The amazing benefits of Matcha Green Tea

We’ve all read and heard about the health benefits of drinking herbal and green tea but not many people have heard of Matcha green tea, the superfood that is taking over the world, one green latte at a time. It’s easy to see why it’s becoming a health craze when one cup of Matcha tea is the equivalent of 10 cups of green tea in terms of its nutritional value and antioxidant content!

Matcha tea is the highest quality powdered green tea available. It’s made from the finest leaves picked from the tips of the shade grown Camellia Sinensis plant. The leaves are dried, de-stemmed, de-veined and finally stone ground into a fine, bright green powder.

So, why would one consume Matcha? The benefits let the tea speak for itself…

Here’s 14 benefits of Matcha green tea

  1. Boosts your metabolism, which as part of a healthy diet can assist with weight loss
  2. Boosts your immune system – Matcha has 7 times more Vitamin C content than 1 orange and 10 times the beta-carotene of spinach.
  3. Improves hydration.
  4. It’s great for teeth and gums. Healthy teeth and gums = healthy mind and body. Well that’s what my dentist always told me
  5. Cancer fighting properties provided by Catechin, which are not found in any other food and are 137 times that of regular green tea
  6. Great for your skin and assists with anti-aging
  7. Naturally calming and reduces stress
  8. Strengthens your alertness – although Matcha only has 34mg of caffeine compared with coffee 60mg, its effects last longer and there is no crash.
  9. Improves stamina and fights fatigue.
  10. Naturally detoxifies the body.
  11. Helps with chronic diseases. It contains more antioxidants than goji & acai berries, dark chocolate and spinach. Matcha has a mighty 1300 per gram compared with its nearest super foods acai at 120 and dark chocolate at 20!
  12. Lowers cholesterol.
  13. Lowers blood pressure.
  14. Reduces inflammation and prevents cartilage breakdown.

If those reasons aren’t enough, how about this last one – Matcha replenishes phytonutrients, which to those of us who haven’t just spent weeks researching Matcha, means it helps you recover quickly from a heavy wine session the night before. What’s not to like? It all sounds a little bit too good to be true doesn’t it?


Matcha green tea has been consumed in Japan for well over 1000 years. The Japanese Zen Buddist monks used it as a way of staying calm, alert and awake whilst meditating. It is now a part of the Japanese tea ceremonies and culture.

By : Kate Diete

Tea Worker Grain Subsidies Will Continue

India’s Gauhati High Court on Friday intervened on behalf of two million tea workers by suspending the Central government’s order to stop supplying subsidized grains.

The ruling temporarily permits tea gardens to continue a decades-long practice of providing rice and wheat to workers for a few pennies per kilo. Justice AK Goswami set a Jan. 21 hearing date for a hearing at which the government will present its case.

The suspension was sought by the Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha (ACMS) labor union which represents many of Assam’s 1,928,719 tea laborers, each of whom has received a 6.92 kilogram weekly ration of grain for the past 60 years.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi praised the decision. Gogoi had vigorously opposed the Central government decision to cut off grain subsidies on Jan. 1. He asked for an extension at least until the National Food Security Act can be implemented in Assam. The act provides a subsidy for qualified workers regardless of occupation.

Tea companies are required by law to provide basic foods to workers. Previously the government made available rice, wheat and coarse grains suitable for animal feed at prices much lower than market.

Shipments are scheduled quarterly and the Consultative Committee of Plantations’ Association (CCPA) representing tea companies had already begun buying rations at double the subsidized price.

ACMS named the Government of India, the Government of Assam, the Director of Food and Civil Supplies (Assam) and the Food Corporation of India.

Source: World Tea News via The Shillong Times

Previous World Tea News coverage on this topic: Anger as Tea Worker Food Help Eliminated and Assam Govt Asks to Extend Food Subsidy


Is your biodegradable tea bag really biodegradable? I think not.

