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Canton Tea and Pesticides

by on May 28th, 2015

How Canton Tea is guaranteed to be safe



In August 2014, Greenpeace published a damning report on the level of pesticides found in tea exported from China and India by big, well known brands. What they found was shocking – many of the teas contained hazardous banned chemicals and dangerous toxins. They found that ‘over half of the samples contained pesticides that are ‘unapproved’ for use in tea cultivation or which were present in excess of the recommended limits’. They even found DDT, which has been banned from agriculture in India since 1989.


The use of illegal and high levels of pesticides puts the tea workers at risk: ‘it has been estimated that globally there are between one and five million pesticide poisonings each year resulting in some 20,000 fatalities among agricultural workers’.


Less clear are the effects on consumers: ‘the total health impact of pesticide use is likely to be much wider and more complex since the impact of long-term lower level exposure is much more poorly documented’. Many believe that these pesticides enter the food chain and endanger health, perhaps as residue amounts in the end tea product, which many people may be consuming over long periods of time.



Canton Tea Co is far removed from the agribusiness world of a low cost, high yield product where tea is produced on an industrial scale and exported as a cheap commodity.


It is important to emphasise that our teas are slow grown, highly valued and produced on a small scale often based on ancient and traditional practices. They are grown without pesticides or with a minimum amount of pesticide – and always well within the European limits for maximum residue levels.  Our supply chain is transparent – we go direct to the source, to the traditional farms we have known for many years and with whom we build long term relationships.  We submit all our teas to tests before they come into the UK.



Most of the tea produced in China is sold within China itself where much higher MRLs (maximum residue levels) are allowed- meaning they can use more pesticide on tea for the domestic market. Tea for export must comply with EU regulations on MRLs.


At Canton, we only buy Chinese tea that is EU certified. These teas are all tested before they leave China by the company Eurofins. If they don’t pass the MRL test, they don’t leave.



Here are some examples of the gardens where we buy our tea. They are a testament to the new culture of tea production, which as usual is a return to the old and traditional practices.



The organic Gossainbarie Estate follows the practice of Vrikshayurveda – an ancient Indian science of Agriculture. The estate uses only natural and sustainable organic resources to fertilise the plants, natural compost with no chemicals, and its factory is powered by solar energy. Their aim is to provide a new model of tea farm, to inspire other tea farms across Assam and even the whole of India, to show them that they don’t need chemical pesticides and can even improve their profits by going completely organic.



Seeyok is an organic, biodynamic garden near the border of Nepal. It faces the beautiful Rongbong valley and is sheltered by the majestic Kangchenjunga Mountain. Seeyok produces unique and innovative teas from this steep garden with elevations of up to 5900 feet.  After violent floods destroyed the original tea factory, it has been rebuilt in 1980 with particular attention being paid to health and food safety (HACCP and ISO 9000 certifications). The biodynamic techniques applied in this garden are a further testimony to the managers’ strong beliefs in a holistic agricultural and environmental approach. Seeyok’s second flush Darjeeling is a significant part of our new Canton Darjeeling.



Oriental Beauty oolong tea, far from using chemicals to destroy any insects that might take a fancy to the leaves, relies on an insect in its production process. It is an example of nature and man working together.  The farmer only picks the tea once the tea jassid – a small cricket – has nibbled the edges of the leaves. This causes the plant to release an enzyme to defend itself, which together with the hint of oxidation which develops around the leaf edges, transforms the flavour of the tea into something wonderful. Our Oriental Beauty is grown by Mr. Shi Wen Hsu in Miaoli, Taiwan.

  1. Yulia Vjushkova says: