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Do You Know What’s Really In Your Tea?

Tea is something I drink every single day. It’s sacred at my house – I even have a whole drawer devoted to it! I drink it because it is amazing for your health. There are so many varieties of tea that can improve digestion, metabolism and even prevent certain diseases. This investigation into tea ingredients has been in the making for a long time. What I’m about to share with you totally rocked my world forever and I’ll never look at tea in the same way again. Do you really want to know what’s in your tea?…Then read on.

Food Babe's Tea DrawerThe ancient Chinese tradition of drinking tea dates back thousand of years to the early Chinese dynasties and aristocrats who drank the beverage for its medicinal properties. In ancient times, leaves from the Camellia Sinensis (the tea plant) were either ground into a powder or placed as loose leaves directly into water to infuse it with herbal essence. Unfortunately, modern day tea is nothing like the unadulterated version of old tea. Many of today’s tea brands are operating under the guise of providing health benefits and promoting clean living, but are actually laden with pesticides, toxins, artificial ingredients, added flavors and GMOs.


Conventional Teas – An Abundance of Pesticides

Did you know that most tea is not washed before it is put it into bags? That means if the tea was sprayed with cancer-causing pesticides, those pesticides go directly into your cup. And this is the reason why tea is on my organic shopping priority list. To prove this point, here are some shocking facts about one of the most well-known tea brands – Celestial Seasonings.

A recent third-party analysis by Glaucus Research and discussed here found that 91 percent of Celestial Seasonings tea tested had pesticide residues exceeding the U.S. limits. For example, Sleepytime Kids Goodnight Grape Herbal contained 0.26 ppm of propachlor, which is a known carcinogen under California’s Propsition 65.

The “Wellness” tea line was found to contain traces of propargite, also a known carcinogen and developmental toxin. The FDA has already issued two warning letters to Celestial Seasonings in regard to poor quality control according to this source. Imagine what happens when pesticide-laden tea is steeped in boiling water.

If grocery store brands don’t provide a clean option for you, perhaps a high-end loose leaf tea would circumvent some of the issues of grocery store brands. Right? Wrong! Take Teavana, which is found in malls across North America for example. Teavana taps into tea culture with the “Teavana Experience.” Convincing their employees to take customers on a sensory journey – they open a huge canister of loose leaf tea and wave the top of the canister so you can smell the tea – touting all of the wonderful health benefits of tea complete with samples and manipulative demonstrations that end in an expensive visit to the tea shop. Is all the extra money worth it? Are customers getting a superior tea product? No.

Teavana tea was tested by an independent lab and 100 percent of it was found to contain pesticides. One tea in particular, Monkey Picked Oolong, contained 23 pesticides. 77 percent of the teas would fail European Union pesticide import standards, and would be banned from import. 62 percent of the teas tested contained traces of endosulfan, a pesticide that has been banned by the U.S., China, the E.U., and 144 other countries because it has been linked to impaired fertility and could harm unborn babies.

UPDATE (May 27, 2014): Glaucus Research funded the research done by Eurofins Scientific (an independent lab) and admits on their disclaimer that they are biased because they would make money if Hain’s stock declines. However – I am not sure that Eurofins’ research should be completely discounted on this point alone. Since I wrote this post, Celestial has been sued in a class-action lawsuit based on the pesticides that Eurofins found in their teas and for mislabeling of them as “100% Natural”.  The jury is still out on whether Eurofins’ research will be considered legit, as this case is still active in California.  The Plaintiffs contend that Celestial’s teas contain “pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, carcinogens, and/or developmental toxins (collectively, “Contaminants”)” and Celestial “did not dispute – and has never disputed – that the tea Products contained Contaminants. Nor has (Celestial) challenged the results of the Eurofins Tests” and “has not claimed that Eurofins was biased or that the Eurofins Tests were not, in fact, accurate”.   Even if it is determined that Eurofins’ research was not accurate – it’s important to note that Celestial’s tea that was tested is NOT organic and some of this tea is sourced from China.  Greenpeace issued a report on the alarming amount of pesticides found on tea from China, followed up by a detailed report on Lipton brand tea from China – in which they recommend only purchasing certified organic tea to avoid these pesticides. Reference law documents: Complaint; Plaintiff’s Memo in Opposition to Motion to Dismiss. Case 8:13-cv-01757-AG-AN


Teas Can Contain Artificial Flavoring, Natural Flavors, and Hidden GMOs

Furthermore, a majority of Teavana teas contain added flavor – specifically “artificial flavoring.” If their tea is so high end, why would they be adding ingredients produced by fractional distillation and chemical manipulation of various chemicals like crude oil or coal tar? Coal tar in my tea? No, thanks.


Many popular tea brands get away with using the ingredient “natural flavors” to trick the consumer into thinking they are buying better, cleaner ingredients; however companies are just covering up the inferior taste and low quality of their tea. Fortunately, there are brands that are putting the kibash on the use of natural flavors and using all real ingredients. I was happy to learn that Ahmed Rahim, CEO of Numi Tea is just as disgusted by this ingredient as I am. He said to me “You can breakdown anything that is found in nature and if it ends up tasting like the flavor you wish to use – you can add it to any product and call it NATURAL FLAVOR on the ingredient label. It could come from a stone in the ground and you’d never know.” This is why when I see the words “natural flavor” listed on a label – I put the product down and run far far away. I want to know what I am eating! Don’t you?