Written by Michelle Rabin - Founder & Editor-in-Chief at T Ching

Many years ago, I designed a new tea bag delivery system.  It was aesthetically beautiful, yet simple.  My goal was to provide a product that would enable whole-leaf tea drinkers to bring their tea from home to work or out for dinner – at the time, it was almost impossible to get high-quality whole-leaf tea at any restaurants.  I finally found a bag that worked perfectly, but it was manufactured in Japan.  Despite repeated attempts, I was unable to get information about the material the tea bag was made of.  Because I suspected it contained plastic, I ended up abandoning the project.  Years later, I learned of a “biodegradable” tea bag that was being made for the industry to use with prepackaged tea.  Truth was, at that point, I had founded T Ching and was otherwise engaged.

 Moving from New Jersey to Oregon seven years ago, I’ve embraced the lifestyle of the Pacific Northwest.  I’m one of a growing number of backyard composters and proud to be one.  The problem I’m currently having, however, is that I’ve got dozens of corn-based tea bags sitting in my composter and they’re NOT degrading.  How can that be, you ask?  Grab a cup of tea and listen to this sorry tale of assumptions, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations.

If you haven’t yet noticed, there has been a shift from the first generation of pyramid tea bags – which were beautiful and innovative, but made of nylon – to the reportedly 100% biodegradable corn-based bags.  These bags are derived from corn starch, but are actually PLA (polylactic acid).  You might be familiar with this term as it’s what muscles produce after strenuous exercise.  Here’s where the story heats up.  The term “biodegradable” is legally defined by the FTC – the Federal Trade Commission.  In 1998, they had a pretty vague definition of what it meant to be biodegradable.  Essentially, anything meets the legal definition of biodegradable if it is “degradeable,” which means it can be composted.  As we become more sophisticated in our understanding of composting, we’ve learned that different materials degrade at different rates under different conditions that involve heat, moisture, PH level, and types and numbers of organisms present.  What this really means is that what can be considered compostable is different, depending upon whether you are talking about backyard composting, community composting, or industrial composting.

I was fortunate to speak with David Cornell, the Technical Director of APR (Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers), who was a wealth of information about PLA.  He explained its early roots in dissolvable surgical sutures and how it evolved through different manufacturers in the early 1990‘s from Dow Chemical and Cargil to Natureworks and Soilon.

So how does this apply to the simple “biodegradable” tea bag, you might be wondering?  If you’re a backyard composter, you may already know that the unfortunate reality is that it’s NOT compostable.  From my vantage point, the simple answer seems to be that the manufacturer of these tea bags has misrepresented their product to the tea industry.  From my personal experience, when I learned of the biodegradable bags at the World Tea Expo years ago, I didn’t question for a moment that the bags were biodegradable.  I assumed the manufacturer was providing accurate information.  Even today, this same assumption has been made, even by the big boys in the tea industry.  I’ve had an opportunity to speak with a few of them first hand and they have confirmed my suspicions.

Given my relationship with Charles Cain, one of our most respected guest contributors here at T Ching, it was easy to get the details from him about Adagio’s tea bags.  As always, Charles was honest and straight forward.  Apparently, Adagio made the switch to the corn starch tea bags in an effort to become a more conscientious corporate citizen.  When they later learned that these same bags were not backyard compostable, they made the moral decision to continue to use the product, but remove the term “biodegradable” from their prominent advertising.  As Charles concluded, “These claims were misleading to the customer.”  So Adagio took the high road and continues to use the more expensive corn bag, although they do not claim that the bag is biodegradable.

