Articles Magazine

Trouble Brewing! Are Tea Bags Toxic ?

By  Arwa Lodhi

From a creamy English cuppa to a rich, fruity infusion, a hot cup of tea is just about everyone’s, well, cup of tea. Whether it’s a spicy Chai mix, antioxidant green tea or a traditional builder’s blend, most of us brewing our beverages from convenient tea bags. But whilst many of us prefer to shop for organic teas, we rarely think about the potentially dangerous chemicals lurking in the tea bag, string or tea label (which, let’s face it–often drops into the brew). Tea bags also give unscrupulous manufacturers the perfect excuse to use crappy tea leaves.

Here, we explore questions like: are tea bags toxic ? What gives flavoured tea its taste? There are loads of health issues related to tea drinking you may never have thought of before!

1book24

What’s in a tea bag?

As mentioned, using tea bags (as opposed to loose tea) gives manufacturers the perfect opportunity to make a fast buck by replacing quality tea leaves with what’s essentially crushed ‘tea dust‘–or in other words, by-products of the industry.

In India and China, where fresh tea is grown, waste such as browned leaves, twigs and stems are not used for premium teas but are rather sold to manufacturers of cheaper tea brands.  In some cases, grass, sawdust and other ‘dusts’ are added to the tea leaf waste. In such cases, artificial flavours are usually added to such blends to hide the poor quality.

Tea_bags

Toxic tea

It’s actually pretty easy to tell if you’re buying a quality brew: just open one of the tea bags to see how ‘clean’ the leaves are. If it’s more powder than solid leaf, that’s not a good sign. Ditto if the inside of the box of tea is littered with brownish dust.

Why should you care, you may be wondering? Well, such poor quality tea not only loses any health properties it should normally possess, but it could contain aflatoxin – a waste product of microscopic fungi that can be very dangerous to your health indeed–in fact, in large concentrations, it can cause irreversible liver damage.

Don’t let price be your guide: when I say ‘cheap’, I mean quality, not price. Some of the best branded blends are actually made with poor quality ingredients.

Dirty pesticides

You know how when you want to make a salad, you pull out the lettuce from the fridge, give it a good wash, and rip it up? Well guess what – most tea leaves are sprayed several times with pesticides, just like lettuce is, but isn’t at all washed before being distributed into tea bags. Result? Those pesticides wind up directly in your cup. The scariest part is that many non-organic tea brands have been found to contain pesticides that are known carcinogens.

Scary fluoride

By now, most of us are aware that fluoride can seriously damage our health – it causes thyroid issues, bone and teeth problems, brain damage and arthritis, amongst many other health issues.  That’s why it’s wise to avoid drinking any kind of water containing it, and even swapping to a toothpaste that doesn’t have it at all (the notion that fluoride can help prevent cavities is largely a myth).

But what most of us don’t know is that tea plants absorb fluoride from soil and accumulate it as they grow, meaning older tea leaves contain the most fluoride. Cheaper quality teas are often made from older tea leaves, which also contain the least amount of antioxidants, lessening the health benefits associated with drinking tea.

2012-03-18 16.04.28

image: Don Horne

How to check for quality tea

A good quality black tea will have a tiny bit of froth on the surface of the liquid after brewing, and will turn a light reddish brown when lemon is added. If there’s no foam and the tea stays dark brown even with lemon, then it’s either poor quality, old, or both. Oh, and those dark rings on the inside of your mug after drinking a cuppa are often said to be ‘tannins’ but are, in fact, just indicative of a poor quality tea.

Some infusions carry even yuckier ingredients that poor quality black and green tea. For example, fruit, spice and other teas often contain a whole lot of nasty artificial flavours and colours–some even contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame! What’s worse, these ingredients are often not listed on the package, and manufacturers can even get away with saying the tea is ‘organic’–if the tea itself is. That part may be true, but they fail to mention that the flavouring is purely chemical.

organic_apricot_black_tea__95535.1414444410.560.300

What’s fake? What’s ‘natural’?