Additionally, the added risk of consuming possible GMOs is not something many people think about when consuming teas. Before this investigation and witnessing tea companies using modified corn starch and soy lecithin in tea (additives likely made from genetically engineered corn and soy), I didn’t think about it either! I can’t imagine having a serious soy allergy, considering all the places companies try to hide it.


Why The Tea Bag & Packaging Matters

A recent article in The Atlantic discusses the “silky sachet” and “luxurious mesh bags” that hold loose leaf teas (like in brands Tea Forte and Mighty Leaf). Turns out, these modern day bags meant to showcase the tea leaves, are made of plastic.

PLA (polylactic acid) is a (likely GMO) corn-based tea bag material that has attracted major tea companies due to its nice look and its claims of biodegradability. Terms like “silky sachets” and “corn-based biodegradable tea bags” mislead customers into believing a product is more natural and sustainable than it really is. While the processing for PLA removes all traces of genetic material, it is still made with genetically modified corn. Although the actual tea bag is not an ingredient like teas and herbs, it is an element that is put into boiling water.

According to The Atlantic, tea bags are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which are two of what’s considered the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential. However, Dr. Mercola disagrees, he states:

“While these plastics are generally considered among the safest in terms of leaching potential, the molecules in these plastic tea bags may still in fact break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water…” Well, isn’t that how tea is prepared?

Another temperature consumers need to worry about in tea is the “glass transition” temperature. Here’s the science behind the glass transition temperature or, Tg, and why it becomes dangerous according to The Atlantic:

“That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point. In the case of PET and food grade nylon (either nylon 6 or nylon 6-6), all have a Tg lower than the temperature of boiling water. For example, while the melting point of PET is 482 degrees Fahrenheit, the Tg is about 169 degrees. Both nylons have a lower glass transition temperature than PET. (Remember that water boils at 212 degrees.) This means the molecules that make up these plastic tea bags begin to break down in hot water.”


So, while the plastic itself won’t melt in your tea, the glass transition temperature could potentially leak out harmful phthalates if there are such things in your tea. Another thing to worry about is that some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics. Some plastics are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene.

Beware of paper tea bags too, which can be worse than plastic tea bags.

GET THIS: Also according to Dr. Mercola, many “paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins. Considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health2 (NIOSH), epichlorohydrin is also used as a pesticide. When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It has also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats) and suppressed immune function.”

So what do you do the next time you want a cup of tea? Antioxidant rich teas aren’t going to do much to counterbalance the chemicals, additives and artificial flavorings in today’s modern teas.

First, I recommend looking at this chart below to see how your favorite tea brand stacks up:

Tea Comparison Updated 2 2015

And then when brewing and picking out the safest tea remember these tips:

1. Choose an organic & non-GMO certified brand of tea. (My favorites are Numi, Traditional Medicinals, and Rishi Tea (loose leaf)).

2. Check the ingredient list on the back of the tea package to make sure there are no added flavors, GMO ingredients like soy lecithin and corn starch added to the tea leaves.

3. Make sure the brand you buy uses a safe form of packaging material or buy loose leaf tea and use a stainless steel or glass tea strainer. Have the company verify that bags do not contain epichlorophydrin, and avoid plastic tea bags all together. (Numi and Traditional Medicinals are some of the only brands I trust in this category because they have publicly stated they do not use this harmful ingredient or GMO packaging and are Non-GMO Project verified.)

4. The majority of restaurants use some of the most pesticide ridden tea and brands that have harmful packaging like Celestial Seasonings, Lipton, etc. Don’t fall victim to this. Bring your own tea when eating out or going to restaurants and ask for pot or cup of boiling water (remember to leave a good tip if you do this). I even do this at Starbucks because I like to vote with my dollars and not buy tea brands that are harmful. If you drink iced tea, brew your own at home and carry an insulated water bottle with you.

5. Remember these temps and times for brewing the perfect cup of tea



If you know someone who loves to drink tea, please share this post with them. I was just as shocked as you probably are about all of this craziness – knowing what’s in our tea and what we put in our body matters! Let’s change the world together.





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1,549 responses to “Do You Know What’s Really In Your Tea?

  1. Any information on Stash tea? The ingredients list for my chai looks good (no natural flavors) but curious if you have information on the bag or pesticide residue.

      1. Seems like the Stash tea brand doesnt have to many Organic teas, and dont know whats in theire tea bags……Take a look at Iherb…Love the Brands mentioned by Foodbabe.Nice article! : )

    1. Hi Will – make sure you are drinking the organic only and you’ll have to contact the company to ask about the packaging. There is no way for Food Babe to look at every tea company. Let us know what you find out!

      1. Hi Will – You have to specifically ask if the paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin.

      2. Directly from the website, “The filter paper is not coated with the compound called epichlorohydrin, and does not contain any free epichlorohydrin.”

      3. Another tea company that is excellent is Organic India. All their teas are organic, and are raised with and by local farmers in India – fair trade. They have several different flavors of Tulsi Tea, a wonderful herb that is calming and restorative; it even sharpens the wits, I think, perhaps, by enhancing blood flow to the brain. (Tulsi is called “holy basil” by the people in India, because it is such a healing herb that they consider it to be a gift from God.) Even their bags are compostable, though you’d never guess it by the feel of them….

