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What's really in your green tea?

Study finds that not all brands pack the much-touted benefits.

By Sally Wadyka May 30, 2013 9:53PM

To be honest, I’ve never been a big fan of green tea. But I occasionally drink it anyway since I’m always hearing about how healthy it is. The conventional wisdom is that it’s absolutely packed with antioxidants, and thus practically guaranteed to help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and lots of other bad things. Whether I like the taste or not, I certainly feel very virtuous every time I pour a cup of it.

However, it’s possible that the tea I've been drinking is actually doing nothing good for my health -- and maybe even has the potential to do some harm. The latest news shows that not all green teas are created equal. A report just released by an independent laboratory found that some teas do indeed contain high levels of the good-for-you antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG for short), while others have virtually none of it. More worrying, ConsumerLab.com, the lab that did the tea analysis, found that some green tea leaves are actually contaminated with lead.

The lab conducted four phases of testing -- looking at the EGCG levels in bottled iced green teas, loose tea leaves, tea bags, and then also tested for lead content in green tea leaves. They found wide variations in the amount of EGCG in tea bags, loose tea leaves and bottled iced teas -- from just 4 milligrams per serving, up to 86 milligrams per serving.

Some brands did not fare well in the testing. Diet Snapple Green Tea showed barely a trace of those healthy EGCGs. And while Honest Tea’s Green Tea With Honey did have some EGCG, the lab found that it contained only about 60 percent of what the label claimed (plus, a serving of this bottled iced tea also packs a whopping 18 grams of sugar).

 Tea bags from Lipton and Bigelow turned out to both be worthwhile (and relatively inexpensive) sources of potent antioxidants. But they are also carrying something possibly not so healthy. The lab found that both brands’ bags contained 1.25 to 2.5 milligrams of lead per serving. Apparently, industrial pollution in places like China (where much of this tea is sourced) can lead to increased lead levels in plants. As worrying as that sounds, however, the analysts found that even after brewing, the resulting tea contained little, if any, lead (seems that the bag filters out the danger).

So I guess I won’t necessarily stop drinking green tea on occasion, but I’ll no longer feel terribly guilty if I go for a latte instead.

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May 30, 2013 11:27PM
it would have been nice if you could tell us which brand is better. how about twinings, yogi? are they better than lipton or bigelow?
May 31, 2013 12:20AM
Sure would be NICE to have a FRACKING LIST, How people get paid to write these articles I'll never know....YOU'RE FIRED!
May 31, 2013 1:00AM
Article is useless.  Are these the only brands tested?   What about the ones not grown in China?
May 31, 2013 12:42AM
I agree-please tell us WHICH brands are the best for anti-oxidants???? I use YOGI and love it.
May 31, 2013 12:46AM

What did you really inform the consumer/user about? If your going to report and really help people, how about the basics! "Who-What-When-Where and Why" or are you getting favors from (Lipton and Bigelow)? By the way all tea's do not come from China!


How to grow a “green tea plant”


If you have a garden (and some room left), plant it in a well-drained, sandy soil and in either full or part shade for the best result. If you want to grow the plant in a container, add some moss to the potting mix and occasionally add fertilizer. When it’s hot outside water the plant frequently to keep the soil moisturized.

After waiting for ages (three years if you did grow it from the seed) the leaves are ready to be plucked. When doing this, pick the top three leaves and buds of a growing tip; these are the youngest tea leaves and buds which are used for green tea. You can harvest every ten days during the growing season for a total of 7-10 pickings.


Leave them to dry, in the shade, for several hours.


Once dry, you can either steam the leaves from the so-called green tea plant for about a minute or heat them in a pan to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (or 260 degrees Celsius) for 15 minutes. A third way is to roast them in a pan for two minutes which will provide a different flavor to green tea. Make sure you keep the pan moving to prevent burning.


The next step is to dry the leaves by placing them in an oven at a maximum of 250 degrees Fahrenheit (or 120 degrees Celsius) for about 20 minutes.


Finally, put the dried leaves in an air-tight container and store it in a cool and dark place.

May 31, 2013 1:33AM
 I would also like to know more about the study or do a real study and include Tazo, Good Earth, and my favorite; Stash green tea with Mangosteen, which i drink anywhere from four to six bags a day of this.  My husband drinks the  first two i mentioned, so love to see all the facts on the different brands like so many others have requested.
May 31, 2013 12:49AM
Do what I do and buy organic green tea.  Then you should be avoiding the contaminants and probably getting the full dose of EGCG.
May 31, 2013 1:21AM
I drink green tea because I love the taste, not because of the so called benefits.
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