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Four Reasons to Buy Organic Tea | Is purchasing organic tea important? Find out 4 reasons why it is. | Natural Living Mamma by Virginia George

When it comes to choosing organic foods in our home, we do the best we can. I try to purchase organic foods from the Dirty Dozen list, but we’ll top our organic salad greens with conventional carrots. And I fry up conventional onions with my organic grassfed ground beef.

There’s another thing, however, that is not on the Dirty Dozen, but I always buy organic. Tea.

I think it’s important to note the difference between “USDA Certified Organic” and a product grown with clean, sustainable practices. Organic certification is expensive, and for some manufacturers it is cost prohibitive. As with anything, it’s important to know the source.

Why Organic Tea?

Tea doesn’t seem like something that would be extremely contaminated, but it can be. Here are four reasons you should consider  carefully sourcing your tea. Here are my four main reasons to buy organic tea.

Pesticides

There was a report released by Glaucus Research in November 2012 challenging Teavana’s claims of organic, pesticide free teas. The study has received a bit of criticism as Glaucus Research openly admits they benefit financially from a drop in Teavana stock. This doesn’t make their result inaccurate, just under more scrutiny.

Glaucus reports that they sent off 13 different teas to an independent lab in Germany, where it was discovered that 100% of the teas they tested contained pesticides. One tea in particular contained 23 different pesticides. Perhaps what’s more alarming is that 62% of these teas contained the pesticide Endosulfan, which is banned by 144 countries, in addition to the US, China, and EU.

To corroborate that pesticides in tea is a problem, look at this Greenpeace investigation. In short,

In February 2012, Greenpeace collected random samples of teabags made by the world’s biggest tea brand – Lipton. Investigators randomly selected Lipton-branded green tea, jasmine tea, Iron Buddha tea and black tea from two supermarkets in Beijing. These four samples were sent to an accredited independent third-party laboratory to test for pesticides. Test results showed traces of pesticides that have been banned by China for use on tea plants and have been classified as highly toxic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Maybe you don’t buy your tea in China, but it is indicative of the kind of product Lipton distributes. Several samples exceeded the maximum residue limit set by the EU. The banned pesticides are linked to fertility problems such as damage to a developing baby and “heritable genetic damage”.

Fluoride

Most city municipalities fluoridate and chlorinate their water. Chlorine is relatively easy to remove, but fluoride isn’t. Let’s say you agree with this article from the Harvard School of Public Health, based on a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives, that fluoride negatively affects cognitive development. If you go to the great lengths and expense to eliminate your exposure to fluoride, it’s possible you’re still consuming fluoride from your tea.

Tea plants absorb fluoride very well from the soil, then they store it in their leaves. Interestingly, FluorideAlert.com tells us that tea leaves also contain high levels of polyphenols, which effectively counter the toxicity of fluoride. As the leaves age, it appears they lose some of their polyphenols while accumulating more fluoride. For this reason it is important to purchase high quality teas that are made from premium leaves, instead of the cheaper, low quality leaves that are both high in fluoride and low in polyphenols.

Bulk organic herbs, spices and essential oils. Sin

Flavoring Additives

Like the cosmetic industry, the food industry doesn’t have to disclose anything in their product that is an “insignificant amount”, that “doesn’t affect the final product”, or that is proprietary. This means that the words “natural flavoring” can mean just about anything. For example:

  1. Cellulose. I recently read that cellulose is used in a lot of commercial foods as a thickener, anti-caking agent, calorie reducer, and fiber additive. What is cellulose? Wood pulp or cotton, most likely. Wood pulp is considered by the FDA as a “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) additive.
  2. Natural Flavor. There was a genius somewhere who discovered that castoreum, also a GRAS additive, is pretty tasty. It is often used to create artificial vanilla flavor, and sometimes raspberry or strawberry flavors, as well as in perfumes. Castoreum comes from the castor sacs of beavers. It’s a gland near the anus of the beaver that is used, along with their urine, to mark a beaver’s territory.

Low quality teas don’t taste like high quality teas, and often tea manufacturers use flavoring additives to make their tea taste better. The problem is, you just don’t know what’s in them. Natural or artificial flavoring can mean a whole host of chemicals and additives. Not to mention the incidental “proprietary” ingredients that aren’t required to be listed to protect trade secrets.

Sustainability

Tea bushes have an incredible life span. Camellia Sinensis can live more than 100 years. Camellia Assamica can live for 50 years. Treating these bushes with care and respect can ensure a long and productive life.

Growing location also impacts the need for pesticides and soil enrichment. This is another factor to consider when choosing your tea. Strand Tea says this:

Premium teas are grown at higher elevations (generally above 4.000 feet), in smaller patches within tea gardens, under purer air, soil and water conditions, and are hand-harvested. Most tea gardens producing premium teas practice inter-cropping, use indigenous, natural pest-repellent plants, and contain a variety of tea hybrids (cultivars). This reduces the risk of crop destruction while increasing the variety of natural tastes in the final tea leaf.

This alone speaks volumes about sourcing our tea well.

Organic vs Good Practice

I think it’s important to note the difference between “USDA Certified Organic” and a product grown with clean, sustainable practices. Organic certification is expensive, and for some manufacturers it is cost prohibitive. As with anything, it’s important to know the source.

Learn about the 5 major kinds of tea and how to brew them at VirginiaGeorge.com.

Are you a tea drinker? What is your favorite place to purchase tea?

Four Reasons to Buy Organic Tea | Is purchasing organic tea important? Find out 4 reasons why it is. | Natural Living Mamma by Virginia George

About Virginia George

Virginia is wife to a firefighter and a mother of four. You can find her sharing her heart about faith, food, family, and life after depression at VirginiaGeorge.com, Google Plus, and on Facebook.
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6 Responses to Four Reasons to Buy Organic Tea

  1. I did not know about the fluoride. Great article. Thanks for sharing.

  2. […] out the iced tea but first learn why you should buy organic tea from Natural Living […]

  3. Susan says:

    I buy NYR Oranic. They’ve just started carrying teas.

  4. I, too, was unaware of the fluoride. I look for organic and free-trade tea made from non chlorinated tea bags … I haven’t chosen loose tea yet as I’m not an avid tea drinker but will spend more for a good quality tea. Do you have any brand recommendations?

  5. […] Tea is something that you want to be sure to source carefully. For more information on the importance of organic or ethically sourced tea, see my post at Natural Living Mamma. […]

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