    2. I read on an organic website that Stash teas bags are toxin free…but they didnt mention the tea itself!

  2. Love your work, Food Babe! However, I wanted to share a few things on a few companies that are included in this piece. As a tea lover, I am very aware of these issues, and that’s why I only buy USDA Certified Organic teas with NO Natural Flavors! On that note, I do know that NOT ALL Traditional Medicinals and Rishi teas are USDA Organic and I just think everyone should be aware of that as your table implies that all Traditional Medicinals and Rishi are all organic and they’re not. Allegro, Choice and Numi are!

    Just a few examples…

    Traditional Meds EveryDay Detox….
    Rishi Kagoshima Shincha Okuyutaka Green Tea….

    1. Funny how there’s no response to my comments….. don’t like being questioned or corrected?

      1. Thanks for sharing! Sorry you didn’t get a response right away, have you seen how many comments there are?!

  3. A message to Celestial Seasonings® customers:

    For over 40 years, Celestial Seasonings has offered natural products that are good for you and good for the world, and our customers’ health and safety is our number one priority. Recently, a blog article appeared questioning the safety and quality of some of our teas. This blog contains incomplete and inaccurate information about our products, and we’d like to provide you with the facts.

    Celestial Seasonings travels the world to find some of the best botanical ingredients for our teas. To help create our wide variety of teas, some of our blends do contain “natural flavors.” But our natural flavors are just that – natural. They’re derived from real ingredients. Our teas never contain artificial flavors, colors or preservatives of any kind.

    As for GMOs, Celestial Seasonings teas DO NOT contain genetically modified ingredients. This includes the non-GMO soy lecithin that’s used to create some of our flavors. In fact, our parent company, Hain Celestial, publicly supports mandatory labeling requirements for GMO ingredients.

    The blog claims we’ve received warning letters from the FDA “in regard to poor quality control.” This is false. In the last 10 years, we’ve received two letters from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). One was related to a minor labeling issue (we used the wrong font size), and the second was for process documentation (i.e. paperwork). Neither was related to product safety or “poor quality control,” and both issues were quickly addressed to FDA’s satisfaction and closed out. This information is available through the FDA’s website and is a matter of public record.

    On packaging, it’s important for you to know that our tea bag paper is made of a blend of natural, chlorine-free fibers, and does not contain epichlorohydrin.

    Finally, the pesticide claims made in the blog are based upon a report issued in February by a “short seller,” an investment firm which stands to gain financially if our parent company’s stock price declines. By its nature, this kind of firm is motivated to spread false, incomplete and out-of-context information. When we read the short seller’s report, we sent the same teas for independent, third party testing by the industry-leading National Food Lab (NFL). Their testing detected no pesticides in the brewed Celestial Seasonings teas. NFL’s testing reaffirmed that Celestial Seasonings teas are safe.

    Thank you for taking the time to hear our side of the story. Celestial Seasonings remains focused on our founding mission: to provide good health, great taste and innovative variety while maintaining a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. We hope that this information reassures you that our teas are still the wholesome products you’ve expected from us over the years.

    1. If they arent GMO are they labeled as such? I havent looked. you say that the “natural flavors” are “DERIVED” from natural flavors. Are those flavors altered in ANY way before you put them in? I. E. washed in chemicals, etc. they say that Splenda was safe because it came from sugar but its the PROCESS of making it that makes it basically kill you sooner or later. you also stated that the bags are not made with epichlorohydrin. Is that stated on the box? I am wondering these things because we are just supposed to take your word for it? Im sorry but in a world full of liars I cant do that. If it is such, then it should be on the boxes because then I know that if it isnt true you can get sued and since you dont want to get sued you wont put false claims on your labels.

    2. Thank you for following up behind this inflammatory and lack of professionalism.

    3. This part bothers me. “soy lecithin that’s used to create some of our flavors”

      I don’t want created flavors.

      1. Using words like “soy lecithin natural flavor” on labels is deceptive. The actual ingredient is MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is linked to numerous health risks.

      2. You obviously do not know what you are talking about. MSG has nothing to do with Soy Lecithin or natural flavors for that matter. If contained in a food product it has to be labeled separately according to the federal regulations. Get your facts straight.

      3. My facts are straight. See Krista’s link, and my reply to Caroline MacDougall, below.

  4. I read this post this morning and it really hit a nerve. Two pm is tea time in our house and I’ve been drinking Celestial Seasoning green tea for years. I just wrote them on their CONTACT US page and told them I will not be buying their tea, or any tea, unless I see CERTIFIED ORGANIC on the box. Tea shopping today. Heavy sigh.

  5. I’m just getting into brewing my own Kombucha, which tea would you then recommend for that? Thanks.

  6. You never know what to believe any more. Especially on the web these days! There is so much controversy out there.

  7. You mentioned Trader Joe’s Tea containing possible GMO soy lecithin in their tea. My local Trader Joe’s has assured me that they don’t carry any products that contain GMOs. I would sure like to have some kind of independent verification. I still wouldn’t consume soy products knowingly. Thank you for the info…I will now definitely read my tea labels from now on. I would also like to know how the Kirkland brand of Japanese tea rates. I have been cutting the tea out of the nylon bags and steeping it loose, but I wonder if it contains pesticide residues.

  8. I am a big ice tea drinker and found the the Luzienne brewed specifically for ice tea is the best tasting I have found. However, as others have stated, you did not include my favorite tea in your post so I am wondering if there was any info about Luzienne?

