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What's in Your Tea?

Next time you hit the grocery store, look out for the real stuff in your tea.

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image of nine loose leaf teas

Bunyos/Thinkstock

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world next to water. It’s extremely hydrating and boasts many health benefits, including high antioxidant levels, which can help protect against cancers and other chronic diseases. All kinds of tea (black, green, white, and oolong) are made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, a species of evergreen shrub. 

Tea is made through a process of picking, sorting, steaming, firing, twisting, and oxidizing and different types of teas are created through different combinations of these actions. The type of tea that is produced depends on whether the leaves are crushed or broken after withering, if they're left to oxidize before being dried, how long they're exposed to air, and more. Each distinct flavor comes from the way the leaves are processed, as well as the inclusion of essential oils, tannins, flavonoids, and antioxidants from the plant.
 
When you get to the tea aisle in the grocery store, however, you’ll find much more than just four types to choose from. Pick up a random box (maybe Candy Cane or Sugar Cookie), and it likely contains “natural flavors.” The United States Code of Federal Regulations defines natural flavors as “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating, or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit, or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice.” The definition goes on, but there is certainly nothing “natural” about any of it. In fact, natural flavors are more similar to artificial sweeteners than they are to real ingredients. Some tea companies even use cornstarch and soy lecithin, which are made from genetically engineering corn and soy.
 
Unfortunately, natural flavors aren’t the only thing to worry about when buying tea. Many conventional tea brands spray their tea with pesticides, thus leading to them to contain toxins and carcinogens. A study by Glaucus Research found that 91 percent of Celestial Seasonings tea had pesticide residues higher than the U.S. limit. Additionally, paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a pesticide that’s considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
 
All of this information may make you want to kick your tea habit immediately—but hold on! Luckily, there are still many teas that are healthy and contain real ingredients. ALOHA Teas come in a variety of (real) flavors, are organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, and contain no “natural” or “artificial” flavors. The tea bags are made from a compostable, plant-based nylon-type material, free from pesticides and any harmful additives. Not bad, right?

This article by Carlyn Shear was first posted on Aloha. To see the original article, please click here.


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