The long list of fraudulent and dangerous food additives is daunting. Not that we needed evidence of mankind’s thirst for increasing profits at the expense of consumer welfare. No doubt our tea leaves are also victim to the trend.

A search for ‘tea’ returns around 20 results of bad additives and trickery; colored saw dust, Prussian blue, and copper salts. Prussian blue?! That is a lovely pigment, but I wouldn’t want to find it in the bottom of my cup. Also, included in this list should be indigo, soapstone and gypsum.  According to Babette Donaldson in her book, The Everything Healthy Tea Book, the most common deceptive practice is probably price gouging, where a company misrepresents a less valuable tea as something rare and high priced. Another common form of tea fraud is to give the tea a non-authentic geographic origin.

To identify adulterated tea:  Pour a teaspoon of tea dust/leaf into a glass of cold water.  If the tea is pure the water won’t change color. If it is dyed or a colorant added, then one can see the water color change immediately to red.  Alternately, you can take blotting paper, wet it and sprinkle tea on the surface.  If you see yellow, orange or red spots on the blotting paper, the tea has been treated with coal tar dye.

From Worldteanews 10.11.12

 

Here are the top 10 types of teas contaminated with toxic heavy metals:

Green Tea
A recent Consumer.com study found lead in a number of popular green tea brands, particularly those that hail from China, which are contaminated with heavy metals.  Most of the lead stays in the leaves, however, and does not necessarily get into the tea itself.  Don’t chew the tea leaves if you are unsure of the country of origin of your tea, or at the very least use a tea bag or filter.

Pu-erh Tea
Typically it comes from the Yunnan province in China.  A study out of Beijing Normal University found alarming levels of arsenic in Pu-erh tea from China.  Avoid teas from this specific geographic region.

Black Tea
Studies have found that brewed black tea contains cadmium, lead and arsenic.  This is likely due to the use of coal-fired power plants in China, which are in the vicinity of tea plants.

White Tea
White tea comes from the new growth buds and young leaves of the camellia sinensis plant.  Since buds are picked early, the tea is less likely contaminated by aluminum.  It is still susceptible to contamination by other heavy metals, particularly if comes from China.  Tea plants grown near industrial areas or highways can absorb lead from the environment, and this is particularly problematic in places like China.

Oolong Tea
A recent Canadian study found that Chinese oolong had some of the highest levels of arsenic, lead and cadmium compared to the other types of tea studies – namely organic and regular green tea, organic white tea, and organic and regular black tea.

Organic tea
A better choice perhaps but you should not assume it is devoid of heavy metals.  Even if the tea plants were not coated in pesticides, they could still be tainted by heavy metals in the water and soil.  Organic tea from China and India is particularly vulnerable.  Canadian researchers found that the organic teas were no less contaminated by heavy metals than their counterparts, even when they came from the same company.

Chinese tea
Canadian researchers found that tea bags from China were more likely to be contaminated with heavy metals than other types of tea.  Once again, pollutants from the environment are likely the source of heavy metals in Chinese tea.

Chai tea
Chai tea is black tea in disguise, brewed with aromatic Indian herbs and spices.  A study of nearly 50 different types of tea from India found that 94 percent of them contained at least one pesticide.  More than half the teas contained pesticides that were not approved for tea cultivation, and exceeded safety limits.

Rooibos Tea
South African red bush tea flourishes in the jungle naturally, meaning pesticides are rarely needed.  Rooibos tea from South Africa is typically a safe choice.  However, rooibos from India should be consumed with caution because of the proliferation of heavy metals in all the teas cultivated in the country.

Hibiscus
A study from the Czech University Life Sciences Prague found so much aluminum in hibiscus that they advised babies, pregnant women and people with kidney disorders to avoid drinking the tea entirely.  They also discovered that the tea might harbor boron and other dangerous metals.

From Chris Draper/Top 10 Grocery Secrets September 2015

Also, if you want to know about tea bags that are used, you can go to cleanplates.com for a lot of information.

From cleanplates.com 2017

Note: looking for a safe, organic tea to use? Here’s some promising information on a new product. Davidson’s Organics at davidsonstea.com carries a wide variety of organic teas.