typhon said

Tea impurities: am I being paranoid?

Hello. New member here! The last 5-6 years I have been buying and consuming great amounts of various kinds of tea, mainly from chinese sellers and only loose-leaf, so I would consider myself a tea junkie.

Recently, however, I was feeling a bit paranoid about some Bai Hao Yin Zhen (silver needle) tea that I bought and decided to analyze it a little bit. Some of the leaves (1 out of 15) had brown spots on them. So I carefully unfolded some of the tips, after steeping them, and found something troubling. Most of the buds had dirt particles or other impurities and two of them had some sort of…bugs! They looked like unfed ticks(black) and were unter 0.5mm in size. Until now, I am not entirely certain(only 70%) that they were insects but it looked that way.
I had never before purchased tea from this seller but he had good reviews and a very attractive price. Now, I did the same to some of the other teas that I had and found similar impurities. The tea leaves look perfect from the outside.

My question is: is this sort of thing normal? Should I discard the tea alltogether and contact the seller?
Needless to say, I have not drunk any kind of tea since my “discovery”…

p.s. Forgive my newbiness :)

33 Replies

I would definitely contact the seller. You make me want to inspect my own Silver Needle tea. Ahhh!

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Itsyknits said

goodness!! Im inspecting all my teas tonight!! Im a little worried now

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typhon said

Sorry, I didn’t mean to spread my paranoia!
The worst thing is that I bought a really big amount-1.1lbs!!!

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Uniquity said

I will be fair and say that as a plant, tea might have dirt or even insects on occasion. It’s just something that will happen when we’re talking about vegetation. However, lots of it seems like something to think about and check into further. I’m going to try really hard not to imagine bugs in my tea now!

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Azzrian said

Its disgusting and worrisome and I think we all need to be cautious. In this case I would absolutely contact the seller and at least ask for a refund. Bugs however in food is not uncommon. Food industry cereal being one actually has an ALLOWABLE ratio of bugs “permitted”. Its gross but not uncommon. Your situation however, that is just not right – one should not be able to reach into ONE bag of tea and pull out so many leaves with bugs on them. The “ratio” allowed is quite small.

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DukeGus said

I think most of you are getting paranoid.

You must expect something like that once in a while in tea, it’s a natural product. A bit of dirt could get in the leaves because of rain. Maybe consider it a measure of quality, because you can be sure, if there are insects in the plantation there are less chemical used. Though it has never happened to me yet :)

It’s a “modern” trend to want everything sterilized which will be something only big, rich companies can get to you(if you pay the price=low quality for higher price).

I don’t speak specifically about this occasion which could be bad storage or anything similar, I speak generally. Considering that the insects/impurities have gotten to the tea from the field and are not there because of bad storage conditions… :)
Angrboda said

I agree with this. I heard somewhere once that a small amount of dirt is actually good for you, because it keeps the immune system on its toes. In moderation of course.

I don’t know how accurate it actually is, but I think it sounds plausible.

It’s a bit like the best before date on food. It’s just a guideline and made short enough that the manufacturer can be certain the food would still be good. It doesn’t mean that the food magically turns bad as soon as that date is passed, although some people certainly seems to think so.

cteresa said


And keep in mind, it´s TEA, besides any previous treatments , you are steeping it in very hot, if not downright boiling, water for minutes. That should kill practically everything.

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David Lau said

Since tea isn’t washed during processing it’s natural for it to contain some level of particulates — dirt, dust, even tiny bugs. For color and flavor reasons, Yin Zhen is not fired or steamed to halt oxidation, like with most other teas. The process is gentle, and very long. Often overnight. So if the production setting is not cleanly, it is very possible some level of infestation to occur.

Here’s a good 101 on silver needle tea from Seven Cups:

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I have found many objects pressed into a cake or brick of Pu-erh like feathers, pebbles/stones, plastic and a button but never bugs, I dont mind finding things in there as long as it isnt bugs. i still always rinse all teas usually.

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LefTea said

I recently found a snail shell in my pineapple kona pop tea from Teavana. It icked me out and I tweeted a picture of it to Teavana and they replaced it, threw in some extra oz of it, a free tin, and two other teas to try. I couldn’t decide if the fact that it was an empty shell was comforting or more disconcerting.

But it’s a natural product so, to some degree, it’s to be expected.

Doesn’t mean it doesn’t gross you out when you find it or that you shouldn’t get a fresh batch from the merchant.

That’s awesome that Teavana did that, I hear tons of horror stories of their customer service!

LefTea said

I’ve discovered that if you mention it publicly they are quick to make it right. That said I can no longer post on their facebook page so take that for what you will.

VeryPisces said

LefTea – they’ve censored you??

LefTea said

I don’t know if I’m censored exactly, or really why I can’t post on their Facebook page anymore. I did comment frequently on people’s comments and would mention other retailers if they were looking for something Teavana didn’t have or that they did have but the person didn’t like but I never said anything bad. I would sometimes mention that the health claims about tea in general were a bit overstated, usually when people would post asking for teas for weight loss, etc.

But I’m not really sure why I no longer can post or comment on their facebook. I just use Twitter now and have gotten great responses so far.

Azzrian said

That happened to me on facebook on an unrelated page – not a tea page – anyway I had posted some helpful comments and answers to some questions and next thing I know I can’t comment AT ALL! I emailed the site’s / page’s support but no reply. I wonder if some pages have built in censors for some reason.

That happens a lot on facebook it seems, they do censor people there, i can no longer post on some pages too, Comcast censored me on there lol. it;s cool that Teavana did that for you, first thing i ever found was a feather and it freaked me out all the company did for me say " oh we’re sorry, a bird must have flown overhead when you tea was being made" lol

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Stephanie said

Ackk! Ticks?? And a lot of them? This should not be normal.

I think that’s a sign of an infestation and a disregard for cleanliness.

I need to inspect my teas now. Thanks for the heads up!

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