These Teas are Toxin-Free

Could your tea be steeped in something toxic? Yes—unless you choose the right type.

tea

There’s nothing like relaxing with a hot cup of tea in your favorite mug. And tea leaves have been shown to reduce the risks of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s; help lower cholesterol, and improve mental focus. But it turns out that some tea bags aren’t so heart-warming.

Certain ones are treated with epichlorohydrin, a plastic that helps to keep the bags from breaking. The problem is that epichlorohydrin can potentially break down in water…and be released into your drink. The EPA says drinking water with high levels of epichlorohydrin, over a long period of time, could cause stomach problems and an increased risk of cancer. For perspective: The EPA allows up to 20 parts per million in drinking water, and epichlorohydrin-containing tea bags may include 50 parts per billion. Nonetheless, the EPA’s stated current goal is zero parts. But don’t panic! Try these toxin-free teas:

Bagged organic tea. The following are all free of epichlorohydrin, as well as pesticides and artificial flavorings:

  • Numi Tea. Confirms a company rep, “Our teas are pesticide-free and non-GMO verified, and our tea bags are made from manila hemp cellulose, and free of epichlorohydrin. The tags are made from 100% recycled material and soy-based inks.”
  • Rishi Tea. Rishi’s certified organic teas are bagged with PLA—polylactic acid, creating “silken” bags. Unlike other “silky” bags, which can be made with PET plastic, these are corn- and potato starch-based. Adds Assistant Tea Buyer Jeff Champeau, “Our Natural Fiber Loose Leaf Tea Filters are made without glue or any other binding agent.”
  • EDEN OrganicConfirms company rep Wendy Esko, “The bags are made from oxygen washed manila fibers with no polluting whiteners used. Once filled, the bags are crimped and sealed with 100% cotton string. No staples, plastics, or glue are ever used.”
  • Organic Stash. “The filter paper used for Stash Tea bags is made from 100% cellulose fibers (wood) and is made to appear white by forcing air between the fibers. No bleach is used,” explains Stash’s website. “The filter paper is not coated with the compound called epichlorohydrin, and does not contain any free epichlorohydrin.”
  • Choice Organic Teas. One of the company’s consumer relations experts, Nia, assured Clean Plates that all Choice Teas are not only organic but free of epichlorohydrin.
  • Two Leaves organic teas. Says a company rep, “We pride ourselves on being pesticide-free as well as on having corn-based tea sachets.” The website adds, “Our sachets are made of biodegradable cornstarch based nylon, not petroleum based nylon.”
  • Organic Tazo“We’ve checked with our teabag suppliers,” says a spokesperson for Starbucks (Tazo’s owner), “and they have confirmed that the only teabags we sell (our Tazo sachets or paper filterbags) do not use epichlorohydrin.”
  • Organic Traditional Medicinals. We’ve confirmed that this brand is epichlorohydrin-free. From Traditional Medicinals’ website: “Our herbal teas are put into unbleached tea bags made from abacá (Musa textilis), also sometimes known as manila hemp. The tea bags are attached with aluminum staple wire to teabag string made of raw cotton (Gossypium spp.) and a paper tea tag.”
  • Organic Yogi Teas. Writes a Yogi Tea rep, “We currently use a non-heat sealable filtration paper made from a select blend of high quality manila hemp (abaca) fibers and wood pulp. The filtration paper does not contain epichlorohydrin, nor plastic or polypropylene. It is oxygen bleached using a natural process that is completely free of chemicals or toxins, including dioxin.”

Bagged conventional tea.

  • Tetley Black & Green tea. Tetley’s new Black & Green (a blend of both varieties) uses Perflo paper bags, which are free of epichlorohydrin. The tea is also free of pesticides.

Loose organic tea. By straining your own instead of paying for packaging, you’ll get more cups for your bucks. A to-go tea strainer like the VALERY makes it easy.

  • Teanzo 1856. “We use only natural and organic flavors and ingredients. Nothing artificial,” says founder Meena Kapur.
  • California Tea House. Says co-founder Will Bailey, “All of our teas are free of pesticides and artificial flavors and organically grown, and many of our teas are USDA certified organic.”
  • Upton Tea Imports. The company offers a host of high-grade, organic varieties (use the “search” box to find the organic blends).

That’s safe-tea.

Know more toxin-free teas? Leave them in the comments!

Photo by englishphotographer

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76 thoughts on “These Teas are Toxin-Free

    • @holly – We just heard back from Yogi Tea! They write: “Please be assured that at Yogi, consumer health and safety is our highest priority and we are extremely selective with our suppliers. We currently use a non-heat sealable filtration paper made from a select blend of high quality manila hemp (abaca) fibers and wood pulp. The filtration paper does not contain epichlorohydrin, nor plastic or polypropylene. It is oxygen bleached using a natural process that is completely free of chemicals or toxins, including dioxin.

      In addition, our tea bag filtration paper does not contain GMOs, gluten, corn nor any of the eight FDA recognized allergens (tree nuts, peanuts, milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat or soybeans).”