Popular tea brands often get away with listing “natural flavors and colours” as ingredients, causing many consumers to think they are buying better, cleaner ingredients. But there is a whole list of what “natural flavors and colours” could mean.

First off, detecting artificial colouring in an infusion is easy: just dunk the bag in some cold water.  If it begins to change colour immediately, it’s most likely due to a food dye. If the tea has an exotic sounding aroma, like ‘apple pie’ or ‘blueberry burst’ or even ‘strawberry cupcake’ (yes, that one exists!) you can bet the taste comes courtesy of exactly the same fake, chemical flavouring that’s found in candy and sugary cereals.

Chemical flavourings are far cheaper and flavour-dense than actual pieces of dried fruit (which are usually also the result of waste of food production themselves anyway), and since few governments require detailed labelling on tea, food manufacturers rarely indicate exactly which fragrances and flavourings are part of the product.  This must change, given that myriad synthetic fragrances contain toxic substances that promote the growth of cancer cells, cause liver damage, and alter the metabolism.

how_to_loosetea

Poison  paper

Most tea bags are made from a kind of paper made of cellulose and cotton–which is one of the most chemically sprayed crops. But if you pour hot water through a typical piece of cotton blended paper, it will fall apart pretty quickly. So why don’t tea bags turn to mush, especially after steeping in water for ages? The simple answer is: more chemicals.

Yep, most tea bags are impregnated with special synthetic resins dissolved in alcohol or acetone.  After being soaked in these chemicals, the filter paper becomes more resistant to mechanical, thermal and climatic influences: in other words, the paper is made so strong, acidic lemon juice, hot water and enthusiastic stirring can’t even break them. And guess what? Those ‘indestructible’ tea bags don’t biodegrade very quickly either, causing even more pollution for our poor planet.

The tags on tea bags are obviously not considered part of the food product so are not tested by food safety standards, so they could include any kind of toxic inks they like. And if you accidently get the tag in your cup, the hot water could help the dyes soak into your brew.

A2-ayurvedic-Yogi-800x800-600x600

The best solutions

First, learn which brands are the worst offenders for pesticides and chemicals. According to David Wolfe, these are:

  • King Cole, which contained the monocrotophos – a chemical that is currently in the process of being banned, as it causes irregular heartbeat and even coma.
  • Uncle Lee’s Legends of China, which contained more than 20 types of pesticides. One was endosulfan, which causes nervous system damage.
  • No Name (Loblaw’s brand in Canada), which contained more than 10 pesticide types.

That doesn’t mean the other tea brands were totally safe, however. In fact, only Red Rose tea was found to contain no pesticides at all.

If you want your health to be helped–not harmed– by your tea drinking habit, then it’s essential to start brewing high quality tea from its loose, pure leaf form. You can do this via a ‘tea egg’, strainer teapot, or manual strainer that fits over the top of a mug. It’s easy, and in many cases, it’s actually ultimately cheaper to buy good quality leaves that you can use for quite a few cups than disposable tea bags designed for single use. Make sure you use an organic tea, and if you like yours flavoured, try an organic blend that uses only natural flavouring.

Health guru  David Wolfe suggests trying these new habits:

  • Switch to white tea. It has the least amount of fluoride because it’s made from young leaves.
  • Buy organic! Choose a non-GMO certified brand of tea.
  • Check the ingredient list to make sure there are no added flavors or GMO ingredients added to the tea leaves.
  • Most restaurants use tea brands that are known to be full of pesticides, so be careful about ordering tea while out and about
2012-03-18 15.41.12

image: Don Horne

Some brands to try

If the label says ‘organic’, it means that no bleach should be used in the tea bag, and no pesticides on the tea. For environmental reasons, we still think it’s best to use a tea strainer/egg (they cost next to nothing!) or a cup strainer, or even a proper loose tea pot like this – looks lovely, too!

