Are you concerned about pesticides in your teas? If so, how much?
For those who are strictly ‘Organic’ everything, this article revealing. Worth the read anyway.
Maybe someone will do a study one day about whether the benefits, Antioxidants, ECGC, polyphenols, within tea itself could mitigate anything that it could be tainted with.
Very interesting article. It’s nice to see them expose the myth that organic crops are pesticide free. They often use more pesticides than conventional crops and more dangerous ones. Natural doesn’t mean safer.
This article is also worth a read, and somewhat addresses your question “Maybe someone will do a study one day about whether the benefits, Antioxidants, ECGC, polyphenols, within tea itself could mitigate anything that it could be tainted with.”
In addition to Yunnan sourcing, Essence of Tea and Hojo Teas are also focused on sourcing pesticide free teas. More and more western facing vendors are motivated to source pesticide free teas. I can’t speak for Eastern facing vendors, I just don’t have much experience with them.
This might be worth looking into as well. Rely on 3rd party testing, but don’t discount your own taste/smell. https://www.essenceoftea.com/tea/puerh-tea/tasting-for-chemicals-a-guide.html
Taiwan Tea Crafts
Beautiful Taiwan Tea Company
I am confused because it seems EOT claims that he can taste pesticides in tea, but yet here he states:
“We’d found a number of candidates, some of the best maocha samples we thought we’d found since we’ve been making tea. We tasted them and they were lovely. Feeling no real need to, but just seeking confirmation, we sent the first two off to the lab to be tested for agrochemicals. Today, we heard back. They both had pesticide residues.”
But here EOT says:
“Once you get a feeling for identifying them in a tea and recognising the effects, it’s not very comfortable to drink that tea any more anyway. Signs to look for are a tingling or numbing sensation on the tip of the tongue or the lips. Also paying attention to the throat is a useful habit – notice how the throat feels before beginning to drink the tea, notice how easy it is to swallow some saliva in the mouth. After drinking a tea with agro-chemicals, the throat will often constrict, making it more difficult to swallow or even painful to swallow in more extreme cases. Unfortunately once you’ve got a feeling for this it makes the vast majority of teas in the market almost totally undrinkable.
For me I avoid nasty and unpleasant teas like anyone else would. But I have tasted some good teas both ripe and raw that didn’t make me sick or tongue numb, etc, etc, but then came back with higher than EU MRL pesticides after the tests came back from the lab. I just don’t think that we are able to detect by taste alone ALL pesticides. There are literally hundreds of different types and they pretty much all were designed to not impact taste.
Perhaps the mao cha sample and the batch they received to have tested were not the same? Certainly wouldn’t be unheard of…
I’ve heard of the “numbing tongue” and “throat constricting” signs before. But as you mentioned, I doubt those are limiting indicators based on the variety of chemicals that could be present, just one indicator if noticed.
It seems to me that there are some pesticides with obvious impacts on the mouth and tongue, but who knows how much was used. I have had other teas that were great but tested over the limit.
It’s important to cultivate a relationship with the growers so there are no surprises. This year we had 100% of our raw cakes come back with “no detectable residues”, which is the result of longer term cooperation (and clear communication of expectations) between the growers and ourselves.
Scott, this is good to know because I am certain I will end up buying a couple of those cakes.
Scott, no need to be confused – you can always just ask, I’m happy to discuss this.
I’ve always tried to be upfront about the benefits and limitations of tasting – for some chemicals there are certain signs which can be detected by taste alone, such as those you listed above. This is no means exhaustive or conclusive proof one way or another, just some indication. For other chemicals, it seems difficult to tell. Diet and personal situation also have an effect – sometimes you can taste a tea and it seems fine, then drink it quietly another day and the effects seem obvious. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. For me, and for all of us I think, developing our abilities to taste chemical contaminants in tea is a work in progress. I’ve never met anyone who claims to be 100% reliable in this.
I agree, it’s important to cultivate a relationship with the growers – this really is the only long term solution, and one that will help to protect and nurture the environment. That you’re also testing teas is a good thing too. I hope more tea producers follow in this practice. It would also be great if you decided to publish the reports, that way people have a clear idea about what’s detected or not detected in their teas and can drink with confidence.
