Share This Article
How to Know the Difference + Our Fav Brands
Can you think of something more soothing than a good cup of tea? The smell and steam ground you as you pour the water over the dried leaves. When the tea is fully steeped, the flavor instantly calms you as the warmth permeates your body. Tea feels like one of the pillars of wellness that helps you feel your best.
Unfortunately, most of the tea we’re drinking is causing more harm than good. Within those dried tea leaves or tea bags are toxic chemicals and heavy metals directly linked to disease. Furthermore, harmful farming practices are devastating workers and ecosystems abroad.
There is good news though. You can still enjoy a soul-soothing cup of tea without harm. Many organic and sustainable tea brands are making tea traditionally – that is, following ancient principles combined with modern organic certifications, giving you the best of both worlds.
Organic vs. Non-Organic Tea: What You Need to Know
If you’re looking to live a lifestyle free of harmful chemicals, you should not be drinking non-organic tea. Many of the pesticides and fertilizers sprayed on plants are water-soluble. So when you steep your tea leaves or tea bag in hot water, you are essentially making a chemical-laced concoction. Although tea is considered a healthy beverage, some studies show that it can decrease – instead of increase – your lifespan when the chemicals that are within the tea leaves themselves as well as in the bleached tea bags are concentrated down when steeped in hot water.
However, choosing tea should go beyond organic. You want to support businesses that treat farmers, plants, and the earth with care. You want to sip tea that comes from a vibrant plant that is healthy and unstressed, picked by someone who enjoys their job. Many organic, sustainable tea companies also put emphasis on care when it comes to farming practices, harvesting techniques and the final product. Keep this in mind when you select your next tea.
A Note on Matcha
Matcha is the beautiful and vibrant green umami powdered tea from Japan. Matcha, like all other teas, comes from the same tea plant, the camellia sinensis which produces green, white, yellow, oolong, black and pu-erh tea. There are differences, obviously, that make matcha much more different than its counterparts. Matcha is shade-grown over the course of several weeks. Once it is harvested, typically in May, the tea leaves are then stone-ground into a delicate powder. As it gets closer to harvesting time, farmers will decrease the shade of the tea leaves even more to allow for increased amounts of both chlorophyll and amino acids to be present in the final product which gives matcha its intense umami flavor profile and preserves the nutrients this wonderous plant gives to us. Due to whole tea leaves being ground down, it is especially important to choose organic matcha over conventional types. Please note matcha should be brilliant in color and taste sweet. Matcha should never be greenish brown in color and taste bitter. Organic matcha breathes life and vitality into those who consume it. It has a high concentration of antioxidants, it is a clean sustainable source of caffeine, and it helps boost brain function.
Is Tea Sustainable?
Conventional tea farming practices are wreaking havoc on ecosystems. Tea is grown in high elevation areas, and the pesticides often damage the areas surrounding it. Even worse, the runoff falls onto areas of lower elevation which over-fertilizing other crops, kill off the water and land plants, animals, and fungi, as well as contaminate areas with heavy metals. Non-organic tea is not sustainable.
How to Make Sure Your Tea is Top-Quality
It is best to look for small tea brands as they are most likely to care about the finished product. Look for products that are certified organic and tested by 3rd party labs to ensure they are free from heavy metals, radiation, and other chemicals (remember, organic does not certify this).
Generally, loose leaf tea is less likely to have fillers rather than tea bags. Even organic tea can be adulterated, so read the labels and ingredients before making a decision. Natural (or artificial) flavor is always a red flag that you’re not getting 100% only tea and herbs.
Our Favorite Organic Tea Brands
Looking for a tea brand that you can trust to bring you delicious steeped goodness without the toxins? Here are some of our favorite brands.
Inspired by the traditionally handcrafted teas of Asia, Rishi brings tea that’s organic, sustainable, ethical, and historically inspired. Their tea is free from all agrochemicals. All of Rishi’s tea is sourced in person and can be traced back to the original farm. Like wine, tea has a unique pull to the land from which it comes. Rishi is able to import tea that rarely leaves local towns and countries, resulting in a tea that only 2% of the global tea production can match in quality and origin.
Teatulia is B-Corp certified (social & environmental responsibility), fair trade certified, and rainforest alliance certified. The company’s mission is to positively impact all of its stakeholders and externalities from garden to cup/glass/can, leaving the world better than they found it. They are community-driven, they offer single garden direct organic teas, their farming is regenerative, and there are no pesticides, machinery, or unnatural irrigation in the cultivation of their teas. Mother Nature is simply at work. The Teatulia Cooperative first started as a dairy cooperative in order to support Bangladesh’s first and only organic tea garden, known as the Teatulia Tea Garden. It is located in the very northern tip of Bangladesh and was founded in 2000 to improve the lives in this remote and neglected region through enterprise. Today, the cooperative provides education through their children education and literacy programs as well as their team cooperative programs, organic farming programs, cattle lending program and health initiatives.
Housed in terracotta, Cocoon Tea Artisans preserve the health benefits of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals with their tins. The tea is packed in unique pyramid-shaped bags that protect the leaves inside. The brand is certified organic and pesticide-free. Cocoon Tea Artisans love sourcing the best of the best and creating blends to match.
Tealeaves go beyond organic when it comes to tea. Its luxurious blends are often supplied to the Four Seasons Hotels and Michelin-star chefs. The ingredients are sourced from sustainable farms, and they focus on promoting biodiversity through charitable donations and sourcing. Tealeaves is also on a mission to have a zero-waste supply chain and they’re switching all their packing to home compostable or recyclable material.
Numi was founded by a brother and sister team and has since grown into a global movement for tea, sustainability, and charitable donations. A certified B Corp, Numi is committed to creating a company that values every employee – and farmer. They’re certified organic and non-GMO and have verified fair labor as well as fair trade certification. The Numi Foundation is committed to doing good and has supported water access and food relief, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. All of Numi’s tea can be traced to the original farm, and they use no added flavors, natural or otherwise.
After getting a download on why choosing organic tea is so important for not only your health, but also for the environment, the farmers who tend to this plant, and the tea brands that bring forth the best in organic tea worldwide, which brand and blend will you try next? Let us know in the comments below!