How to make the perfect cup of tea

  • Tea loves oxygen – it helps the flavour develop, so always use freshly drawn cold water in the kettle.
  • Make sure your pot is clean.
  • Warm the pot by swirling a small amount of boiled water in it.
  • For black tea, only pour on freshly boiled water and do not over-boil it.
  • For green tea, always use the water just at the boil.
  • One teaspoon of loose tea per person and one teaspoon for the pot is about right, but add as much or as little to make it to the strength you like.

Enjoy!

Main image: Don Horne

This site uses affiliate links with brands we trust, and if you make a purchase using a link, we may receive a commission.

Did you enjoy this post? Want to show your gratitude? Please support us on Patreon!

Patreon logo Become a Patron

Loading...

3 Comments

  • Reply
    Theresa Cooke
    Sep 13, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    great article. never ever considered my favourite brew as toxic. will definitely be looking into it.

    • Reply
      Chere
      Sep 14, 2015 at 3:38 am

      It’s not the brew, it’s the bag! We’d suggest buying a tea egg, and emptying the tea bag contents into it, then brewing from there 😉

  • Reply
    Ian Obrien
    Apr 18, 2018 at 4:16 am

    Thank u very very much

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    This site uses affiliate links with brands we trust, and if you make a purchase using a link, we may receive a commission.

    Privacy Policy

    The Eluxe privacy policy applies to all your personal information, given and received. Personal information is information that might identify you, like your name, address, phone number, email, or website. When you visit our site, we may gather information about you such as your name, email, cookie information, and IP location. We may contact you regarding your preferences for information and updates. This information allows us to honour your requests for products and services and to improve our service to you. We never share or sell your personal information, unless we need to do so in order to provide a product, information or service that you have requested. Please note that no data transmission over the Internet can be guaranteed to be 100% safe, thus, we cannot warrant that your information will be absolutely secure. Eluxe Magazine has a variety of safeguards – technical, administrative, and physical – in place to help protect against unauthorised access to, use, or disclosure of user information. We guarantee adherence to industry best practices that ensure complete security, and we fully comply with all federal regulations. If we change our privacy policy, we will tell you.

    Copyright

    All material on our site is original unless stated. Original content is fully copyrighted and may not be reproduced without permission. We make every effort to ensure all published images respect appropriate copyright. Should there be any issue, please contact us immediately.

    Third party links

    Occasionally, at our discretion, we may include or offer third party products or services on our website. These third party sites have separate and independent privacy policies. We therefore have no responsibility or liability for the content and activities of these linked sites. Nonetheless, we seek to protect the integrity of our site and welcome any feedback about these sites.

    Eluxe Magazine uses affiliate links throughout the site. We may be compensated if readers click on those links. We only provide links to products and services we genuinely like and trust.

    Our Site will also occasionally contain links to, and quotations of, material from other sites. Eluxe Magazine is not responsible for the content or the privacy practices of other sites and expressly disclaims any liability arising out of such content or practices. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave Eluxe Magazine’s Site, and to read the privacy statements of any website that may collect personally identifiable information. Some of the links found on our site may be links that have been paid for by the sponsor. Under no circumstances does Eluxe Magazine accept responsibility for, nor shall Eluxe Magazine be liable for any violation of personal or proprietary rights of you and/or any third party (including, but not limited to, copyright, trademark, patent, service mark, misappropriation, unfair competition, trade secrets, privacy publicity rights, etc.), false advertising that is harmful, or violates any law or governmental regulation and/or any media that may constitute libel or slander of any person or entity or infringe upon or violate the right of privacy or any other right of any person or entity arising out of content, practices, or other media of any third party links.

    Eluxe Magazine is not responsible for the content or the privacy practices of other sites we link into and expressly disclaims any liability arising out of such content or practices. Under no circumstances does Eluxe Magazine accept responsibility for, nor shall Eluxe Magazine be liable for any damages or detriment arising out of content, practices, or other media of third party links.