The next industry leader I spoke with was Steve Smith.  You might remember him as the creator of Stash and then Tazo tea, who now has a small batch boutique tea company in his home state of Portland, Oregon called Smith Tea.  Steve was also very honest when he revealed that he too believed his supplier, Soilon.  In fact, he wasn’t yet prepared to believe me when I told him that his bags were not backyard compostable.  I encouraged him to contact his manufacturer and read the small print in their advertisements.  He chose instead to begin his own experiment of composting right here in Oregon.  Needless to say, I’ll check back with him in a few months, but my money is on the research by APR.  Steve did bring up another issue that I hadn’t even considered.  He spoke about “ideal conditions.”  We’d all like to think that moving to a corn-based product is optimal, but let’s not forget that when we’re talking corn, we’re often talking GMO’s.  Oops.  When I think of biodegradable, I think of “healthy for the environment and the planet.”  I feel the same way about the term “organic.”  Unfortunately, these corn bags are partially made with GMO corn.  Are you aware that we’re the only developed country that allows genetically modified corn to be used in our food supply?  That should be a clue that perhaps this might not be a healthy product to consume.  If push comes to shove, however, I would rather steep my tea in a GMO corn starch product than in a nylon one.  I believe it’s better for the environment and our bodies.

The last tea industry spokesperson I spoke with was Cindy Bigelow.  She is very interested in being part of the “green” initiative.  However, she, too, was unaware of this issue, which was reflective of the advertising on their Novus Tea site.  They proudly spoke of their bags being “100% biodegradable.”  Within a week of my discussion with Cindy, this was removed from their site as they consider how they want to inform the public about these commercially biodegradable tea bags.  Cindy told me that the company actually composts one ton of waste each month and will be starting a campaign to educate the pubic about the benefits of composting.  She also said, “I’m proud that we’re using Soilon, which I believe is a superior product to nylon.”  It is interesting to note that since I began researching this post a month ago, the Japanese manufacturer of Soilon tea bags has removed their “100% biodegradable” claims from their website.

There is no question that these bags are better for the environment than the nylon tea bags, but they still have a way to go.  The good news is that the FTC will be redefining the term “biodegradable” this calendar year and will most likely speak to this distinction.  Once manufacturing companies, like Soilon/Tearoad, are no longer able to legally define their products as biodegradable, it will eliminate a lot of the confusion around this issue within the tea industry.  I must admit to being a bit surprised that even major tea companies believed their manufacturers.  In this litigious age, I would have thought there would be a legal team that verified all product claims, but if Bigelow doesn’t do it, then I guess it just isn’t done.  I want to report that I genuinely believed each person that I spoke to about this issue.  I do not believe they were aware of this issue and chose to pretend otherwise.  They, too, were misled and have taken steps to correct their information.  I am proud to be a part of an industry in which the leaders step up and say “I didn’t know.”  Not one person said they were within their legal rights to state their bag was biodegradable.

The next question is – what would be a better term?  One could consider “biorenewable,” which essentially means “made from plants.”  Or one could state a bag is commercially biodegradable, which would alert the backyard composters not to put it into their composter.  I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions about what word you’d like to see written on our infamous corn starch tea bag boxes.

We Are Moving………Online

After 15 years, in Kitsilano and on South Granville, we are closing our retail location, Teaz Tea Boutique, in January 2015 and moving our business to our website and warehouse facility.  Although the retail doors will be closed, our products will continue to be available for purchase online and over the phone with multiple options for delivery as well as a convenient pickup location.

We have sincerely enjoyed opening our doors each day and inviting our customers into the store/café with the promise of quality tea and a fresh pot of the day's feature flavour.  Each year retail has brought us new energy, ideas, and most of all, a passion to blend unique, delicious, and ethical teas that our customers have grown to love.  That said, it is time for us to transition to a virtual model for business growth and sustainability, and we invite you to join us in this new phase of our company.

All of our sustainable products and quality teas will be available for ordering on our website or over the phone at 604-263-2000.  Our email contacts remain the same - or

We will be offering options for delivery via 2 local couriers and Canada Post.  As well, as of January 2015 we will offer a convenient pickup location from 9 AM to 5 PM Monday to Friday at #202-1128 W. Broadway @ Spruce on the same block as Toys'R'Us and across from Finlandia Pharmacy.

