Following the disaster at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant in 2011, I must confess to being concerned about drinking Japanese green tea. On some level, it just seemed easier to eliminate this tea from my list of green teas that I enjoy, rather than worry about ingesting something potentially dangerous. I’ve come to eat predominantly organic produce so it didn’t make sense to take a chance regarding radiation with my tea.
Recently, I decided to investigate the issue and have to say, am I glad I did. I learned that the contamination was predominately located in the eastern and central prefectures of Japan. There were a total of 9 prefectures near Fukushima prefecture where high levels of radiation had been detected. These included Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Shizuoka, Tochigi, and Tokyo. I understand that these areas are in fact not the most popular areas for tea growing, fortunately. To date however, I understand that they no longer test positive for radiation either. I have come to learn that my favorite Japanese teas come from Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kyoto and Miyazaki. None had ever tested positive for radiation.
Perhaps the most revealing information I learned is that each country allows different levels of Becquerel (a unit of radiation activity) which they consider acceptable for human beings to ingest. I’m horrified to see that the U.S. has the lowest standards. Thank you FDA for taking such good care of us. How ironic that they won’t confirm TEA as being healthy.
US – 1200 Bq
Canada – 1000 Bq
EU 500 Bq
Japan – tolerating the lowest levels at 100 Bq. Following the nuclear disaster, they lowered their level from 500 Bq down to 100 Bq.
Another factor to have considered is that radiation in tea is assessed based on the dry leaf. If one were to assess the liquor however it would be a fraction of the amount in the dry leaf. Here’s an example I saw on line: If the dry leaf measures 3,000 Bq, the tea brewed from those leaves has only 100 Bq in it. That is well below the acceptable limit for most countries.
So basically I’ve lost years of enjoying my favorite Japanese green teas. As a serious green tea drinker, Japanese green teas had always ranked high in my esteem. They had clearly perfected their growing, harvesting and production of green tea over the centuries.
So here’s the lesson I ultimately learned. Don’t let your fears go unchallenged. Investigate the source and you might find that there’s nothing to be afraid of after all.