    I am concerned about blog posts like this for the very reason that the response from Celestion mentioned. I am glad they stood up for themeselves in what I see as a very classy way. It is obvious that the sources you use, you take for truth without any knowledge of the source or motivation of the given report so ultimately you could be inadvertently hurting or even libeling a good company. I know your intentions are noble and honorable but I find myself having to be suspect of your conclusions when your research is less than accurate and somewhat superficial.

    1. I also found the quality of the research on this article to be somewhat lacking. For a more dispassionate and better-informed perspective, scroll through here to find the comments of a poster named Caroline. She makes the simple point that *all* conventionally grown teas will have pesticides in them. So, if we want to avoid, buy organic.

    1. Probably not, since the black tea is listed as having dangerous packaging. PLUS, the flavored Lipton Green tea has soy lecithin in it. I was very disappointed when I discovered that….

  9. FB several (more than half a dozen) people have asked you about Stash teas with no response from you. I just went through this whole blog looking for one. If you have no info please say so and don’t keep us hanging. Thanks

    1. Hi Tom – there is no way she can look into every kind of tea. She wants to encourage readers to research their favorite tea. She tells exactly what to look for in the post… Good luck!

  10. Thanks for sharing what I have sensed for a long time but convenience overrules digging into the truth! What about the new success story David Teas- despite focusing on loose leafs they also use artificial and natural flavors- and sales staff don’t know what goes into the ‘natural’ flab ours and why artificial is bad for u!

  11. I drank green tea for years until I found out it has high amounts of flouride in it. Apparently, any tea that comes from the same bush as green tea is high in flouride as in black tea, white tea, etc.

  12. I’ve been in the tea industry for over 35 years. I design teas for many tea companies as well as my own brand, Teeccino Herbal Coffee. There are a good many truthful facts in this article and the author has done a good job of collecting information about the tea industry but also there are some misleading and misinformed ones.

    First, if you aren’t buying organic teas, whether Camelia sinensis or herbal, you are getting pesticides in your tea no matter what brand you buy. Tea can be sprayed before harvest without enough time for the pesticide residue to decompose. This is equally true with fruits and vegetables. Only certified organic teas are pesticide free. Celestial doesn’t buy teas with more or less pesticides than any other tea company that sells conventional teas. The EU has stricter pesticide standards than the US and it also has test laboratories that detect pesticides at lower levels than US labs. So my advice like the recommendation from this blog is to buy organic!

    As for natural flavors, some brands like Numi and Traditional Medicinals have made their niche around unflavored teas. However, there is nothing wrong with natural flavors which come from natural foods, herbs and spices as long as they are in organic teas. Flavors can be concentrated by extracting them with all kinds of solvents. The cleanest solvents are alcohol and steam. If you buy organic teas, these are the only solvents that can be used. If you buy conventional teas, you may have propylene glycol, hexane and other chemical solvents in your natural flavors. Once again, buy organic!

    I also have to say, as a brewed beverage lover and designer, I love my natural flavors for the spike of flavor burst they add allowing me to be very creative. I use lots of flavors, but I make sure they are organic compliant, meaning they meet USDA organic standards in the National Organic Program. Like bergamot in your Earl Grey? Or vanilla in your tea? These are simple concentrated extracts from their natural source materials. Natural flavors keep getting misunderstood in the media and I think it is a disservice to consumers.

    There is also misinformation about tea bag paper containing epichlorohydrin. When this first was written about in the media, we checked with our tea bag supplier who is one of only 2 suppliers left in the industry due to so much consolidation since the advent of the 21st century. Tea bag paper doesn’t contain epichlorohydrin, period. Having said that, I love brewing loose leaf tea and ground herbal coffee for the most satisfying cup! I also dislike the nylon, corn based tea bags as I also agree with this blog that there is a danger of the release of chemicals used in their production into your cup of tea.

    Hopefully this will help many of you decide on which teas to enjoy!

      1. Excellent, clear response to an a blog post that does a great disservice to the dissemination about tea. Honest, clear information with no hidden agenda.

    1. Thanks for that info Caroline. I have been using unbleached tea bag paper for mate factor tea products for the last 10 years or so. It seems a lot less processed and pollutes less in its manufacture. Do you know if that is really the case or just the impression I have?

      1. Hi James,

        These days the tea bag paper is “oxygen bleached”. That means that it still looks kind-of unbleached, but it is whiter than the old unbleached paper we used to buy in the ’90’s. The important thing is that it isn’t bleached with chemicals like dioxin that is carcinogenic!

        Best, Caroline

    2. Thanks so much Caroline for this reply – it clears up a lot of misconceptions around tea. I’m a great believer is all things “organic”.

    3. Caroline, isn’t your statement that “natural flavors keep getting misunderstood in the media and I think it is a disservice to consumers” a little misleading?

      It’s widely reported that manufacturers use “natural” on food labels to deceive health-conscious consumers and command higher prices, since the word has no strict definition. For instance, the term “natural flavor” is often used to hide the real ingredient, MSG, which health-conscious consumers seek to avoid.

      1. Guess What- Again you don’t know what you are talking about with regards to MSG.

        Caroline- Thanks for your reply and yes organic can be better but organic does NOT mean pesticide free it just means not synthetically produced pesticides. It also means pesticides that are not tested for in these “research studies”. Generally tests are not done on the organic pesticides, on how long they remain in the soil, what effects they have on the environment or on the fact that many naturally occurring chemicals are carcinogens but allowed because they are naturally derived. Naturally derived does not make them any less harmful.

  13. Hi there Food Babe…. there aren’t any links to the research articles that you mention throughout your story. Are there citations somewhere that I missed? I would love to see the original research to save the articles to my Food Research library.