Thank you for your support throughout the years.  We look forward to continuing to provide quality, environmentalism and health in every cup of tea, and we hope you join us in our new virtual location.


Tea, 10 Basic And Interesting Things To Know

Tea, a beverage that is consumed in almost every culture and is enjoyed by millions. Whether you brew it naturally hot or cold, many benefits can be obtained by drinking several cups a day. Almost everyone at some point has had a cup of tea.

Below are ten interesting facts about tea providing folks a helpful insight and fun read about the beverage enjoyed by many. Make your favourite cup and enjoy.

1. Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world. It is only beaten by water. Out of all the sports drinks, sodas, and even coffee, tea still holds (and probably will always hold) second place.

2. All tea, white, green, oolong (aka. wu long or brown tea), and black tea come from the same plant. Camellia sinensis is the mother of tea and gives us the leaves that can become those four main types. It is the processing the leaves go through that determines their classification or "colour".

3. Tea is grown in many countries, but it is India that produces most of the world's exported tea. China produces the second, mostly green and white teas, and Sri Lanka comes in third for total world production. Japan produces a lot of green tea as well, but only around 2% is exported since Japan is a huge green tea drinking nation.

4. Even though there are only four main types of tea, literally thousands of varieties can be made from each. Many factors such as culture, climate, growing conditions, processing, and even time of day of harvesting all make that possible.

5. Tea is not graded by taste or colour, but by leaf size and texture. There are eight main grading categories, with "Finest Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe" (FTGFOP) as one of the highest to "Pekoe" (P) which is the lowest loose leaf grading. The common term "Orange Pekoe" is believed by many folks as being a variety of tea when in fact is just a grading of tea. The "orange" in orange pekoe has nothing to do with oranges or extracts from them either.

6. In America, over 90% of folks brew their tea by tea bag. The majority of the tea is black tea; green and white teas have only started to become popular, but continue to increase in sales every year.

7. There are many health benefits that can be obtained from drinking tea daily. Common benefits are help with certain tumor and cancer prevention, lowered cholesterol, and a healthier heart. But did you know that the properties in tea can also help your skin look younger by destroying free radicals which cause dark spots and wrinkles? Tea has shown to even fight cavities!

8. Black tea is the most common, most exported, and most consumed type of tea in the world, while white tea is the least. Black tea is also the most oxidized of all types, while white tea is the least.

9. Tea contains less caffeine than coffee. A cup of black tea has half the amount of caffeine compared to a cup of coffee, and green tea has less than half the amount of caffeine compared to a cup of black tea.

10. The most important yet basic of tea facts is that brewing tea loose leaf style over tea bags is the best way to obtain true tea flavour and benefits. There are also many more varieties of loose leaf tea which can provide folks a lifetime of drinking enjoyment.

By David Carloni

Why Tea is the New Coffee

By Marine Cole - The Fiscal Times Online

With coffee prices doubling this year, Americans are increasingly turning to tea and a whole industry is flourishing as a result.  Arabica-coffee prices surged amid lower supply due to erratic rainfall, which affected output from Brazil, The Wall Street Journal reported last week. Earlier, the drought was the major disruptor affecting coffee prices.  In recent years, coffee prices have also gone up because of a fungus ravaging crops in Mexico and Central American and beetles attacking plantations around the world.

However, the rising cost of coffee isn’t the only reason tea has become so popular. Americans have been gravitating more toward healthier, which has prompted a whole range of types of tea to emerge, including green tea and white tea. More recently, kombucha, a fermented tea drank cold and usually sold in a bottle, has become a trendy healthy alternative. Kombucha and other ready-to-drink teas in bottles such as iced tea have made it easier for consumers to purchase and drink on the go. This search for healthy alternatives and for convenience has fueled the tea industry in the past 10 years. The total wholesale value of tea sold in the U.S. has grown from under $2 billion dollars 10 years ago to well over $10 billion in 2013, according to the Tea Association of the USA.

