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What Is the Difference Between Regular Tea and Organic Tea?
So you're interested in organic tea, but understandably, you've got questions! Is it really better than normal tea? Am I just spending extra on the word "organic"? Will it actually make a difference worth investing in? What is the difference between organic and conventional tea, anyway?
What Is Organic Tea?
Let's start with organic tea farming.
Organic tea production on organic tea farms is reliant on the natural breakdown of organic matter, using techniques such as composting which replaces nutrients taken from the soil by previous tea crops. Nutrients are naturally produced by this process throughout the tea growing season. This process feeds the soil, which then feeds the crop.
Organic tea farms, which are often small tea farms, work in harmony with local conditions, supporting biodiversity and adapting to the natural cycles of the land.
What is Regular Tea?
Regular, normal, or conventional tea farming, on the other hand, use fertilizer, pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides to stop crops from being destroyed by unwanted pests. Conventional tea plantations maximize production in the short term but damage these usually large organic tea farms in the long term.
Is Regular Tea That Much Worse Than Organic Tea?
Absolutely! Conventional tea processing has a devastating trifold impact - it has an impact on the health of the growers, the health of the planet, and the health of the consumer - you.
Let's start with the health of the growers:
The reality is that the vast majority of the world's supply of tea comes from poorer communities with poor government regulation around supporting the health and safety of growers. Education in these regions is often lacking which means little is known about the importance of protection from harmful substances used in growing and harvesting tea. Where protection exists, it may not be to a suitable standard and lack of knowledge results in only a minority of workers using protective gear.
Tea farmers and field workers often spray crops unmasked and without gloves or other protective gear. Pesticide poisoning is common, which causes terrible symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, itching, burning, diarrhea and muscle pain, and at the extreme end, infertility and lives lost to cancer.
And What about the Health of the Planet?
Let's look at conventionally grown tea in Asia. Tea has been described as one of the most environmentally devastating crops in Asia. As tea, including oolong tea, green and black tea is usually grown at higher elevations, not only do the chemical tea farming methods damage the local ecosystem, the pesticides run down the mountains and hills and have a devastating impact on other farms, rivers, forests, and even the ocean. These pesticides often contain heavy metals which also contaminate the soil and water elsewhere. Over time, the fertilizers that are washed down from the mountains kill many ocean and river species.
The use of pesticides also causes a significant imbalance in the local ecosystem, killing harmful bugs, insects and beneficial organisms that take longer to get re-established in the ecosystem. Often only a small amount of damaging species is left, which then increases rapidly and results in the need for a secondary application of chemicals to deal with the issue. Soil becomes hardened due to long term fertilizer use, which means more chemicals are required resulting in a vicious downward spiral into a chemical dependency of the land.
Let's Not Forget about the Health of the Consumer (You)
Would you like some pesticides with your cup of tea? The mind boggles at the long term impact of drinking non-organic tea when you consider the health impact on tea growers that spray their tea with pesticides. While it's true that some pesticides and fertilizers are removed during processing, many of these chemicals are water-soluble, which means they end up straight in your cup of tea. And unlike fresh fruit and vegetables, which you can clean before consuming, tea leaves are too small to wash well, so they are left to soak with their pesticides as soon as you add boiling water (and just because you are drinking iced tea, doesn't mean you are exempt!). It has even been found that pesticide-contaminated tea does more harm than good and can actually decrease, rather than increase lifespan.
Is It Worth Buying Organic Tea?
Or maybe the question should be, is it worth drinking organic tea? That question can now only be answered by you!
As for us, we've always been convinced that organic is worth every penny. Not only does organic tea farming produce higher-quality teas, but it's also so much better for you! Whether you enjoy iced tea or hot tea, or if you prefer loose leaf tea or tea bags, we believe drinking organic tea is best. That's why at Tielka, we are so passionate about only including organic tea and herbal tea in the collection, as both loose leaf and plastic-free tea bags, because we strongly believe in the health of the planet, the tea growers and you.