    • @holly – Mighty Leaf asked not to be included in this article. However, “off the record,” we were told that “The bags are plant-based, made out of corn,” and that a third of their teas are organic. I would have liked to include them since they make some of my favorite teas. Choose their organic varieties, and you should be fine!

      @jacqueline – According to Yogi Tea’s Facebook page, the papers do NOT contain epichlorohydrin. Our findings from a year ago showed that this wasn’t always the case, so we’re thrilled to know that now, the teas are toxin-free! https://www.facebook.com/yogiproducts/posts/10151517078854263

      • According to http://foodbabe.com/2013/08/21/do-you-know-whats-really-in-your-tea/ the chart on this link reflects Non-GMO teas, organic teas, and unsafe tea bag materials. Sorry to report that Mighty Leaf is one of the worst offenders. Their teas reflect as being genetically engineered, with some of the tea bags being the most toxic :( Bye, bye Mighty Leaf, and sachet bags in general (genetically engineered corn, or plastic-YUK!).

      • According to Trader Joe’s website all items with the Trader Joe’s labels are non-GMO. This is a step in the right direction. You will need to look at ingredient lists to see if item is organic, and should do so with all food and beverage items, if you don’t want to be a food victim.

        • I asked Trader Joe’s staff the other day if their tea bags were bleached, and they made a call to consumer affairs when the office opened to check. They called me back with the report that they are not bleached, but made of something I now can’t remember. It satisfied me at the time because I’ve seen similar language on other products that pass this health test. I didn’t ask about epichlorohydrin though.

    • I read in an article yest. That celestial seasonings has received two letters from the FDA for having high a high pesticide count in their tea. I guess try to stay organic and find teas that are confirmed on the clean list. I had to throw away most all of my tea after reading the article. Very disappointing.

    • @Ishrana – We just heard back from Organic India, makers of Tulsi Tea. They write: “We do believe they are [epichlorohydrin-free] – the manufacturer assures us, yet we are having tests done soon and will let you know the results as soon as we know.”

  1. From Traditional Medicinals’ website: “Our herbal teas are put into unbleached tea bags made from abacá (Musa textilis), also sometimes known as manila hemp. The tea bags are attached with aluminum staple wire to teabag string made of raw cotton (Gossypium spp.) and a paper tea tag.” We also have a call in with them to confirm that the bags are epichlorohydrin-free. The reason we didn’t initially include the brand in this roundup is because the majority of their teas are actually herbal tisanes (though the brand does offer two green teas).

  2. @Tina – It is always best to check directly with the company; sourcing is constantly changing, as we learned while researching this story, and more and more tea companies are getting rid of epichlorohydrin-containing papers.

  3. Update: I’ve removed Twinings from the epichlorohydrin-free list after receiving additional information from the company. A rep stated that all of Twinings teas are “made from abacá fibers [banana leaves], bleach-free and dioxin-free.”

    However, we received this email from Twinings Direct: “I have spoken to our technical team, who have advised me that Twinings use tea bag paper that contains levels of epichlorohydrin that are non-detectable, at less than 50mg/kg (i.e. 50 parts per billion).”

    • @Mo – I just corresponded with Steve Smith, creator of Smith Teas, and he confirmed that the teas are epichlorohydrin-free.

  4. What about lead or arsenic in teas? A lot of tea comes from China or India, and given the high level of pollution there, I am now concerned about contamination of my tea – whether organic or not. Is anything known? thanks.

  5. What about the cotton strings? Are they made with organic cotton? Because non-organic cotton is sprayed with A LOT of ARSENIC! And other toxic pesticides. What a lovely thing thing to steep in our tea!

    • Thanks, Susan. Many of these teas have no strings. However, my understanding is that the companies that have done the work of sourcing organic teas and filter papers have also been careful to keep all components organic and/or toxin-free.

  6. Thank you SO much for this article. I drink tons of tea and this was eye opening and incredibly helpful. Keep up the good work of this kind of analysis – so very much appreciated!!

  7. Hi, I was just curious to see if you heard anything back from
    Trader Joes? Please let us know if so. Thank you so much for this
    very helpful information!

      • Actually, Good Earth does make organic versions of their teas. I am waiting for a response from them regarding the composition of their teabags.

  8. Thank you so much for this great information. Target now sells an organic line called Simply Balanced. Obviously the tea is organic, but how can I get information on whether the tea bags contain epichlorohydrin?

  9. I like Prince of Peace organic teas, and I received this response from them regarding their tea bags:
    We have done a lab test specially on epichlorohydrin . The test report confirms that all Prince of Peace Tea bags do not contain any epichlorohydrin.

    Our organic tea bags are all in paper. Each tea bag is in an envelope made of paper. The paper bag which contains the tea leaves is made in food filtration paper. They are manufactured in compliance with Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) appropriately for the production of direct food contact filtration papers. These papers comply with the requirements of the FDA and other world Food Safety regulators. The filtration paper for our “Organic” line is NOT bleached.

  10. Does anyone know if Melitta brand tea filters contain epichlorohydrin? I use them for my loose tea herbs but not sure if the paper filters contain this.