    Editorial Statement and Disclaimer

    The views expressed at here are the views of the Eluxe staff and do not necessarily represent the views of Eluxe sponsors and/or partners. Eluxe content is for informational and entertainment purposes, and any views expressed should not be accepted as a substitute for qualified expertise. Though we make every effort to provide accurate information, it is up to you, the reader, to use Eluxe’s content responsibly; in return, we promise to publish responsibly. We stand by our content, our writers, and our editors. In the rare case we make a mistake, we will take whatever reasonable course of action we can to acknowledge and correct it.

    Disclaimer and Limitation of Liability

    EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, YOU EXPRESSLY UNDERSTAND AND AGREE THAT THE SITE, CONTENT, PRODUCTS AND/OR SERVICES ON THE SITE ARE PROVIDED “AS IS” AND ON AN “AS AVAILABLE” BASIS. TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW AND EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, TGT DISCLAIMS ALL WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY, FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE AND NON-INFRINGEMENT. ELUXE MAGAZINE DOES NOT REPRESENT OR WARRANT THAT THE SITE WILL BE UNINTERRUPTED OR ERROR-FREE, THAT ANY DEFECTS WILL BE CORRECTED, OR THAT THE SITE OR THE SERVER THAT MAKES THE SITE AVAILABLE ARE FREE FROM VIRUSES OR ANYTHING ELSE HARMFUL. FURTHER, EXCEPT AS EXPRESSLY SET FORTH IN THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, ELUXE MAKES NO WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS ABOUT THE ACCURACY, ADEQUACY, USEFULNESS, RELIABILITY, OR COMPLETENESS OF THE SITE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, CONTENT, THE CONTENT OF ANY THIRD-PARTY SITE LINKED TO OR FROM THIS SITE, COMMENTS, INFORMATION, INFORMATION PROVIDED BY OUR VENDORS, OR ANY OTHER ITEMS OR MATERIALS ON THE SITE OR LINKED TO FROM THE SITE.

    ELUXE ASSUMES NO LIABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR (A) ANY, ERRORS, MISTAKES OR INACCURACIES OF THE CONTENT, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, INFORMATION, SITE AND MATERIALS SET FORTH ON OR MADE AVAILABLE THROUGH THE SITE, (B) PERSONAL INJURY OR PROPERTY DAMAGE, OF ANY NATURE WHATSOEVER, RESULTING FROM YOUR ACCESS TO OR USE OF THE SITE, PRODUCTS, SERVICES OR ANY THIRD PARTY SITE(S), PRODUCTS OR SERVICES, (C) ANY UNAUTHORISED ACCESS TO OR USE OF THE SERVERS THAT HOST THE SITE OR ANY THIRD PARTY SITE(S) AND/OR ANY AND ALL PERSONAL INFORMATION STORED THEREIN, (D) ANY INTERRUPTION OR CESSATION OF TRANSMISSION TO OR FROM THE SITE OR THIRD PARTY SITE(S), (E) ANY BUGS, VIRUSES, TROJAN HORSES OR THE LIKE, WHICH MAY BE TRANSMITTED TO OR THROUGH THE SITE OR ANY THIRD PARTY SITE(S) BY TGT OR ANY THIRD PARTY, AND/OR (F) ANY ERRORS OR OMISSIONS IN THE NETWORK OR ANY CONTENT, INFORMATION AND MATERIALS (INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO THIRD PARTY SITE(S)) OR FOR ANY LOSS OR DAMAGE OF ANY KIND INCURRED AS A RESULT OF THE USE OF ANY OF THE FOREGOING.

    NO PERSON (INCLUDING ANY AGENT, DEALER OR REPRESENTATIVE OF ELUXE MAGAZINE) IS AUTHORISED TO MAKE ANY REPRESENTATION OR WARRANTY CONCERNING PRODUCTS AND BY USING THIS SITE, YOU ACKNOWLEDGE AND AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NOT RELIED ON ANY OTHER WARRANTIES OR REPRESENTATIONS.

