A cup of tea is what wakes many of us across the globe each morning. Tea is one of the oldest beverages that men had discovered.
The story of tea begins in China. According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shen Nung, a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. The tree was Camellia sinensis, and the resulting drink was what we now call tea.
But it was the British during British raj who popularised and made tea a true global drink. In 1940 The British started tea plantations in India, which really took tea to the next level. since then there is no stoping tea from taking over the world. Today there are various forms of tea that we relish, like CTC, orthodox, green, white, oolong, masala, flavoured etc. Tea, with its high concentration of powerful antioxidants, is well known for its ability to prevent cancer, cardiovascular, osteoporosis and other diseases. And, of course, tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world, second only to water. In fact, for centuries, it has been prized by cultures around the world for its health benefits.We consider tea to be one of the healthy beverage specially green and white tea, but is it really so?
The demand for tea is ever increasing as new tea addicts are adding up to the tea loving club from various part of the world. Today tea has found markets and popularity in countries where it was never popular before.
Tea requires specific climatic and environmental conditions to grow which limits tea plantations from invading new land. Now the ever increasing demand for tea on one hand and land constrain on the other has really put pressure on the existing tea plantations to increase there production capacity without any increase in the land holdings. Till few years back the tea was mostly produced by large companies which had multiple tea gardens under its stables, each garden would be of no less than 400 to 500 hectares. But today even the small farmers with smaller land holdings are also shifting to tea growing.
Now due to the increasing demand of tea the tea growers both the larger companies as well as the small tea growers are using chemicals to protect and increase their crop. Today the tea industry is known to use some of the harshest and a large quantity of toxic chemicals. These chemicals are broadly divided into two types- contact and systemic, they differ in their mode of action. Contact chemical when sprayed on the canopy will remain on the surface for a few days and when the pest comes in contact with the chemical it dies, but the problem with contact chemicals is this that it effects a broad range of insects and eliminates not only the targeted insect but also eliminates several other species of insects including the beneficiary predatory insects which otherwise would have controlled the pests naturally.
systemic chemicals when sprayed on the tea bushes, will enter the system of the plant through the stomatal openings present in the leaves. It will remain inside the plant specially in its leaves and whenever the pest chews the leaves it dies.
Now the problem is, these toxins ends up in the final manufactured tea which
A sprayer spraying chemical in a tea plantation.
we consume. More then 50 harmful chemical compounds find way into our body through our cup of tea that we relish so much and consider healthy. Acetamaprid, chlorpyrifos, thiacloprid, imidaclopride, dicofol, methomyl, endosulfan sulfate and carbendazim , quinalphos, DDT were among the pesticides found in brewed cups of tea. The chemical residue in the finished product increased much more than the acceptable limits because of which many developed countries had stoped the import of teas from countries like India, and now they have set stringent regulations for testing teas before allowing any consignment of tea in their respective countries.
Countries like India have very relaxed criteria of acceptance due to which all tea consignments rejected for exports make their way into the domestic markets. Teas grown for the domestic market are treated much differently then teas meant for exports. Lot of banned chemicals which are easily available through the black market are used relentlessly on these teas.
According to the WHO, accumulation of these chemical residues inside our body will cause long term and irreversible harm such as cancer and damage to our reproductive system, these chemicals may also effect our nervous system. Today one of the major cause of cancer other then smoking, and tobacco is exposure to harmful chemicals present in our foods.
When more and more teas got rejected by the foreign buyers due to high levels of pesticide residues , The Tea Board of India started acting on it and formulated the Plant Protection Code PPC. But agin through PPC tea board was able to control the big tea producing companies but it is still unable to leash in the small tea producers which are sprawling every where. The main danger is form these small tea growers who are known to use all sort of chemicals even the banned chemicals relentlessly.
So what’s the solution should we give up on our cup of tea? Well thankfully the answer is no, the easiest way to make ourselves not exposed to these chemicals is to shift to organic teas specially if you are a heavy tea drinker.
Today as awareness is increasing people are shifting to organic foods including tea and there are many brands selling organic teas in the Indian market. But as the Indian consumer is very price conscious, he is not ready to shed extra bucks just because the tea is organic. The Indian Consumer must realise that by drinking tea which is not labelled organic, his health is paying heavily. Make sure when you are buying any organic tea just don’t buy it because they have labelled it as organic tea but also try to check from the labelling in the package, whether it has been certified organic by a third party agency or not. For any product to be sold as organic in the market it must be certified organic by any of the recognised organic certification bodies. Some of the trusted organic certifies are IMO and OneCert.
Another key point to remember by the common tea drinker is to stay away from tea bags as far as possible. Tea bags are little sacks filled with the worst and least pricy teas or tea wastes.