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Last Updated on August 11, 2022 by Scott
Tea is a delicious beverage with a ton of options when it comes to flavor and nutritional values. From black tea to green tea and everything in between, there are a host of types to choose from. Organic tea brands often taut the health benefits of organic tea, but is there a difference?
The truth is that there is very little evidence to show a significant difference between choosing organic tea over conventional tea. There are guidelines for what can and cannot be considered organic, but the flavor, healthfulness, and cost are fairly similar across various tea brands and types. It’s often up to you as the consumer to determine which teas best fit your preferences.
To get a better understanding of the many factors that determine the quality of the tea you buy, it’s important to look at each side objectively.
What Is Organic Tea Exactly?
Depending on where you live, there are different standards for what is considered organic, usually determined by an organization like the USDA in the United States, or OF;K in the United Kingdom.
These organizations have a series of factors that a tea company must meet to be considered organic tea. However, those standards are not as difficult as they might seem.
- The soil that the crop was grown in must be free of prohibited substances for three years prior to planting.
- There must be a buffer zone between organic farms and conventional farmers to prevent contamination from prohibited substances.
- The cultivation of the crop must maintain or improve the soil, livestock, and people, and prevent destruction to the environment.
- The crop should be grown in an environment that supports the existing ecological systems.
As long as these guidelines are met, the crop can be certified organic.
What Is Used In Organic Growing?
Substances that are prohibited by the USDA in organic growing are things like synthetic pesticides and herbicides, GMOs, and synthetic fertilizers. Organic products may still contain pesticides and other treatments that are created from naturally sourced byproducts of plants and animals, though because they are less effective there is often a higher concentration.
Many organic pesticides and herbicides are just as harmful for human consumption as their synthetic alternatives. Organic fertilizers are usually diluted and much more difficult to use and more costly.
Is Organic Tea Healthier?
One of the primary arguments against conventional tea is that the leaves are not washed during production. They are dried directly after they are harvested and therefore some residual pesticides or dust may remain on the leaves.
This is also true with organic tea, and regardless of what tea you purchase, it’s recommended to rinse the leaves before the first brew to ensure there are no trace particulates.
Another common belief is that organic teas, especially herbal teas and green tea may prevent cancer. Population studies have been done on this subject, examining the difference in rates of cancer in countries where herbal teas are consumed in higher quantities.
What Are The Drawbacks Of Conventional Tea?
Tea production is entirely consumer-driven, and the fact of the matter is that farmers are encouraged to grow high-yield crops regardless of the environmental impact. Tea production consumes a large amount of land and can have an effect on the land around it.
In Asia, the crops are typically grown high in the mountains, and run-off from rain and irrigation causes a significant amount of ecological damage.
On another note, conventional tea companies are generally focused on output and may add additional fillers and GMOs to increase production.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Does tea have a lot of pesticides?
The truth is that it varies greatly from manufacturer to manufacturer and process to process. Some organic tea companies use a significantly higher amount of organic pesticides than their conventional tea counterparts, but there is no single answer. Learning as much as you can about the company you purchase your tea from is the best way to know your tea is safe.
Q. Is organic tea higher quality than conventional tea?
Unfortunately, the organic label is just that, a label that is given to a product that meets a certain specification. There is no evidence that one method of growing produces a higher quality crop than the other, it comes down to the company that grows the product. Organic tea is not necessarily better tasting or stronger.
Q. What type of tea is the healthiest?
Because it is full of polyphenols and antioxidants, green tea is known to help boost mental acuity and keep the heart healthy. Green tea also doesn’t go through as much processing as other teas might, because it does not go through oxidization. The leaves are plucked, dried, and prepared to be packaged right away.
As you can see, deciding whether or not organic tea is better is difficult to decide. There are several factors to be considered when choosing which route you’d prefer, but the important thing is to research the company behind the tea you purchase so that you know whether their processes align with your lifestyle and ethical concerns.
Scott is the founder of TeaMinded. He enjoys tasting and discovering teas from across the globe, with green teas and ceremonial matcha from Japan being among his favorites. He’s grateful to be immersed in the tea community, always learning and sharing along the journey.