While tea has been widely available at coffee shops and grocery stores (mostly in packaged dry tea bags), specialized tea parlors are sprouting everywhere in the country, and the one company that revolutionized the way we drink coffee is now trying to do the same with our tea. Starbucks, which owns Tazo tea brand, purchased Teavana in December 2012, and has already opened 366 stores in 2013, including its first “tea bar” in New York City. Meanwhile Argo tea chain has  been growing steadily for the past decade. It’s also been hard to avoid the thousands of independent teahouses popping up around the country, especially in San Francisco’s Bay Area. Even supermarkets are expanding their tea offering. Last week, Supermarket News reported that some Haggen Food & Pharmacy and Whole Foods stores have added kombucha stations where customers can fill out growlers with their favorite flavored fermented tea.

“While kombucha is still somewhat of a niche trend, its popularity has been growing,” the article said. “SN sister publication New Hope, which focuses on the natural foods industry, calls functional beverages like kombucha one of the next decade’s top food and beverage trends.”

With so much happening in the tea category, the industry is likely to experience another decade of growth.

How A Cup Of Tea Makes You Happier, Healthier, And More Productive

We've steeped ourselves in the research, and the tea leaves read quite auspiciously: tea makes you more alert, more relaxed, and less likely to die tomorrow. These are all good things.

By Drake Baer

Humans have been steeping leaves in hot water for 500,000 years.  Americans drank 79 billion servings of tea last year, amounting to 3.6 billions gallons in total. So clearly, we're quite invested in the hot stuff--as is the freshly tea-pushing Starbucks--but what does it invest in us? New research into the relationship between nutrition and the brain is helping us to understand why tea time is such an essential part of the day--for the components of tea help us be more alert, more relaxed, and healthier over the long term

The right amount of stimulation

As you may have experienced first-hand, caffeine has strong effects on people, most famously acting as a stimulant and reducing drowsiness.

As University of Chicago behavioral pharmacologist Emma Childs explains to us, caffeine increases alertness because it it prevents the sedative adenosine from working as a receptor.

"Adenosine has sedative effects," she says, "so by blocking those effects of adenosine, you're actually increasing central stimulation. You're actually increasing the activity of the central nervous system."

In this way, caffeinated beverages like tea give us more energy, since we're blocking the signal to our brains that we're tired. But don't mistake caffeine for rest: caffeine makes you less tired like an afternoon nap or an extra hour of sleep might, but it won't give you the depth of restoration or consolidation of memory that sleep provides.

The right amount of relaxation

Beyond the caffeine, tea has another killer app, and this one is unique to the leaf: Theanine, which is an amino acid present in black and green tea, especially the matcha, gyokuro, and anji bai cha varieties. A review of the research suggests that theanine reduces anxiety and calms us because it increases the number of inhibitory neurotransmitters (which balance our moods out) and modulates serotonin and dopamine (which makes make us feel good).

Huffington Post writer and naturopathic doctor Natasha Turner captures the causation:

Theanine works by increasing the production of GABA in the brain. Similar to the effects of meditation, it also stimulates alpha brainwaves naturally associated with deep states of relaxation and enhanced mental clarity. l-theanine may increase learning, attention and sensations of pleasure as well. These effects are likely due to the natural dopamine boost brought on by l-theanine. If you are wondering how something with caffeine can actually relax you, the L-theanine balances the stimulatory effects of caffeine so you stay alert without feeling jittery.

And don't forget the oxidation

Tea is full of antioxidants like thearubigins, epicatechins, and catechins, which beyond being really fun to say have mightily excellent outcomes: they protect our cells from free radicals, therefore protecting against blood clots, cancer, or the hardening of the arteries. Additionally, the research suggests that regular tea drinkers have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke, plus lower cholesterol.

In other words, you don't need to be a tasseographist to know that drinking tea predicts a healthy, productive future.

