A couple of years ago there was a flurry of headlines about micro-plastic contamination in high-end tea bags. I’m a big tea drinker (on my third cup of Jasmine Green from Pique as we speak!), so this is something I wanted to research when I read it.
What Are the Sources of Toxins in Tea?
Unfortunately, there a bunch of ways that toxins end up in your morning cup of tea. What follows are the ones I am most worried about.
- Paper tea bags can be a problem because of a chemical called epichlorohydrin, which is used to keep the bags from breaking. Epichlorohydrin will leach when exposed to hot water, and is a potential carcinogen and reproductive toxin. (Many paper coffee filters will also be treated with this chemical, by the way, which is why we recommend stainless steel filters.)
- Those silky fancier tea bags (called satchets) pose a different risk, which is what we are hearing about now in the news. These bags are made of either rayon, thermoplastic, polypropylene, or, most commonly, polyethylene terephthalate (PET). PET is considered a safe plastic, with a high melting point. However, PET’s “glass transition” temperature (the temperature at which the material starts to break down) is less than 170 degrees–and boiling water is 212 degrees. So it’s really not surprising at all that the plastic in these bags leaches into the tea!
- Tea bags that are made of polylactic acid, which is derived from corn starch, should also be avoided. Polylactic acid is still a plastic of sorts that lacks any safety studies.
- There is also the issue of toxins in the tea itself, with reports showing unsafe pesticide levels in tea that’s imported from China. Heavy metals from contaminated soil (including lead, aluminum, arsenic, and cadmium) may be present in both organic and conventional teas. Although the lead levels are below the action level for public drinking water, steeping tea for less time will not allow the transfer of heavy metals and is thus a good safety precaution.
How to Avoid Toxins in Tea
Tea has many health benefits. Drinking tea may reduce your risk of cancer and heart disease, due to tea’s high antioxidant content. (Related post: 8 Super Foods We Eat Every Day.)
If you’re a tea-drinker like I am, I recommend either drinking Pique or buying organic, loose leaf teas that do not come from China, brewed in stainless steel. You’ll see my two of my favorite brewers, below, and here are some Good Stuff teas, both bagged and loose:
- Art of Tea is my favorite loose tea.
- Gaia also makes safe tea, as there are no plastics used in their tea bags. Only chlorine-free bleached paper pulps are used for the production of the filter paper, and cotton yarn is used to secure the tab.
- Numi Organic Tea is also toxin-free, as it comes in compostable hemp tea bags that are oxygen-bleached.
- Choice Organic Teas come in 100% unbleached abaca fibers and are free of plastics. They are sealed with either a staple or cotton string.
- Traditional Medicinals teas are also stored in toxin-free, compostable bags made from hemp and wood pulp. They are whitened using oxygen and peroxide and sealed with staples and cotton string.
- Five Mountains makes delicious teas with international organic certifications, biodiverse and sustainable growing methods, and compostable packaging.
- Golden Moon Tea is another healthful and delicious brand of loose leaf tea.
- Davidson’s Organic Tea is another nice loose leaf tea option.
- Earth Mama teas are in 100% USDA Certified Organic–including the paper tea bags, which are not processed with chlorine, dioxins, and/or epichlorohydrin, and have been analyzed and approved by Food Chain for Non-GMO Project Verified status.
- Pique tea is my favorite tea. The convenience is unrivaled–you just empty the packets into hot or cold water. Pique cold-extracts their teas to preserve the maximum polynutrients and you can truly taste the difference. The tea is also screened for a range of toxins and pesticides. Use code GIMME5 for 5% off your first order at Pique.
More Ways to Avoid Toxins in Tea
P.S. This is the cup I transfer my home-brewed green tea into when I leave the house. It is made of only glass and silicone, so it doesn’t leach any chemicals into my brew:).
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