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Avoiding Pesticides in Tea: The Chemicals in Your Cup

“In tea plantations, the use of herbicides as a tool for controlling weeds is very popular and has been widely used ever since the introduction of herbicides-primarily due to their cost-effectiveness, their efficiency in controlling diverse weed flora and their requirement for less labor.” - Journal of Pesticide Science, 2015

Pesticides (chemicals that kill bugs) and herbicides (chemicals that kill plants) are an unfortunate problem in tea production. Cheap tea is cheap for a reason--because corners are being cut.

Pesticides and Herbicides in Tea

Choosing tea grown without pesticides and herbicides is even more important than avoiding those same chemicals on produce. Why? You can wash produce, but the first wash of your tea is in your cup!

In 2014, the investigative television show The Marketplace, filmed in Canada, tested 10 common tea brands for pesticides. The results are stomach-churning. Of the tested brands, only one came back without detectable levels of pesticides. I won’t name names, but you can find the full test results here.

A 2017 study found many popular teas contain herbicide residues, as well as an association between tea drinking and herbicides in urine.

Limiting Exposure

What can you do to limit your exposure to pesticides/herbicides in tea?

  1. Choose tea that is grown without pesticides/herbicides by small farmers - like Rainforest Green tea!
  2. Certified organic tea is another good choice, although many small farmers do not have the resources or scale to get organic certification, but still grow organically--know your grower!
  3. “Rinse” your tea by steeping for 15-20 seconds and then discarding the water, before infusing the first time.