Genetic Engineering Produces Decaffeinated Tea Plants

One thing that is always said about tea is that true tea, made from Camellia sinensis, has caffeine. But what if this wasn’t the case? What if there could be a truly uncaffeinated tea or at least a low-caffeine version? University of New Hampshire neuroscience major Laura Van Beaver is continuing a project to try to make this a reality.

Van Beaver, UNH class of 2016, began work on “Production of Decaffeinated Tea through Genetic Engineering” this summer, through support from the Hamel Center for Undergraduate Research’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship program.

Her research home was the lab of plant biology and genetics professor Subhash Minocha. Van Beaver has been studying the genes in the tea plant, in particular, the gene that directs the production of caffeine. She believes that it may be possible to turn that gene off, blocking that particular biosynthetic pathway. A visiting professor from India initiated the project and two other undergraduate students picked up the efforts.

One of the common complaints about decaffeinated tea is that the flavor suffers due to the process. In addition, concerns are sometimes raised about the impact on antioxidants. Van Beaver believes that the genetically modified tea would not have degraded taste and drinkers would still benefit from the full load of antioxidants.

Tea would not be the first plant to undergo this process. In Japan researchers produced coffee with 70% less caffeine than traditional coffee. Van Beaver is taking a page from that playbook and seeing if it could work for tea. She is currently working on producing the DNA molecule, or plasmid, which contains the “turned off” gene. She is also beginning to grow tea plants from seed that will be used in tissue culture. Then the work starts to see if these cells can be used to produce a plant with the qualities desired. Van Buren will spend the next year continuing her work. Time will tell if she will then need to hand the project off for future students to continue.

Van Beaver is slated to graduate in 2016. She is part of the UNH Honors Program.

SOURCE: New Hampshire Public Radio and UNH

What is Chai?

From the website : What is Chai?

Chai (pronounced as a single syllable and rhymes with 'pie') is the word for tea in many parts of the world. It is a centuries-old beverage which has played an important role in many cultures.

Chai from India is a spiced milk tea that has become increasingly popular throughout the world. It is generally made up of:

• rich black tea • heavy milk • a combination of various spices • a sweetener

The spices used vary from region to region and among households in India. The most common are cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and pepper. Indian chai produces a warming, soothing effect, acts as a natural digestive aid and gives one a wonderful sense of well being. It's difficult to resist a second cup.

Drinking chai is part of life in India and most Indian's are amazed at all the current fuss in the West. Many who have traveled in India come away with fond chai drinking experiences. In the past three years we've seen a phenomenal growth in the popularity and interest in chai. Chai has become very common at over-the-counter specialty beverage shops and there is a growing line of prepackaged consumer products. Many industry analysts are predicting that chai will eventually become as popular and common as coffee lattes and cappuccinos.

Great chai can often be found in Indian restaurants along with great food, but making your own chai provides immense satisfaction (and makes the house smell yummy!). Recipes and tastes for chai vary widely and a multitude of chai recipes are used around the world.

Indian grocers carry various chai masala mixes which you can use to make your own chai. Commercially produced concentrates can be found at many health food grocers and coffee shops. Ingredients for making your own chai are available just about everywhere.

Of course the modern world has elevated chai to new planes of experience--chai ices, milkshakes, chocolate chai, non-fat, low-cal sweeteners, decaf, and so on.

We prefer traditional freshly made chai: hot, creamy, fragrant with black tea, fresh cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, peppercorns and enough sugar to bring out the spice flavor. While we personally drink regular tea without sugar, chai must have sweetness or the spices seem to lose their full robustness.


Are Tea Bags Turning Us Into Plastic?

By Taylor Orci - The Atlantic

Some of the fancy new tea bags are made of fancy plastic. A fair price to pay for drinkable luxury?

