Many people go towards drinking tea for the health benefits that have been shown to be associated with a great cuppa.
With that being said, it is amazing to some people that there are a number of teas that you really should avoid at any and all costs because they will have the exact opposite effect on you; instead of improving your health, they contain ingredients, additives, chemicals, or simply too much sugar… all of which could harm your body.
That being said, here is The Whistling Kettle’s Top 10 List of Teas to Avoid:
Most of us are well aware of the dangers of over-consumption of refined sugars. Risks can include conditions that relate to the heart, brain function, and there is the potential for diabetes as well. Imagine our shock here at The Whistling Kettle when I found that a “true” Southern Sweet Tea calls for 2-3 cups of sugar to be added to 3-4 cups of water to make a proper liquid in which to brew the tea bags!
Now, nutritionists, experts, and doctors all say that the amount of added sugar we should consume each day should not exceed 40 grams. 2 cups of sugar weighs in at 400 grams, nearly 10 times this amount! When you also consider that this is added to 4 cups of water, this means that at most 4 people will be sharing in this sweet beverage, and from the tea along each one will be consuming 100 grams of added sugar. Simply put, Southern-style Sweet tea, while loved by those who drink it, is definitely best avoided!
#2 – Pre-Bottled, Sweetened Iced Tea
We have all seen these drinks in the supermarket or at the local convenience store. While many of these are big sellers due to the ease of use (open and drink), there are concerns with some of these teas.
Often times teas that are not presweetened when bottled are relatively safe, as long as it is done properly. However, once sweeteners or low-quality teas are used, then there is a need for preservatives, additives, and often times coloring. Many of these also contain either too much sugar, or they contain Stevia (an artificial sweetener) to reduce calories. Most of the popular brands also contain large amounts of soy lecithin, which shares many commonalities with MSG. In short, if there are more than a few easy to pronounce ingredients on your bottled teas, stay clear!
#3 – ANY Tea treated with Epichlorohydrin
Epichlorohydrin (ECH) is a chemical that papers are often treated with to increase their durability. Unfortunately, many of the companies that make paper tea bags have realized this, and discovered that adding this chemical to tea bags means that the bags can be made cheaper.
The result is that the majority of brand name teabags are infused with ECH, which has been proven to be a harmful chemical in the human body. Like in most cases, the FDA took a look at the amount used in one teabag and determined that this was fine… however this does not consider the build-up in the body over time, nor does it consider those that consume 5 or more cups a day.
The best advice we can give is to avoid pre-packaged teabags, especially if they are “treated” or “bleached”, as you do not need these added chemicals in your body!
Plug in any large supermarket bagged tea brand and the word pesticides and you will see numerous studies that reveal many of them exceed safety standards for pesticide residue. The problem is mainly due to quality control when you start producing hundreds of tons of tea.
An example of this is one of the larger brands that buys huge pallets of tea to mix into their trademark blend. Each batch is mixed a certain way, with certain teas to achieve the desirable profile. Due to the numerous origins of the source teas, and the large scale quantities produced, it is almost impossible to test every pallet and account for every producer. These teas are purchased at auctions, not hand selected for quality.
Some mass market mall brands have had questions raised about the integrity of their teas along with high pressure, borderline unethical sales tactics. A popular you tube video was made showing someone calling numerous stores asking questions and getting outright wrong information time and time again.
In some cases, the big brands are cheap..for a reason. On the other hand, some are extremely expensive, with the price being nothing more than paying for marketing.
Found in powdered instant tea, but also in other commercial products, these products use the bottom of the barrel quality tea which are often laced with pesticides. Besides poor quality, most supermarket instant teas have enormous amounts of sugar.
#6 – Teas that Contain Artificial Flavoring
While it is true that not all artificial ingredients are harmful, the majority of them are definitely not great for you, and a great number of them can prove to be harmful in consumed in large quantities. This is especially concerning when you realize that the majority of artificial ingredients, even if not considered harmful, are derived from petroleum.
So you know tea is good for you, and you like to buy in bulk and save. Certain on-line purveyors may have superb pricing. For example, Gunpowder tea is gunpowder tea right? WRONG. Besides having organic and non-organic varieties there are often various grades of tea. Checking out the reviews of the cheapie teas on one of the big on-line sites shows people complaining about twigs and grass mixed in with their tea.
