With a recent meta-analysis published in the British Journal of Medicine evaluating 343 studies of nutrient density in organic v. non-organic food, the topic of organic has again been brought to the fore.
As reported in the Journal, organic foods do contain higher levels of antioxidants, including flavonols, than non-organic. Likewise, the study revealed higher levels of Cadmium, a heavy metal, and pesticides in the non-organic produce.
What does this mean for tea?
The meta analysis didn’t look specifically at tea, but rather at fruits and vegetables in general, and while we can extrapolate for tea, we can’t make any definite conclusions for tea specifically.
One significant point to note, if we do extrapolate the findings to tea, is that the antioxidant content was significantly increased in the organic offerings, and since many people drink tea at least partially for its antioxidant benefits, this might tip the favor for drinking organic tea.
What do tea industry experts say?
However, many in the tea industry argue that good agricultural practices, sustainable, and natural farming methods are more important that Certified Organic.
Here’s Why: Organic does not mean quality (of taste or eco-sustainability). For many smaller tea farmers, organic is not feasible because of the investment costs, paperwork, and certification costs.
Unlike “big agriculture,” even non-organic tea tends to be traditionally or naturally grown, limiting pesticides, fertilizers, etc, because doing so increases the quality and flavor of the tea, which also generates higher prices.
Tea industry experts suggest that knowing and trusting your tea supplier and choosing high quality, sustainably produced tea is more valuable than having an expensive certification. Read more on tea experts discussion of this here, here, and here.
What you need to know about organic
- “Organic” certification draws higher prices, which means for those tea plantations with certifications, its as much as business as it is a health or environmental decision.
- Organic doesn’t mean no pesticides, no fertilizers, no nothing, it just means an organic form of those additives is used.
- Even certified organic tea is not completely residue free. Tea farms can be exposed to chemicals used on other produce in fields near and far, through rain, wind, soil, bugs, and general cross-contamination.
So, what about non-organic tea?
All teas, whether organic or not, must meet criteria set forth by governments specifying “Maximum Residual Levels” (MRL) for both pesticides and heavy metals. In Europe these are contained in the EU Pesticide Database, in the US by the US Pharmacopoeia, and in California by Prop 65.
Can some teas exceeding MRL get into the country? Yes, but not likely. If you’re concerned, you can always contact your favorite tea company and ask them to send you their test reports.
For the most part, non-organic tea is safe to drink, but its important you buy from a high quality tea company you can trust.
Let us know in the comments below, What’s your view on organic v. non-organic tea?