  14. Any idea about Stash teas?? My fav tea. I heard the teabags themselves are toxin free but what about the tea..anyone know??

  15. Seems like many blanket statements have been made. Teavana carries organic tea, what about those? As someone else mentioned where are the study links?

    1. If you want a nice mint tea, look for teas that blend peppermint with your favorite kind of tea. But again, I see nothing wrong with mint flavor. It’s made from peppermint and maybe some spearmint essential oil. Just make sure it is organic compliant and it will be free of any chemical solvents or carriers.

  16. This comment is directed to Caroline MacDougall regarding “natural flavors.” First, I want to thank Caroline for her contribution to this blog post as she appears to be very knowledgeable on the subject of tea. 🙂

    Regarding “natural flavors,” my feeling is that if “natural flavors” are included in a tea – or any food product for that matter – they should be listed in the ingredients as exactly what they are – “organic vanilla” or “organic bergamot” (using your examples) instead of listed as “natural flavors.” Simply using the term “natural flavors” tells the consumer nothing.

    I have researched enough food products to find that natural flavorings are not a good thing and the term is used as a cover for miscellaneous additives that the manufacturer doesn’t want you to know they are including.

    I am also glad that Caroline agrees with the overall gist of this blog and suggests that buying USDA Organic tea is the best route. Two of my favorite Yogi teas list all the ingredients as organic except for “natural orange flavor” and “natural tangerine flavor.” I never really thought about this until now. How do I know, other than contacting the company, if those “natural flavors” are actually from oranges and tangerines. Also, why would a tea company go to great lengths to find/grow the finest organic herbs and teas, and then add non-organic “natural flavors.”

    Now, I guess I have to contact Yogi teas and find out!

    Thanks for the great blog and the great input from Caroline MacDougall.

    1. Thank you—I totally agree. Just list what’s in it. “Natural flavors” means “we’re hiding something.”

    2. I still have to disagree with the prejudice against natural flavors. Of course, “natural vanilla extract” is listed just like that in any product using it. “Natural tangerine flavor” means just what it says – the flavor has been extracted from tangerines. Typically this starts with extracting the essential oil from the tangerine peel. But that oil is too strong to add directly to the tea plus it makes a oily slick on the top of the cup. So a flavor company will suspend the oil in an alcohol base if it is organic compliant. Or if it is a conventional product, it could put it in propylene glycol, a derivative of petroleum that is frequently used in liquid flavors. Or if the tea company is using a dry flavor, it could be put on a corn derivative base. For my tea clients, I use dry flavors suspended on apple fiber to make sure that there are no GMOs in my flavors!

      As for why you would use a non-organic flavor, it’s simple. Price and availability. Organic alcohol is really really expensive and since this is such a refined product, no pesticide residues or any other chemical residues are in it. Many natural flavors just aren’t available in certified organic. So the USDA National Organic Program recognizes this and allows companies to use organic compliant flavors. I design teas with both organic complaint natural flavors and with organic flavors. I like them both, but the latter is just so limited and so so expensive.

      1. Thanks Caroline. I’ve actually found your comments to be much more informative than this article.

  17. I love Mighty Leaf Teas If it says it is USDA Certified Organic Tea – aren’t these fine? other than the sachets, of course. You can always steep the leaves and discard the sachet.

  18. Yep. Tetley is a bust too. It’s getting sooooo difficult to find wholesome, non toxic foods and beverages.

  19. I too have a drawer full of teas. This news is a real bummer. I try so hard to eat and drink as clean as possible. I was thinking of having a cup of tension tamer, but on second thought……..where is my magnifying glass?

  20. I emailed Newman’s Own Organic about their tea. Here’s the reply I got.
    “With regard to the tea bag filter paper, our filter paper is an all natural biodegradable material with the primary component being wood pulp or abaca. I hope this information is helpful. Please feel free to email me directly with any further questions. [email protected]

    What do you think? Does that sounds like safe tea bags???

    1. Hi Melissa – good job on researching yourself. That is exactly what we want our readers to do. You need to ask them specifically if their paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin. Let us know what you find out…

      1. I wanted to know and got this reply:

        o Thank you for your email and your interest in Newman’s Own Organics Royal Teas. We have gotten many inquiries such as yours, so we had 3rd party lab testing performed on our filter paper. The test results found our filter paper tea bags are safe for direct food contact. They have all been tested for epichlorohydrin/3-MCPD residues to ensure that they meet FDA regulations for materials in direct contact with food. Testing by this outside lab shows epichlorohydrin is non-detectable in our filter paper.
        o I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if I can be of further assistance.

        Best regards,

        Dory Mansfield
        Director of Consumer Relations
        Newman’s Own Organics
        831.685.2866 office
        [email protected]

    1. Most of them are not organic so avoid. They do have one organic green tea – ingredients look fine but you’ll have to contact the company about the packaging. Good luck!

  21. This is SUCH a bummer! I love tea.
    When I read Dr. Mercola’s article on tea bags a while back, I contacted Republic of Tea. They verified their bags do NOT contain the chemicals in this article. Although it turns out I have more to be concerned about regarding their products…

    I still have a generous supply of Republic of Tea products in my cupboard. Luckily the Teavana ones are used up and gone. I’ll switch to the RoT Organic Breakfast tea next time!