One vendor selling Matcha uses the term “ceremonial” on their packaging. This is not a regulated name and anyone can slap it on. Matcha drinkers know the true ceremonial grade tea is more expensive and has very select tea leaves. However, the one type we investigated contained rice powder as a filler.
Use the rule, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
#8 – Decaf Tea (or coffee) that costs the same as the caffeinated version
Quality decaf tea or coffee usually costs 40% more than its caffeine containing counterpart. This is because they use the CO2 or water process to remove the caffeine, which doesn’t alter the taste profile and keeps all the health benefits. If you see decaf tea or coffee that is priced very close to its caffeine containing cousin, beware as it uses the direct process using methyl chloride. It takes less time and is much cheaper to do it this way, but requires an industrial chemical.
I am not going to lie… I have had this, and I think it tastes amazing.
If you look at the ingredients, it is barely tea by the time that you drink it. Often times its a very small amount of tea that is loaded with sugar, condensed milk, and evaporated milk. In addition, if you ever get this while out at a restaurant that serves it (and even some at home packets that allow you to make it) you will find that there is artificial coloring added to offer the pretty orange color that most people associate with this tea. Loaded with fat, sugar, and unnatural ingredients, while this makes a nice treat, this is a tea that really is best avoided.
Bubble Tea, or Boba Tea, has gained popularity in the US in recent years. It is easy to see why; the milky-sweet nectar that you are handed is either loaded with popping bobas or tapioca bobas. The experience is one that offers different flavors, different textures, and a novel experience that cannot be understood unless tried.
However, despite these points, there is mounting evidence that the sugar content of this beverage can often be almost as high as that of the sweet tea. This does not even count the sugar added from the popping bobas (flavored sugary syrup) or the tapioca bobas (cornstarch, tapioca extract, and sugar), nor does it count the fat added from the whole milk that is normally used. In fact, this tea is often far more milk than it is tea! Many places that serve this also add an orange coloring to it, further increasing the health concerns associated with this beverage
The best way to ensure that you are safe from harm in the tea industry is simple:
- Avoid Brands that are Shown to contain Toxins
- Avoid Low-Quality Tea Bags
- Limit your Sugar Intake
- Read the Food Labels (avoid artificial flavors)
What this all spells out is simple; your best option is to use a high-quality tea that comes from reputable suppliers.
US legislation specifically forbids the import of methylene chloride decaffeinated tea (though not MeCL decaff coffee!)
i applaud your investigation into the harm of sugar, pesticides and artificial flavorings. Ultimately organic orthodox teas don’t contribute to any health issues. Many reputable companies are providing healthy blends for those who enjoy those options. Finding knowledgable tea merchants is worth the effort. I encourage everyone to support their local tea shops, once vetted and of course to do so with on-line dealers as well. No one can provide everything as there are thousands of options to choose from. Just be aware that one needs to investigate and evaluate who you’re buying tea. In my experience, most tea shops have done their homework and offer their curated selections. It’s fine to enjoy other types of tea of course. I do have to mention that stevia is not an artificial sweetener. It is a plant which provides a natural alternative to sugar. Some people object to the after taste, but if used sparingly I find it to be just fine. It’s my go to sweetener – even in baking as I have become increasingly concerned about the harm that sugar can cause to the body. It was the sugar industry who set the standards for sugar in this country. Not really surprising when it was the dairy industry that helped design the original food pyramid that many of us learned as children.
I was looking at websites the other day as we are in the process of putting up a new, updated one and was kind of ‘freaked out’ that a well known tea retailer had sugar as a significant part of a blend. It’s marketed like candy anyway…bright colors, flashy, young..targeted at new tea drinkers. I believe they even showed a photo of a little pile of sugar with the other ingredients. And a lot of the tea blends some of the big companies offer are offered as samples at the stores with so much sugar it hides the actual taste of the tea. Yet, they’re the big guys.
It’s hard to understand why this is happening. Tea has gotten a boost in recent years from health conscious people. We are learning increasingly about the dangers of sugar. This is horrible for the industry. I hope things change before tea looses its attraction as a healthy beverage alternative.