

I was recently thinking about it, especially about Teavana, largely because I’ve used their teas. I offered some Teavana tea to relatives, and they turned up their noses saying it’s full of chemicals. They only drink herbal tea, and only herbs they’ve grown themselves. I simply can’t have such a life style, and I enjoy Jasmine Green tea too much to limit myself in such a way, so that’s not a viable solution for me.

I know that “all natural” means absolutely nothing in the food industry, and if a product is not certified organic, it isn’t. That was never a big deal about tea with me because I don’t drink tea every day, but lately I’ve been on a sampling spree.

So, it’s safe to assume that if a tea is not specifically labeled as organic, then it contains pesticides? This is really going to restrict my choices….

yyz said

You might want to consider teas that meet the EU standard. These teas are only allowed at most a trace amounts of pesticide in order to be imported into the EU. Several retailers even random companies in China can provide document proof that they meet the maximum residue level constraints. In some ways this is better than the organic designation, because it recognises that however carefully controlled fields are often cross contaminated from neighbours and it is tested on the final product so it puts the cost on the final seller, not a small farmer who may not be able to afford a designation.

Gianna said

Sounds good, but how exactly do I know which tea meets the EU standard?? I live in the U.S. As I’ve been browsing tea companies’ websites lately, the question of where they get the tea and what kind of control has been exercised (if it’s from China or another country) came to mind. I noticed that some companies label some of their teas as organic, but this is not the norm.

I’m not paranoid about eating only organic food, and people don’t always have a choice when it comes to food or GMO in the U.S. Genetically modified foods, unlike in Europe, don’t have to be labeled as such in the U.S. Tea is somehow different. Tea we consume mostly for pleasure.

Brent said

Yyz is right about EU standards. It is pretty much safe to ignore the word “organic” as it pertains to tea. The tea passes through so many hands, each with a financial incentive to claim (or not verify) that a product is free of pesticides, that the term is meaningless as least as frequently as it is meaningful.

The EU standards actually mean something. The claim that a product meets EU standards … well that doesn’t inherently mean much either. The industry is so poorly monitored that it isn’t hard to make that claim without it being factual. Even when made with the best intentions, suppliers and producers are frequently misled.

It’s not a great solution, but, price really does relate to quality here. You can certainly overpay for an inferior product, or get a great deal on a high-quality tea. But, it works like this:

Farmers use pesticides to produce higher yields less expensively. This is how they are able to remain competitive and sell to producers who are producing low-cost tea and/or large quantities. In other words, at the bottom of the price scale, you are getting a higher concentration of farmers who succumb to the pressure to use pesticides.

At higher price points, there is less pressure. The focus is on quality rather than quantity. Also, the fact that a tea is expensive “tends to” reflect the fact that it was more expensive to produce – which suggests that pesticides were less likely used.

No guarantees at either end of the price scale, and I’ve found good and bad examples at both ends. But, it’s not a bad guideline.

Again, it’s not a great solution because, without any other information, you don’t know if you’re just overpaying for tea drenched in pesticides.

The absolute best advice I can give the average tea enthusiast is this:
– Avoid big brands. The economics just aren’t in favor of delivering the best product. It can be done, but the tides are against it.
– Find a seller you trust. Let them do the homework for you. Ask questions.


yyz said

A lot of tea companies will specifically say it either in the tea description, or in their FAQ, or in about our teas section, or in a discussion about Organic teas. I know, a lot of places. If this is a deep concern and you can’t find specific information. There is no harm in asking questions to the retailor.
I posted this in another thread a while ago but the Canadian gov. Did a study about pesticide levels in tea commercially available in Canada. The gist was that the highest levels were in Oolong’s, and that the levels are declining year over year.

AvidArtist said

Gianna, I read the article by the Food Babe and she made a chart reflecting her research on which tea companies are actually safe and which aren’t. These are the (only) 3 she listed as safe:
Traditional Medicinals Tea
Numi Tea
Rishi Tea (as an aside, I just figured out why they put a hyphen in their web address. Haha)

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