Recent lab testing of both Teavana and Celestial Seasonings teas had alarming results. I didn't realize it before, but tea can be a highly sprayed crop, leading to cups full of pesticides instead of just healthy antioxidants.
I will link to the full research release below, but here is a quick overview.
Celestial Seasonings has bad quality control
91 percent of the Celestial Seasonings tea tested had pesticide residues exceeding the U.S. limits. One of the company's teas, Sleepytime Kids Goodnight Grape Herbal, contained 0.26 ppm of propachlor, which has no safe harbor limit under California's Proposition 65. (It is a known carcinogen.)
Not what I want my child to be drinking every night before bed!
Other teas, including the "Wellness" tea line, were found to contain traces of propargite, also a known carcinogen, a developmental toxin, and which also has no safe harbor limit under California's Proposition 65. Apparently, the FDA has already issued two warning letters to Celestial Seasonings in regard to poor quality control. Meanwhile, thousands continue to drink the popular teas.
Although Celestial Seasonings gears its products toward those who want a healthy lifestyle, there are grave concerns with the quality of its products.
Teavana's tea is also high in pesticides and toxins
Celestial Seasonings is, after all, a less expensive tea. Are we really surprised that the tea isn't top-notch? But the price of tea isn't always evidence of quality control. Teavana is a company that sells loose tea for top price. It has also long claimed to be "pesticide-free," or organic or "European organic." The Teavana tea that I have sampled also tastes great.
It sounds good on paper, right?
The lab results for this company were not great, unfortunately. The tea was tested by an independent lab and 100 percent of it was found to contain pesticides. One tea, Monkey Picked Oolong, contained 23 pesticides. Strike one.
77 percent of the teas would fail European Union pesticide import standards, and would be banned from import. Strike two.
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. Strike three.
It's maddening, especially when you consider how the company promotes itself as toxin-free. But in some ways, I am not surprised. I bought a Teavana tea thermos, which has a design I absolutely love. But I wondered whether the company was purposely deceptive in how the employees were trained. I was told that it was a stainless steel product. But when I read through the package's fine print, it became clear that only the tea strainer is stainless steel, not the thermos itself. When I asked the employee about it, and pointed to what the package said, he grew confused. He said something along the lines of, "Well, the package does say that only the tea strainer is stainless steel, but when I was trained I was told that all of the metal was stainless steel, so I think it has to be." Deceptive? I think so. If it was all stainless steel, I am sure it would have said so clearly on the package. I think the employee was just saying what he had been told to say.
I thought about this when I read about how almost all of the employees said that Teavana was pesticide-free when asked. This was part of their training, and they had no reason to doubt its validity.
The source of information
So who paid for all of this testing? A short sell firm called Glaucus Research (you can read the reports here). In case you haven't heard of short sell firms before: in simple terms, they make financial bets against companies, so that if the stocks for these companies fall, they make money. Guess who Glaucus is betting against?
Does this make Glaucus a biased source? Yes. Does it make the above untrue? No. Glaucus did not put out this information so all of the health freaks (like me) would know not to buy from these companies. But Glaucus released these findings to explain its investment against these companies. It also has analysis on other products from Hain (the flagship brand name that Celestial Seasonings is under). As it says in the group's disclaimer, "We are short sellers. We are biased. So are long investors. So is the company. So are the banks that raised money for the company. If you are invested (either long or short) in Teavana, so are you. Just because we are biased does not mean that we are wrong."
And, so far, although Teavana has had since November to refute the evidence presented against it, the company hasn't released any hard facts in its favor.
Better brands to purchase
I am not invested in either of these companies (long or short), but I do want to invest my consumer money into companies worth supporting. Teavana has lost my support, and Celestial Seasonings was already toward the bottom of the list, and it will stay there.
One company that I have enjoyed buying from is Mountain Rose Herbs. After reading through the lab testing of above, I am thankful for its commitment to test all of its organic (or wild-crafted) products for chemical and pesticide residues before selling. I have always been impressed with the quality of the products — including Mountain Rose Herbs' line of teas — when I have bought and used them.
A tea that I am sipping right now is from a local brand, Tao of Tea, whose organic tea I have also really enjoyed. Tao of Tea's website says, "We are firm believers in the organic tea movement and have supported many small tea gardens and farmers to practice this style of agriculture. The tea industry in many parts of the world is known to use pesticides, often in high doses. Though the number is growing, only a small portion of tea gardens and tea farms are currently certified organic. We are proud to offer one of the largest selections of certified organic teas in the United States. Our teas and our facilities are duly inspected and certified by internationally accredited certifiers."
Both of these companies will continue to get my support.
Do you have any favorite tea companies that you trust?
Related tea story on MNN: 6 reasons I love continuous kombucha brewing