@The Essence of Tea – Yes it’s true that you need to drink a tea several times to get to know it. the state of mind and body is a major factor and even the time of day and weather can impact the quality of the experience.
I’ve published some of the 2016 teas here… others will be forthcoming. In a couple of cases two or three teas were tested together in equal parts, but since they came back with “Less Than Report Limit” we can conclude they are clean.
I do recommend you continue to develop better relationships with your growers so you won’t get a nasty surprise as you did in 2015. When you said:
“So for those who tell you pesticide isn’t used on old trees. I say nonsense. I wonder what you’d find if you started to send a selection of high-end puerh teas off to a lab. I think you’d probably be shocked. I kind of despair. It gets more and more difficult to find clean teas each year.”
My experience has been quite the opposite of yours. Or perhaps more pesticides are used in Banna area teas?
@YunnanSourcing I think it’s great that you’ve managed to find a clean slate of teas this year & are happy to publish the results. For me this issue isn’t about promoting our teas or scoring points against other vendors, but an honest wish to promote and encourage teas without chemicals, both from the point of view of protecting the environments in which they’re grown and also trying to give people the ability to make an informed choice about the teas they drink.
I agree completely that cultivating long term relationships with farmers are important & for us it’s those teas that we can rely on year after year. When seeking out new teas, with new relationships it’s a little more tricky – sometimes everything is fine, sometimes there’s a ‘nasty surprise’. We do our best to avoid that, as I’m sure you do also.
Anyway… I think we’ve probably covered most points on this issue. Once again, congratulations – it’s not an easy task. I think it would be great if more tea producers adopted this transparent approach.
Scott, I have known for a while that you test all your Yunnan Sourcing materials for pesticides. Do you also test your teas from Taiwan Sourcing?
@EOT OK fair enough. Good luck to you. How are liking life in Malaysia?
@AllanK We don’t, since most of the batches we are purchasing are less than 3 kilograms per tea. Taiwan Sourcing is a tiny operation. That being said, there are tons of organic options available on taiwanoolongs.com
My dad was paranoid about electricity in water mattresses and electric blankets, meanwhile he drank himself to death with hard liquor.
I have often wondered if the electro-magnetic field in my mother’s electric blanket was the cause of her cancer. She did not drink or smoke or do anything that was a risk factor but she got cancer anyway. They have evidence that exposure to electro-magnetic fields is harmful.
Read something very interesting re: pesticides. It is most helpful to look at the amount of pesticides that actually end up in the liquor. It appears that even for high levels of pesticides in the dry leaf, the amount that actually ends up in the liquor is extremely minimal.
http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/est/meetings/tea_may14/ISM-14-3-Brew_Policy.pdf (especially check out the tables on pp. 16-17).
Thoughts? I’m no chemist, so maybe those who are more scientifically adept can chime in.
First infusion is always a wash… especially for teas of unknown provenance. Plus the washing wakes them up… 2nd infusion tastes better anyways.
It appears they are basing it off of one infusion, which as far as I understand would mean the pesticide levels in the liquor should be even higher than they would be after washing. Based on those levels, it seems that the amount of pesticide actually ingested through tea is so low as to be almost non-existent. Of course it would be nice to avoid entirely, but given that I live in China I’m sure I’m ingesting much worse stuff through my normal eating and breathing!
This article was a bit of a relief for me, to be honest.
@DongBei – yeah pesticides are the least of your worries if you eat food in China. Watch out for 地沟油…
Not to mention cardboard-meat in your 包子 and plastic in your rice noodles. Based on your name I suspect the former would be what you want to watch out for ;)
Yeah well when you live here for any significant amount of time I’m sure you run into that kinda stuff, as well as cat meat sold as lamb and what have you. Oh well, I just do my best to avoid it and try not to worry too much — the stress is almost surely worse for me! :)
@DongBei – cat meat sold as lamb! only in China. Alot of material in China that would fit very well in a dystopian futuristic sci-fi novel!