    1. What’s wrong with Republic of Tea? (I’ve discovered the Decaf Ginger Peach tea & really like it….)

  22. Thanks for this article. I will be throwing out my Tazo Zen! If you are concerned about GMO then you will be disappointed to know that Starbucks is in cahoots with a company that has spent millions of dollars fighting the GMO labeling movement. We are boycotting them and Target.

    1. I agree with boycotting Starbucks, but did you know that Target is coming out with its own line of no GMO foods. That is more than most companies are doing.

  23. Hi Foodbabe- I look forward to receiving your newsletters via email every week. You never seize to amaze me with your thorough and informative posts. I am a Dietitian working at a Outpatient Chemotherapy center in NY. I am going to share this article with my colleagues. Many of the Doctors feel strongly that their patients with estrogen positive breast CA stay away from soy products, which as you know can drive people crazy- as soy lecithin is added to a large number of processed foods (even Sabra Hummas, who knew?!)… I was shocked to see that soy lecithin is even added to some of the teas you mentioned above… wow. I am going to share this information with the Nutrition team and Doctors at this center. Thanks for the great information!

    1. Thanks for proving that Hain Celestial’s response to this article (above) is BS. They dismiss FDA’s lengthy and specific findings of quality control deficiencies as just “paperwork?” Their deceitful response reveals who they really are.

    2. Thanks for proving that Hain Celestial’s response to this article is bull. FDA’s findings of numerous quality control issues are dismissed as just “paperwork?” A deceitful response from a deceitful company.

    3. For some reason, I find myself compelled to bring the perspective of manufacturers to this blog! If you want to make companies into the “bad guys”, go right ahead. But let me explain a couple of things first.

      The First FDA letter to Celestial Seasonings:

      Dietary Supplements fall under the DSHEA law of 1994 which protected the right of consumers to know what kinds of health benefits they can get from herbs and supplements. Before that law, no company could make any statements on their packaging that told any customers about why their products were beneficial for people’s health. If you weren’t around in 1994, then you may not have been part of the tremendous effort everyone who was part of the natural food movement made to protect our right to know about herbs and supplements! MIllions of people like you and me who care about being able to buy vitamins, herbs, and other supplements fought to get this law passed. We still fight that fight every day as the FDA would like to have DSHEA scuttled. When you see a “structure/function” claim on the label of a product you are thinking of buying and it says something like “Supports good digestion” with an asterisk that says “These statement has not been evaluated by the FDA…” , you know that DSHEA rules are protecting your right to information about that product’s benefits!

      The first letter to Celestial is about the new rules that FDA has enacted for companies that produce dietary supplements. These rules have been designed to make companies that package dietary supplements act like pharmaceutical companies, not food companies. Celestial is primarily a food company and thus they and a number of other companies have had to upgrade their quality control, record keeping, and raw material documentation in order to meet pharmaceutical standards. This may be appropriate for companies that produces vitamins and supplements that are tableted or encapsulated. It is much harder for a food or herb company to meet these kinds of requirements and many like Celestial have been caught short and forced to staff up, buy new equipment, and put in new systems to meet the new regulations.


      This letter is from 2007 which was before the FDA finally granted the extract of stevia, Reb A, GRAS status making it usable in food products as a sweetener. Many brands in the natural products market were using stevia as a sweetener in dietary supplement products which was the only place that stevia was protected from the very unreasonable and financially motivated ban on stevia, a completely safe herb that provides sweetness without calories.

      Celestial’s response to the pesticide test by the short seller:

      This is true. The testing was performed by a stock trading company that wanted to drive down the price of Celestial’s stock so they could benefit. I’m sure it is also true that Celestial’s teas meet government standards for “safe” levels of pesticides in beverages. Yes, pesticide residues have so-called set levels of safety set by the FDA. There is nothing that is misleading in the information Celestial writes here. However, what they don’t say is that if you want to drink pesticide-free teas, you should buy organic!

      1. Well, you said it: Celestial had to “upgrade their quality control, record keeping, and raw material documentation.” That’s also what is indicated in the FDA letter. Yet, Celestial’s response to the Food Babe article claims the FDA’s letter was NOT “related to product safety or ‘poor quality control.'” Clearly, Celestial’s processes were not up to FDA standards and “quality control” was exactly the issue. The company’s PR response is just plain deceptive, and that calls into question everything Celestial says.

        It’s interesting that both you and Celestial claim that Glaucus Research’s analysis — 91% of Celestial tea tested had “pesticide residues EXCEEDING THE U.S. LIMITS” — is false, and motivated by Glaucus Research’s desire to profit from a decline in Hain Celestial’s stock price. The truth (you say) is that “Celestial’s teas MEET GOVERNMENT STANDARDS.” Clearly, these statements are in direct contradiction. Two observations: first, it makes little sense that the stock price of a large corporation, with dozens of food and personal-care product brands under it’s corporate umbrella, could be effected by a little-known analysis of just one brand (herbal teas). And second, it makes little sense that Glaucus Research would intentionally falsify test results in order to cause financial harm to Hain Celestial, since that would surely cause Hain to sue Glaucus and ultimately be awarded damages by a court.

        Back on the subject of natural flavors, I posted a comment earlier that you perhaps did not see: “Using words like “soy lecithin natural flavor” on labels is deceptive. The actual ingredient is MSG (monosodium glutamate), which is linked to numerous health risks.” This is an issue that you have not addressed. Isn’t it true that consumers can’t trust the “natural flavor” ingredients listed on product labels, precisely because those ingredients (like MSG) are frequently not natural? Or, does MSG meet you definition of “natural?”

