When the CBC program Marketplace did an expose on pesticides used in the tea growing industry, all of us in the Specialty tea business were quite surprised to see the test results. Most of the top supermarket brands had up to 22 different chemicals detected on the leaves and in the brew. In some cases,
the level of pesticides detected in the tea, far exceeded the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) maximum tolerance. The full set of test reports can be found here: test results
After almost 20 years in the specialty tea business, I am well aware that an agricultural product like tea will be subjected to an array of chemicals designed to fight and kill everything from leaf rot to spider mites. From what I have researched, there are up to 54 different chemicals used in the production of tea. Many of these are banned in numerous countries (DDT) and quite a few are highly carcinogenic. My concern here lies not with the growers, who should be adopting better methods to fight garden pests, but with the CFIA for not sounding the alarm bells and stepping in to regularly test and enforce that safe tea products are coming into Canada.
According to the CFIA, unless you are drinking 75 cups of tea a day for an entire lifetime, these chemicals pose no danger to human health, even the brands whose tolerable limits were 6-10 times above the maximums.
Well, I don’t buy it, and unfortunately never will. Some Pesticides are classed as POP’s, persistent organic pollutants, which have been proven to wreak havoc on delicate environments all over the globe. There is actually no place left on earth where these pesticides do not show up in the ecosystem. This sobering article in The Independent shows how far these chemicals have spread around the globe.
Any amount of these chemicals consumed through the perceived healthy habit of tea sipping is too much as far as I am concerned.
As a lifelong tea lover and regular sipper, I try my best to source the cleanest tea possible. I start with buying mainly organically grown teas. If it is not organic, then I request residue-testing reports from the manufacturer. If this is not forthcoming, then I move on and try to find a comparable tea that has been tested for chemicals. The second thing I do is purchase from small growers who are typically using some form of integrated pest management program. What is an IPM program? In a nutshell, if your garden has an aphid attack, rather than breaking out the chemical sprays, the release of a few hundred-lady bugs that feast on aphids is an ecologically friendly pest management control mechanism. The ladybugs eat the aphids and move on, just as nature intended.
In 2018, we will be starting our own program to have all our teas regularly tested for any nasty chemicals. I hope that in the near future, every tea you buy from us will be given a thorough & clean bill of health from an independent lab located here in Canada. This is really the only way we can be 100% certain what we sell is will never pose any harm to the hundreds of loyal customers who trust in the tea they are buying from us.
Our collective health as a nation and as tea lovers is of paramount importance for us here at the Teaguy, so as we grow and sell more tea, we are committed to selling the cleanest tea available.