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Does Evil Lurk In The Heart Of Your Green Tea?

Does Evil Lurk In The Heart Of Your Green Tea?
Macha, Taylor Gabriela via Flickr

Is any food sacred? We recently got worked up about the seriously bad environmental consequences of the mass production of Greek yogurt, the de rigueur Whole Foods purchase. Now we find out that that most wholesome, nutritionally beneficent beverage–green tea–might not be as innocent as we thought.

Citing a report by ConsumerLab.com, the New York Times reports:

Some bottled varieties appear to be little more than sugar water, containing little of the antioxidants that have given the beverage its good name. And some green tea leaves, particularly those from China, are contaminated with lead, though the metal does not appear to leach out during the brewing process.

The study examined the nutritional contents of bottled green tea by major brands, as well as loose tea and tea bags, finding wide variation in the amount of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)–the antioxidant thought to give green tea many healthful attributes–present in different products. Some of the report’s findings are more practical than cautionary. For example, bottled products like Diet Snapple Green Tea were shown to have very little EGCG, while inexpensive tea bag brands like Lipton were a cost-effective way to get EGCGs.

But there’s a downside to those cheaper teas: “The leaves in the Lipton and Bigelow tea bags contained 1.25 to 2.5 micrograms of lead per serving. The leaves from Teavana (a more expensive brad), however, did not contain measurable amounts,” reports the Times.

Luckily for tea-lovers, that lead mostly stays with the tea and doesn’t make its way into the hot beverage. According to Tod Cooperman, the doctor who runs ConsumerLab.com “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.”ZS