      2. Ok, let’s look at all your beliefs one at a time. First, I never meant to say that the test results were false, but they are misleading. It is possible that one test can give a higher pesticide reading than another test because different lots of tea are packed at different times. Just to be clear, I don’t work for Celestial although I am proud to say that I was part of the early days of this company in the ’70’s when our mission was to bring healthy herbal teas to Americans. At that time there were only a few European herbal teas such as chamomile and peppermint on the market, so I can truly say Celestial Seasonings revolutionize the American tea market by offering caffeine-free healthy herbal teas for the first time here.

        Pesticide testing often produces varying results. To really be truly accurate, this stock trading company should have tested many lots of teas from different packaging dates to make a comparison over time. Picking just one package of tea from each company and thinking it represents the hundreds of tons that a company like Celestial or Numi packs over the course of a year is misleading at best. I can’t imagine any other motivation for testing pesticide levels in teas for a stock trading company that short sells stocks than the hope to profit from it. Can you?

        As for the FDA letter, you missed the point. This was quality control for their dietary supplement teas, not the rest of their extensive line of teas. Celestial had to upgrade their normal good manufacturing practices to include things like HPLC test to identify that peppermint which they’ve been buying for 30 years is indeed peppermint if it is put in a dietary supplement tea. The FDA requires a more complex record keeping system for dietary supplements than it does for foods and beverages. I can tell you that Celestial was hardly the only company to have to upgrade its systems when the new dietary supplement rules for manufacturing were put into place.

        As for suggesting that there is MSG in soy lecithin and that companies are trying to cover it upon their labels, this is completely wrong and unfounded. Companies are revealing soy lecithin in their natural flavor because soy is an allergen and the FDA requires it to any soy-derived ingredients to be labeled in a product. There is no MSG in lecithin which is a fat used as an emulsifier. Here is what my favorite flavor supplier told me after one of Teeccino’s customers had accused us of covering up the presence of MSG in our natural flavors:
        “There is so much misinformation about savory flavors used in soups, meat analogues, etc that use various reaction flavors and vegetable proteins that can form msg and msg analogues. It’s a common misconception and misdirection towards all natural flavors.”

        So if you are eating savory foods , watch for ingredients like hydrolyzed vegetable protein which can convert into MSG in your body. Please note: I think nutritional yeast is a great flavor enhancer as well as a nutrient -dense food, and I use it in my home cooking. But the people who worry about MSG should avoid it too as it contains glutamate which can be a precursor for the body to convert into MSG. Glutamate containing foods are considered the fifth flavor after sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. I do love foods like mushrooms and tomatoes that all contain glutamates!

        Look, if you want to make companies into enemies that you should attack, focus on Monsanto, a company that is truly doing bad things to the environment and our health! Vote for the labeling of GMOs in your food and target your energy into positive actions to protect our organic agriculture and our seed supply!

      3. Thanks, Assistant to Food Babe (Krista) for linking to an article that states plainly, “Natural flavor can legally contain natural occurring “glutamate” bi-products like MSG – which are known excitotoxins.”

        Caroline MacDougall, you are quite the PR rep. It takes some chutzpah to accuse Glaucus Research’s pesticide analysis of being “misleading at best” and motivated by malicious intent, without providing any evidence for those claims.

        You’re also good at setting up strawmen to knock down. I never said there’s “MSG in soy lecithin.” Linking that strawman claim to a second claim (“and that companies are trying to cover it up on their labels”) and then denying the sum of both claims (“is completely wrong and unfounded”) is another rhetorical tactic used by PR pros.

        The truth is, companies do use innocuous-sounding ingredient names on labels, such as “hydrolyzed vegetable protein,” to keep consumers from knowing they are eating MSG (as you cleverly admit later in your post, even as you still try to maintain there’s nothing deceptive going on). And by the way, I’m sure you know that “hydrolyzed vegetable protein” is another name for “hydrolyzed soy protein,” though you failed to mention it. That’s another PR tactic. It’s called a “lie of omission.” So, my original post was correct and you confirmed it, even while denying it.

        Whew! That’s tiring. I’m not being paid to be here, and I’m done taking apart your rhetoric.

    4. Hi Guess What,

      Glad to hear you think I’m brilliant at PR. Sorry but it isn’t my career path. I’ve spent nearly 40 years in the tea industry and so as a professional, I just couldn’t sit by without commenting on a lot of misperceptions. Take what you can use and leave the rest, but please let’s be respectful. If you’d like to follow my newsletter where I write about healthy tips for optimal health, please visit or follow my blog at

  24. Thanks for looking into all of this! I never thought about teas having pesticides, and usually drink a ton of green tea to try to keep healthy and keep myself looking and feeling good. I’m definitely switching to one of the other brands you listed. Also, in a few years i’m planning on having a family and definitely am happy to be more wise about what kind of decaffeinated or herbal teas to drink while pregnant. Don’t want a baby with issues possibly related to chemicals and pesticides. I could have ended up drinking a bunch of chamomile tea or herbal tea, thinking I was doing myself good, while unknowingly introducing bad stuff into my body! Thanks again for all your research. It’s making a difference in my life.

    1. It’s not about the brand. The information is misleading in this blog post if people come away with the impression that some brands buy tea with less pesticides than others. Depending on a given lot of conventionally grown tea or herbs, you may find more or less pesticides but you will find them. It is about conventionally grown teas and herbs versus organically grown teas and herbs. Buy organic and find a tea you like!!