    IN NO EVENT SHALL ELUXE OR ITS SUBSIDIARIES, AFFILIATES, AGENTS, SUPPLIERS, VENDORS, MANUFACTURERS OR DISTRIBUTORS BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, PUNITIVE, INCIDENTAL, EXEMPLARY OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, DAMAGES FOR LOSS OF USE, DATA, REVENUE OR PROFITS, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION, OR LOSS OF BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY OR GOODWILL, ARISING FROM OR IN CONNECTION WITH (A) THE USE OF, OR INABILITY TO USE, THE SITE; (B) THE PROVISION OF OR FAILURE TO PROVIDE SERVICES, PRODUCTS, MATERIALS, CONTENT, OR SOFTWARE AVAILABLE FROM, ON OR THROUGH THE SITE OR ANY THIRD-PARTY WEBSITE(S); OR (C) THE CONDUCT OF OTHER USERS OF THE SITE, WHETHER BASED ON CONTRACT, TORT, NEGLIGENCE, STRICT LIABILITY OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF ELUXE MAGAZINE HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. YOU ASSUME COMPLETE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR USE OF THE SITE. YOUR SOLE REMEDY AGAINST TGT FOR DISSATISFACTION WITH THE SITE OR ANY CONTENT IS TO STOP USING THE WEBSITE. THAT SAID, IF ELUXE MAGAZINE IS FOUND TO BE LIABLE TO YOU FOR ANY DAMAGE OR LOSS ARISING OUT OF OR WHICH IS IN ANY WAY CONNECTED WITH YOUR USE OF THE SITE, ANY CONTENT, OR PURCHASE OF ANY PRODUCTS OR SERVICES ON OR THROUGH THE SITE, ELUXE MAGAZINE’S LIABILITY SHALL NOT EXCEED $100.00 IN THE AGGREGATE.

    These Terms of Service (together with our Privacy Policy, which is expressly incorporated herein by reference and which can be accessed on this Site, and any other terms that may appear on the Site from time-to-time) contain the entire understanding between you and us with respect to your use and access of this Site, and supersede all prior agreements, terms, conditions and understandings, both written and oral, with respect to such use and access of the Site. No representation, statement or inducement, whether oral or written, not contained in these Terms of Service (and any other terms that may appear on the Site from time-to-time) or the Privacy Policy shall bind any party to this agreement. No additional or different terms or conditions will be binding upon us unless expressly agreed to in writing by an officer of ELUXE MAGAZINE. No other representative has any authority to waive, alter, vary or add to these Terms of Service. Before using this Site please read through all referenced documents carefully.

    Aggregate information (non-personally identifiable information)

    Eluxe Magazine may, from time to time, automatically collect aggregate information about our visitors to our advertisers, sponsors, promotional partners and affiliates. This aggregate information includes, but is not limited to, IP addresses connecting to our site, how many persons visited a particular page or activity, dates and times of image uploads, device characteristics, operating system, browser type, type of connection, page and image viewing statistics, and incoming and outgoing links.

    Like most websites, we use log files to store this information. None of this automatically collected technical information is associated with any identified person at the time it is collected, but it could be associated with you under two circumstances: First, if you choose to give us personal data about you as described above, the technical information we collect that would otherwise be anonymous could instead be logged as coming from you. Second, if we are required to disclose our server logs as a result of a subpoena or other legal process, some third party such as your internet provider could match our anonymous technical information with you, using information beyond what is found on our servers.

