Making the perfect cup of tea may not be as easy as you think. With factors such as chemical additives, GMOs, pesticides, and even plastic contamination, there can be a lot to consider. This week, we’re breaking down what to look for when buying tea and what certain labels actually mean.
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Common Questionable Ingredients
Natural and artificial flavors may frequently be found in tea bags. The FDA defines natural flavors as “those that derive their aroma or flavor chemicals from plant or animal sources… that are distilled… or otherwise manipulated in a lab” (Rabin, 2019). In other words, “while food processors must list all of the ingredients on a food label, flavor manufacturers do not have to disclose their ingredients” (Rabin, 2019). As a result, it is extremely difficult to identify what potentially harmful ingredients natural flavors may consist of, especially for people with food allergies.
For more on the potential risks of natural flavors, check out our blog post: the Trash Panda Scoop on Natural Flavors.
Some companies don’t wash the tea before distributing it into bags, and if pesticides were used in cultivation, it’s possible for pesticides to end up in your drink. Reports from India and China find high levels of banned pesticides in tea products, pointing to a lack of enforcement on pesticide use in major tea exporting countries. The best way to eliminate this threat? Shop organic tea.
What does it mean for your tea to be organic?
Our organic recommendations: Red Rose, Two Leaves, Choice Organic, & Teaonic.
Another factor to consider: plastic. Not all tea bags are made with plastic, but you may be surprised that many are. A recent study proved that one plastic tea bag can shed one billion microplastic particles into your drink, and that’s certainly not Trash Panda Approved (Hernandez et. al, 2019).
If plastic is found in tea bags, often they are made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential (Orci, 2013).
Some brands that are committed to no plastic are: Yogi, Stash, Traditional Medicinals, & Republic of Tea.
All in all, navigating which tea brand to buy may be more difficult than you’d think. Giving the ingredient list a scan in Trash Panda is a good place to start!