  25. Hello,
    I’ve been buying adagio loose leaf tea for a long time and have always enjoyed it. What are thoughts on that brand for safety and quality control of the product?
    Thank you.

    1. Yeah, I was wondering the same thing….? My mom buys Adagio spiced chai, & we love the stuff! I want to know how safe it really is….?

  26. Hi Food Babe: great article, very informative. I was shocked to see David’s Tea not amongst the big brands you have listed there. Have you researched their tea, since they are such the rage right now? I can’t see their desert teas and candy teas being very good. Looking forward to a possible update!!! 🙂

    1. Hi Sean – there is no way to look into every brand. Lots of David’s teas are not organic and some of the organic ones have natural flavors. You really have to look into each specific tea…. Good luck!

  27. did u investigate the radiation levels in green tea that may be tainted from fukushima triple meltdown???may be BIGGER problem than the other bad stuff…great article…

  28. Thank you so much for making me discover NUMI teas. I LOVE tea even more than coffee. But i would have never known that some brand put so much crap in their tea. I guess I never though of it because Where i come from (France) I only get my tea from a very well know tea shop call MARIAGE FRERES (if you ever go to Paris, you have to stop there it is amazing, the selection of teas is insane)
    But now living in the US, I will stick to all organic and GMO verified Tea. I just had my 1st cup ever of savory tea (carrott, curry) it is so freaking good 🙂
    Thank you Thank you 🙂

    1. OOOHHH… I just got my Numi order yesterday and I got the carrot curry too. I think I’ll make it in a few minutes. Thanks for the idea.

      1. Thanks to food babe and her 15% saving i did place a good order of Numi Teas. I got the Rooibos Chai (so good and i hate chai usually, i guess good ingredients makes a world of difference) The Carrot curry (one thing be careful not to use a plastic cup like Tervis stuff, the curry will dye it yellow, ugh i found it the hard way, lol) Pu-Err Ginger, some Chamomille Lemon, Aged Earl Grey (my absolute favorite tea) some other herbal one with raspberries 🙂
        I have to say loose tea is definitely better than t bags because the less cut the leaves are the better flavor but these tea bags are pretty awesome, the quality is amazing 🙂

  29. Please help us research the Adagio loose leaf tea & the Republic of Tea. My mom gets the Adagio spiced chai & we love the stuff! I also recently began getting the Republic of Tea Decaf Ginger Peach & really enjoy that.

    I mostly look for stuff at Whole Foods (45 min. from my house!), but closer to my house is a Giant Eagle & a Wal Mart (about 5 to 10 minutes away)…. HELP!

    1. Hi Alex – don’t stress! Just make sure you buy organic, check the ingredient list and send the company a quick email to check the safety of the packaging. You can do it! (All of the details are in the post)

  30. After reading your article I purchased an assortment package of Numi Tea to give it a try, and I have to say the tea is amazing! I would have never even known about it if it wasn’t for you! Thanks for doing the research and sharing!

  31. Very interesting. But, tell me something – Is ‘decaffeinated’ tea good ? I understand the ingredient used in the decaffeination process is the same used in the process of preserving dead animals, and human bodies. Please advise.

    1. Decaf tea and coffee no matter how it is decaffeinated is a degraded product. Antioxidants and other important water soluble phytonutrients get removed along with the caffeine. Solvents can be used for decaffeination that can leave residues. There are so many great naturally caffeine-free herbal teas like rooibos to drink, why drink decaf tea? Decaf coffee is made from more highly acidic coffee beans than regular coffee and thus is harder on the digestive tract as well. I recommend my own product line, Teeccino Herbal Coffee, if you want a caffeine-free beverage that tastes and brews like coffee plus has antioxidants, potassium and the prebiotic, inulin.

  32. Apostrophe s (‘s) shows belonging. So if you wish to pluralize GMO – you would put GMOs and not GMO’s.

    ….bad grammar always seems to ruin a good article for me…

    1. Actually, I’m a bit of a grammar geek myself and either way is correct when using an abbreviation such as GMO.

  33. Hi! Another person asked about this as well, but do you have any of your research findings/documents to back this up? I would love to see some references.


  34. For sure sharing this on facebook. It never would have crossed my mind that tea could have artificial flavors, gmo’s, and pesticides in them. I also never even thought about how bad the tea bags themselves could be. I mostly drink just Wisdom Nectar Tea now because it’s all loose leaf and organic! Plus it’s based out of phoenix AZ where I just happen to live and I like to support small local businesses.

  35. Re: Flouride in teas: I’ve stayed away from all teas coming from the same bush that green, white, black, etc., teas come from even when they’re certified organic. The reason being that the water used in raising the bush could contain flouride. Teas from that bush are known to really absorb a lot of flouride. The same is true for wines. If anyone could completely convince me I have nothing to worry about, please have a go at it as I miss my daily green or white tea drinks very much. They kept me cold and flu free for years.

  36. I would like to know about the Japanese brand Ito En. I drink their unsweetened Oi Ocha Dark Green Tea. Anybody have any facts about it with regard to the safety issues?

  37. Is the organic tea at Trader Joe’s really organic and good to drink? It’s labeled with the USDA Organic label. I’d appreciate your reply.

    1. If it has USDA organic label then yes it is organic but you still need to check the ingredients and we are not sure about the packaging. We encourage you contact them – Food Babe tells exactly what to look for in the post. Good luck!

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