    Eluxe Magazine may use cookies, web beacons, pixel tags, or other anonymous tracking information to improve our server’s interaction with your computer, and we may partner with third party advertisers who may (themselves or through their partners) place or recognise a unique cookie on your browser. These cookies enable more customised ads, content, or services to be provided to you. To trigger these cookies, we may pass an encrypted or “hashed” (non-human readable) identifier corresponding to your email address to a Web advertising partner, who may place a cookie on your computer. No personally identifiable information is on, or is connected to, these cookies. Although our servers currently don’t respond to “do-not-track” requests (see below), you can block these cookies in other ways, for example by searching “[your browser] + disable cookies.”

    Eluxe Magazine will never share, sell, lease, or rent PII to unaffiliated third parties, except in the following circumstances:

    a) If we have a good faith belief that we must disclose such information for legal reasons, such as to enforce our Terms of Service, protect or assert the rights, property interests, or personal safety of Eluxe (including its employees, directors, suppliers, distributors, service providers, users of the Website or others), or if we are otherwise required to disclose such information by law. We will disclose information only to the extent necessary to comply with the purpose of the request.

    b) We may share aggregate, anonymous or summary information regarding our customers and their behaviors with partners, advertisers or other third parties. This data is not personal information and so will not identify you personally. We may share information with companies that provide support services to us, such as a printer, mailing house, fulfillment-company, credit card processor, email service provider or web host, amongst others. These parties may need personal information about you in order to perform their functions. However, these parties may not use any personal information we share with them about you for any other purpose other than in connection with performing supporting functions for us.

    You have the right at any time to prevent us from contacting you for marketing purposes. If and when we send a promotional communication to a user, the user can opt out of further promotional communications by following the unsubscribe instructions provided in each promotional e-mail. Please note that notwithstanding the promotional preferences you indicate by unsubscribing or opting out in some other fashion, we may continue to send you administrative emails including, for example, periodic updates to our Privacy Policy.

    In order to access a profile on Eluxe Magazine’s shop, you must first create an account with a username and password. The registration system requires that a valid email address be used to confirm the account. You should choose a username that does not include your last name and does not specify your city or your address. Eluxe Magazine asks that you use your first name only, or an alias, for your display name. This is to safeguard your privacy and protection. We do not use and cannot access this information.

    Eluxe Magazine is 100% opposed to unsolicited commercial email (“spam”). We do not have any desire to send unsolicited marketing emails to anyone without permission and we do not sell or provide user email addresses to any unauthorised third party in violation of this Policy. All of our newsletters and other general email marketing communications also include an “unsubscribe” opt-out link that you may use to tell us to stop sending you marketing emails.

    In the event of a change in control resulting from, for example, a sale to, or merger with, another entity, or in the event of a sale of assets or a bankruptcy, Eluxe Magazine reserves the right to transfer your personal information to the new party in control, or the party acquiring assets. We will only do so if the party we transfer the information to agrees that they will abide by our Privacy Policy for as long as they hold the information, and that they will not transfer the information to any other party who will not abide by our Privacy Policy.

    We use third-party advertising companies to deliver online advertising. These companies facilitate the delivery of ads, conduct market research, and use cookies for record-keeping purposes. These cookies sometimes enable the companies to serve you ads tailored to things you have shown an interest in based on your prior web activity. This is generally known as behavioral advertising. For example, this means that if you frequently read movie reviews online, it is possible that you might see ads on other websites relating to upcoming movies. Online advertising companies generally conduct this activity in an anonymous format, with online information not combined with information that would allow for your identification.

    The third-party companies that will be serving advertisements on Eluxe Magazine may include DoubleClick, Google and Taboola.

    We may periodically modify, alter, or update these policies. We will alert users to any material changes to this policy by posting the revised information here. We encourage you to review our Privacy Policy on a regular basis to stay informed about how we are protecting the personal information we collect. Your continued use of TGT’s website constitutes your agreement to this Privacy Policy and any future updates.

    This site uses affiliate links with brands we trust, and if you make a purchase using a link, we may receive a commission.

    Did you enjoy this post? Want to show your gratitude? Please support us on Patreon!

    Patreon logo Become a Patron