  11. You say “Organic Tazo” above and that the bags are verified free of epichlorohydrin, but my Tazo box and the Tazo website never mention being organic. So may they still have pesticides / artificial/”natural” flavours added in the actual tea ingredients?

    • Not all of Tazo teas are organic but they have an organic line which you can find on their website. It is true that the non-organic varieties can have pesticides etc. in the actual tea ingredients.

  12. I called Trader Joe’s corporate office today and they assured me that none of their label name tea products contain the chemical epochlorohydrin. Have you had the same response?

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  14. Jennifer,
    Thank you so much for the info on Trader Joe’s brand teas. I have been drinking TJ’s Earl Grey for years, I am somewhat relieved now.

  15. Hi…does anyone know anything about ,”Barry’s Irish Teas”,?
    and I’m almost certain that Stash Teas tea bags are bleached, or contain the chemical,epichlorohydrin. If I remember correctly,the info is on their site and it also claims that there is no harmful glue used to seal the bags. As far as pesticide use,certified organic is always the safest bet.

  16. just realized that there is already an answer in regards to Stash Teas. Didn’t mean to repeat info unnecessarily ;)
    any info on Barry’s Irish tea would be greatly appreciated.

  17. What can you tell me about the following companies vis-a-vis if they bleach or not – Uncle Lee’s Teas & Herbaria, the latter being a Hungarian company. Also, is oxygen bleaching an safer than more traditional bleaching methods, re: chlorine?

    Thank you

  18. Hi, what about Taylors of Harrowgate tea bag Yorkshire tea? I can’t seem to find any info on epichlorohydrin in this product.
    Also, are there any issues with ‘glue’ used in some teabags to attach the string to the bag??
    Thanks!

  19. Rishi -“these are corn- and potato starch-based.” Any info about the corn being GMO-free in the empty sachets? I use their Loose leaf tea bags with various organic loose-leaf teas, and was wondering about this. Thanks for the work you are doing. =) Blessings In Him, Sonia

  20. Ahmad Tea is also safe.
    They responded to an email of mine stating: “our principal filter paper supplier has confirmed that our tea bags do not contain any epichlorohydrin. Furthermore, our paper supplier has stated that they, ‘regularly test samples of our papers for compliance at an external state registered independent laboratory which involves an extensive set of tests to verify compliance with the legal requirements and good practice guidelines. These tests confirm that we are fully compliant with all the legal requirements and good practice guidelines for papers which are in direct contact with food.’

  21. Hi this is the reply I received from the Bigelow Tea Company after asking if their teas contain GMO’s or if there is epichlorohydrin in their tea bags.

    Thanks for reaching out to us directly with your inquiry about GMO’s in our Organic Green Tea. All of our Teas, Herbs, and Spices are non-GMO and we work closely with our trusted suppliers to ensure this. Our suppliers have a system of traceability in place for all of their products to ensure that all of our teas, herbs and ingredients have met all requirements pertaining to a non-GMO item. We are in the process of changing our packaging to have a non-GMO designation on it, including working with the non-GMO Project to understand, as does our suppliers, the process they require in order to use their logo and certification. In the future, as we incorporate the packaging changes, you will be able to see this on our products.

    Our teabags are made from abaca fibers and wood pulp and is 100% biodegradable. It is an oxygenated process which leaves the paper dioxin and chlorine free. There is no epichlorohydrin contained in our tea bag paper (which we have confirmed consistently over many years of independent lab testing).

    Cordially,
    Kathy Pangrac
    Consumer Service Supervisor

    • I am an independent consultant for Steeped Tea. Steeped Tea follows strict standards for food safety set out by 3 different government organizations: Canada, US and the European Union. Our tea meets all three government bodies’ regulations because our tea is imported and consumed in all three markets. Steeped Tea’s affiliation with the Ethical Tea Partnership is our key to making sure that our supplier tea farms follow a strict control of any agrochemicals they use. Steeped Tea uses only natural ingredients. Natural flavors are exactly that – flavors extracted from nature without chemical manipulation. Our silk bags are corn-based and not plastic. This ensures that no leaching of any plastic will ever occur. The silk bags also do not use any adhesives.

  22. Do you know about the pyramid infuser bags that Revolution brand teas utilize? I have asked them on Facebook, and if I don’t get a reply will call or email the company, but was just wondering if anyone already knew.

  23. Thanks for very useful information. I would like to have some information about the amount of lead and pesticide in different brands of teas. Are organic teas lead and pesticide free? What about the brands that have USDA certified? I appreciate any comments and information.

  24. The CBC’s Marketplace just tested 10 teas for toxins and I’m sorry to tell you that Tetley Black and Green teas tested for a pile of toxins and pesticides. The company that owns Tetley fluffed it off saying it was within the accepted limits allowed in Canada. No one should be buying Tetley imho for a) the toxins and b) the fact that they act like we shouldnt care there’s pesticide all over their tea. You can find Marketplace’s episode at the CBC website or google Tetley and pesticide.

  25. Does anyone know if coffee filters are epichlorohydrin free? I would think they would be since they do not need to be sealed, just crimped or folded.

    I use chemex and Hario, I would think they are epichlorohydrin free.

    Any one know for sure?

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