Unexpected objects found in loose leaf teas

A recent case

Dragon Well green teaWe have had a recent complaint from a customer who was genuinely upset because she found a couples of small sticks in the premium grade Dragon Well tea she purchased from us (shown in the image). She was upset because she understood the premium grade Dragon Well tea should only contain tip leaves, but not twigs – which is in the tea description. It took me quite some effort, inspections and sampling to convince her that the twigs are not part of the composition of the tea, but mixed in by accident which is not uncommon for a manually handled agricultural product like tea.

The cause

We are all aware that different categories of teas, green tea, white tea, Oolong tea, black tea, Pu-erh tea/Hei Cha and jasmine tea are processed differently. What is in common is that the premium loose teas are mostly handmade, in multiple stages and often carried out in the villages of the tea farmers with basic equipment. With manual work as such, very step and stage has the potential for some unwanted objects ‘to join in’.
The following link gives a glimpse of how manual it is to make a Pu-erh tea. The entire process of making a loose tea can take up days (some years if taking into account the after production storage period for the purpose of aging) with continuous manual involvement.

For those who have never witnessed an actual tea processing, finding a piece of human hair in the tea can certainly cause a panic which is understandable. For someone like me however who grew up with a tea culture like shown in the video clip, it is actually not so scary as I understand even with the best attempt by the tea farmers to avoid this, the chance of a piece hair fallen into the tea is rather high. For example, it is not really practical to expect the tea farms to ware factory caps when plucking the tea leaves in the tea fields or in the wild for teas like Pu-erh. If any human hair fell and mixed with tea leaves, unless it is spotted during the following stages and removed, it will show up when the tea is consumed. This is not to justify the existence of these foreign objects, but to explain how they happened.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QE-aXKxPagY

Some examples of the foreign objects

Benign ones: 

  • Leaves of different grades, for example odd large old leaves
  • Tea twigs
  • Bamboo/straw pieces
  • Corn kernels
  • Tea flower seeds

More severe ones:

  • Small screws
  • Small insects
  • Small feathers
  • Human hair
  • Tarpaulin fabric

How to minimise the potential harm

To start, the potential harm imposed by these objects are rather low mainly because we only consume the tea brew but not digesting the tea leave. We also always advise the following when preparing a tea brew:

  • Inspect the dry tea leaves before adding to the tea vessel
  • Rinse the tea leaves with hot water before brewing, especially those that are aged such as Pu-erh tea and Hei Cha

Final note: 

  1. Some teas are more likely than the others to have these objects discovered. For example, there are regular reports of foreign objects found in Pu-erh cakes or bricks, largely due to the traditional processing methods and practices. 
  2. The objects are not indicative of the quality grade of the teas. There might have been more attention paid to the exclusive grade tea products, but the potential of discovery of foreign objects still exists. 
  3. The Chinese have consumed their teas exactly the same way for a long history. There is more concern caused the synthetic materials used in the agriculture - hazard caused by the foreign objects is almost unheard of. 

 

 

Last modified onFriday, 26 July 2019 13:38
En Jie Rudd

The founder and owner of Valley Green Tea

I grew up in the Fu-Jian Province – the tea country of China. Tea drinking has been part of our daily life for as long as I can remember.

While I was working as a public health researcher a few years ago, I read many research reports conducted over the last 30 years about the health benefits of green tea in fighting certain life style related challenges such as cancer, obesity, cardio-vascular and inflammatory diseases etc.

From my research, I realised there is a significant gap between what people consume (i.e. commercial tea bags) for assumed health benefits and the actual benefits that have been enjoyed by the Chinese for a long history from the premium loose leaf teas.

As well as being potentially beneficial to health, the premium loose teas (green tea being the biggest group) are most enjoyable beverages with a fascinating history, colourful culture and holistically dynamic in every aspect.

It is my passion to share, not only the products, but also the whole culture dynamics around the premium teas with the tea enthusiasts, here in Australia and around the world.

Valley Green Tea currently supplis a diverse range of premium loose teas to the tea drinking community that suit all tastes and all cultures and to pass on a deep understanding of the history and benefits of this wonder beverage.

Website: https://www.valleygreentea.com.au

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