I have long been a tea drinker, both herbal infusions and traditional teas. I find the world of tea so incredibly diverse and beautiful and I am thrilled when I find a new type of tea to enjoy, such as when I discovered puer, or “dark” tea.

As someone who appreciates food and herbs as a way of bringing better health, I also find the research on the health benefits of tea very interesting. For example I've talked about different studies reporting the possible health benefits of drinking a variety of teas. The benefits include its ability to fight cancer, stress, metabolic disease, reduce blood clots and strokes, and more. I also talked about the possible health benefits of the green tea, matcha. Its high ECGC levels are encouraging and could help a wide variety of disease, including cancer and HIV. It also contains elements that help you relax and lose weight (pretty awesome combination if you ask me!).

Because so many are now aware that “green tea is good for you”,  green tea is being added to a wide variety of products (everything from soda pop to face wash) and many health claims are being used to advertise these products. It’s gotten to the point that the FDA has started to crack down on companies using rather bogus claims just because they added green tea to their product. 

While I think that most of us wouldn’t think that a soda flavored with green tea was good for us, it is quite possible that many skip the soda and grab a bottle of iced green tea imagining all of the health benefits they are getting from that choice.

Don’t be so sure.

A recent report by Consumer Labs, as reported by the New York Times, took a look at green tea and how much the levels of the catechin, EGCG, varied from brand to brand and form to form. They looked at four common brands for bottled green tea, and one variety, Diet Snapple Green Tea contained almost no EGCG. Honest Tea’s Green Tea With Honey, which claimed to contain 190 milligrams of catechins, only had 60 percent of the advertised amount. What they did find was 18 grams of sugar, about half the amount found in a can of Sprite.

Lesson learned? Even a fairly straightforward and simple product such as bottled tea may not offer many health benefits.

The report also shared that Teavana (which has had dismal test results for pesticide residues) brewed a cup high in antioxidants and little to no lead. Lipton and Bigelow brews had somewhat smaller amounts of antioxidants but were significant cheaper at 27 to 60 cents a cup instead of the $2.18 cup of Teavana tea.

And finally, unfortunately green tea can contain lead. This may be more of a problem with tea from China, but certainly something to be aware of considering that the tea plant is known to have a higher uptake of lead than other plants. Thankfully, it appears that the majority of the lead isn’t brewed into the water. Dr. Tod Cooperman, president of Consumer Labs, said, “The majority of the lead is staying with the leaf. If you’re brewing it with a tea bag, the tea bag is very effectively filtering out most of the lead by keeping those tea leaves inside the bag. So it’s fine as long as you’re not eating the leaves.”

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