Here’s a fun fact about commercial tea: The first time pesticides are washed off tea leaves is when you steep tea in your cup.
To be fair, the amount of commercial pesticides in your cup is “a very low amount,” according to Peter Goggi, a spokesman for The Tea Association of the USA.
But if “no” amount is better than “low” amount, your only choice is organic tea, says Chris Olsen of Teatulia, the Denver-based company that grows tea organically on 3,000 acres in northern Bangladesh.
“Organic tea is best for you,” Olsen says. “Pesticides on regular teas are not rinsed off until you infuse it in your cup. It will blow your mind.”
Teatulia, which owns one of the largest organic tea gardens in the world, grows USDA-certified organic teas using organic cover crops, manure it buys from locals, rainwater irrigation, and natural pesticides like pulverized leaves from neem trees that bugs avoid.
In addition to not getting a gulp of toxic pesticides, here are more reasons to drink organic tea.
Organic is good for the ecosystem: Conventional gardens often are denuded of bugs and other living things that are collateral damage from toxic pesticide use. Organic gardens support ecosystems and don’t contaminate local water supplies. In Teatulia’s Bangladeshi gardens, Olsen sees birds, spiders, 30 types of deer, even a tiger.
Organic tastes better: By using organic fertilizers, like cover crops and manures, tea plants are allowed to blossom and ripen at their own, natural pace. “They have more time to develop the natural sugars in compounds that helps the flavor,” Olsen said.
Organic is certified: Organic teas, like Teatulia, are certified organic by government agencies like the United States Department of Agriculture. “They make sure all the organic rules are being followed – how we’re irrigating, how we’re using natural pesticides. You know what you’re getting.”
At least in Teatulia’s case, the organic label also shows a consciousness for not only the earth, but also the people in the region where the tea is grown.
The company’s tea gardens are part of its economic development efforts in a desperately poor part of Bangladesh. “We built the garden to create jobs in the poorest region, in the second poorest country in the world,” said Olsen.
The company also has created a micro-lending model where they give locals loans to buy cows. The loans are repaid with milk that Teatulia sells and manure it uses to fertilize tea plants.
You can find the USDA-certified organic label on teas like Teatulia, Numi and Traditional Medicinals. Teatulia is sold nationally in Target stores and Whole Foods.