Most of us love a good cup of tea; whether black, green, white, blue or yellow, it's refreshing, aromatic, and it's healthy to boot! Or is it?
Well, yes. But what you're getting with your tea might not be.
Many of us drink tea on a regular basis, either because of our cultural heritage or because of the innumeral health benefits teas possess. And so naturally, as something that is consumed on such a regular basis, I feel it's worth it to be selective. (Which means doing the homework!)
You see, even when it comes to this healthy beverage, there are factors that we need to be aware of: tea bags, tea filters and tea quality
The problem with tea bags is that they are often made from some or other variety of plastic; and while we assume that food grade plastics are safe to consume, anyone who's read my book on food additives will already know the health hazards that BPA (Bisphenol-A) and BPS (Bisphenol-S),two substances associated with many plastics, pose to us when they leech into the food and drink we consume. Let's add to that the fact that even non-BPA/non-BPS containing plastics can start to degrade further as temperatures rise. They're not going to melt in your tea, but boiling water is enough to start degrading even some of the safest plastics used in food. Which means you could be regularly consuming plastic particles...Does that sound like something you want to do?
Not to worry, I hear you say, the brand of tea I consume uses paper in its tea bags, not plastic. Well, actually that may not be much good either. You see, many paper filters/bags are treated with a compound that is also often used as a pesticide. Except that it's used in tea bags to prevent the paper fibres from tearing apart and also happens to have the nasty habit of turning into a carcinogenic compound when it enters into contact with water.
And if worrying about the bags (I say bags, but you can apply the above to all sorts of paper/plastic filters too) wasn't enough, it would seem that we should really try to buy better quality teas too. It would seem that many low-cost teas contain very high fluoride levels. This is because as tea leaves grow they tend to accumulate more and more fluoride over time, and it's these old leaves that are used in lower-grade tea. Now, regardless of my poor personal opinion on fluoride, most dentists and doctors would agree that small amounts of the substance is beneficial to health, particularly that of teeth and gums. However, above a certain amount (3 to 4 miligrams per day) can have a detrimental affect on health; even that of teeth and gums which it reportedly protects! Well, considering that the average cup (250ml) of economy-grade tea contains 1.5 miligrams of fluoride, it's not going to many cups (and fewer mugs still) of tea to go over that daily limit. Then there's the fact that tap water also happens to be flouridated, the toothpaste we use daily is also heavily fluoridated... It all adds up surprisingly fast, right?
So what can we do? First of all, if you only use an occasional tea bag, then don't get paranoid - the stress from worry is probably going to do you worse. If you do drink tea regularly, then buying loose, quality tea is worth it, it's not only going to be your taste-buds that thank you for it. Brew teas at the temperatures they really require (which is not always 100 degrees as some manufacturers seem to believe); tea connoisseurs already know that brewing the different coloured teas at the appropriate temperatures impacts flavour and aids in releasing beneficial compounds. Without getting too technical, black and oolong teas prefer boiling water, white teas prefer lower temperatures (80-85 celcius) and green teas even lower (75-80 celcius). If you don't have a kitchen thermometer, water is around 80 degrees celsius when small bubbles start to push away from the sides of the surface of the water.
Keep on drinking tea, it's good for you; it just happens to be so much better when there aren't any uninvited guests lurking in your cup of tea. (Or knocking at your door when you've only just sat down to enjoy a cuppa.)