Are there Toxic Chemicals in your Favorite Tea?

There’s nothing like a hot cup of tea to take the chill off a cold day. I’m definitely a coffee drinker, but in the winter I start my day with coffee and end it with tea, usually a nice herbal/green tea blend. Tea warms me up and coffee tends to cool me down. Iced coffee and iced tea are my favorite summer drinks. If I start to over do it with the iced coffee, I balance it out with water and healthy green tea. But now, I will pay more attention to which brands of tea I am buying and which brands I’m served at restaurants.

Tea is the world’s most popular beverage and is widely considered a healthy drink, loaded with anti-oxidants and other beneficial nutrients.

Green tea has been touted to boost your immune system and increase your metabolism, which aids in weight loss. Herbal teas are popular for their healing properties as remedies for various health issues. Black tea is considered a healthier source of caffeine than soda or coffee drinks.

But, what we haven’t been told, until recently, is that high levels of pesticides have been found in well known brands of tea that you probably have in your cupboard right now. Pesticide levels so high they exceed the legal limit and are putting your health at risk.

This story has been around for a few years and yet I hadn’t heard about it. In 2014, the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC), reported on pesticides found in popular brands of tea sold in the US and Canada. This was actually a follow up to an earlier study conducted by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), who had tested teas in 2009 and 2011, all showing high levels of pesticides that exceeded legal limits. In 2014, CBC re-tested some brands that had failed past CFIA testing, and found that the pesticide problem continues.

CBC used an independent accredited lab to test several brands of tea for pesticides. All brands but one had tested positive, some containing as many as 22 different pesticides. Half of the brands tested had exceeded the legal limit. See the video here:

Is your favorite brand on the list?
These tea brands contain the highest levels of pesticides: Tetley, Lipton, Twinings, No Name, Uncle Lee’s Legends of China, King Cole and Signal. Read the tea test results.

Add to that list, a recent study showing 91% of Celestial Seasonings varieties and 100% of Starbucks Teavana teas contain pesticides, says an independent study by Glaucus Research Group, as mentioned in a November 6, 2015 article Popular Natural and Organic Tea Companies Violate Pesticide Laws. Think all organic teas are safe? Don’t just trust “natural” or “organic” labels on the packages. Look for the “USDA organic” or the “EU organic” logo.

Trouble Brewing, a 2014 report by Greenpeace India, revealed pesticides were detected in just about every India grown tea sample tested, with over half containing 10 different pesticides and one tea containing 20 different pesticides, (including banned pesticides like DDT!) totaling 34 different pesticides detected, many exceeding the Maximum Residue Levels (MRL) set by the European Union by 50%. These teas are sold in India as well as exported internationally under the brand names Tetley, Lipton and Twinings. Greenpeace also reported the same practices in China. Pesticide pollution: Chinese tea may not be safe to drink

Tea companies respond to the findings and mostly say that the levels of the pesticides bifenthrin, imidacloprid, acetamiprid, chlorfenapyr, pyridaben, acephate, dicofol and monocrotophos are within acceptable safe levels. Do you want to drink any of that?

Has there been any reduction in the use of pesticides since the story broke in 2014? According to Greenpeace, the hope lies with the small family farms returning to their old practices of ecological farming. The use of pesticides has wreaked havoc on their soil and their finances. Non pesticide management is the future of tea cultivation: Greenpeace demands Ministry of Commerce to facilitate the phase out of pesticides in tea cultivation.

In addition to pesticides, are you at risk for overexposure to high levels of fluoride from drinking tea?

You might be if you buy cheap, “economy” brand teas. Tea plants absorb fluoride from the soil as they grow. The older the tea leaves, the more fluoride they contain. The younger leaves are used for premium tea brands, leaving the older leaves for cheaper quality teas. The older tea leaves also contain the lowest amount of anti-oxidants. Cheap tea is a waste of money and can be harming your health. Excessive Fluoride can cause problems with bones, teeth, and kidneys.

A study published in Food Research International found high levels of fluoride in a significant percentage of the tea drinking population of the United Kingdom and determined this was occurring specifically from the daily consumption of low quality tea.

But wait, there’s more. This article by Food Babe Do You Know What’s Really in Your Tea? discusses the artificial flavoring, “natural flavors,” GMO’s and the toxic tea bag material found in popular brands of tea. The article also includes an update on the research done by the independent lab that tested the Celestial Seasonings tea for pesticides.

So which brands of tea are considered safe to drink? The following list was derived from my research from the articles mentioned in this post. To your health, Laura.

Red Rose Tea
American Red Rose tea may be different than the Red Rose tea sold in Canada that was tested and found to be free of pesticides.

Numi Organic Tea

Eden Organic Tea

Rishi Tea

Organic Stash Tea

Choice Organic Teas

Two Leaves Tea

Organic Tazo Tea

Organic Traditional Medicinals tea

Yogi Organic Teas



Laura Bailey is a professional pastry chef, blogger and owner of Beachouse Baking Company.

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