Here's what happened: I was making tea one day, waiting for my water to get hot, and I started reading the box. It touted the fact that the company didn't use "silky" plastic tea bags, which prompted my the question, "Wait... silky tea bags are plastic tea bags?" I'd used "silky" or "mesh" tea bags before, and as someone who is turned off by the idea of eating heated plastic, I never made the connection that "silky" didn't actually mean silk, and "mesh" isn't really a specific thing at all. More put off by the fact I'd been had than anything else, I wanted to find out if my alarm about using plastic tea bags had any real basis to it.

At first blush, "silky tea bags" sound like drinkable luxury. Often pyramidal in shape, this type of tea bag is supposed to have higher quality -- sometimes even whole leaf -- tea inside, a departure from the "dust" in most tea bags. If the quality isn't higher, the tea is definitely more colorful.  The see-through mesh allows you to view what looks like edible potpourri.

Tea companies are very forthcoming in the pains they've gone through to adopt such an innovative design. Boasts one    website, "In 2000, Revolution started a full-scale uprising, overthrowing the paper tea bag i favor of the first flow-through Infuser bag." Another site, Tea Forte, explains adopting the silky tea bag because "[They] wanted to create a total sensory and emotional experience that was relevant to life today." What many of these sites don't mention is that these silky tea bags, (or "sachets," or "infusers," or "sculptural works of art," etc.) are plastic.

"If the question is, 'As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?', the answer is yes."

The idea of a plastic tea bag might be unpalatable for folks for a number of reasons, the most clear-cut being the contribution to landfill waste, but additionally because heating plastic can rouse alarm in consumers. That's probably why tea companies like to describe their silken sachets as a quality compromise for loose leaf lovers who "are switching to [mesh tea bags] as their lives get more hectic," instead of emphasizing "get the plastic hot and then drink the thing it was in." For these reasons, some tea companies like Numi even use their lack of plastic tea bags as a selling point.

Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential. Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.

There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the "glass transition" temperature (Tg) . That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point. In the case of PET and food grade nylon (either nylon 6 or nylon6-6), all have a Tg lower than the temperature of boiling water. For example, while the melting point of PET is 482 degrees Fahrenheit, the Tg is about 169 degrees. Both nylons have a lower glass transition temperature than PET. (Remember that water boils at 212 degrees.) This means the molecules that make up these plastic tea bags begin to break down in hot water.

"If the question is, 'As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?', the answer is yes," said Dr. Ray    Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. "However, just because it makes it easier for something to leach out, it doesn't mean it will." There seems to be something in the plastic collective consciousness that says there are inherently toxins in all plastics, and when they begin to break down, they will naturally gravitate toward food. "This would only happen if there are potential materials trapped in the substance. What we don't know is what FDA requirements manufacturers have to meet before they go to market," said Dr. Fernando.

There is also a matter of whether or not the leachate is hydrophobic or hydrophilic. If hydrophobic pollutants were potentially in the plastic tea bag materials, their nature would be to stay in the bag and not go frolicking into the water and into your mouth.

So polymers will only leach out harmful chemicals, like cancer causing phthalates, at their glass transition temperature if there are said phthalates to begin with. It almost seems silly to think that either of these materials would have toxins to begin with, considering we eat off of them and in them. That's what food standards are for, right? The Lipton website reassures us their Pyramid Tea Bags made of PET are "the same food grade material clear water and juice bottles are made of and ... are microwave safe." That sounds, well ... safe.

But then there are studies like this: In 2009, a study found that single-use PET plastic water bottles were found to have estrogen-mimicking pollutants in them. Such toxins have been linked to cancer. If PET is found in these water bottles, the same material Lipton claims to use in their plastic tea bags, it's fair to say there is a chance these tea bags are leaching toxins into the tea they're brewing. Further, this study did not look at the glass transition temperature and how that could increase the leaching of said toxins. And while this study is only about PET plastic, it is logical to question if nylon has the same potential.

"The consumer doesn't have a way to know how to choose a safe plastic," said Stephen Lester, science director for the Center for Health, Environment & Justice. He made mention of a study decades ago where researchers found putting hot liquids in styrofoam cups could be harmful. If I was at a party that was serving hot cocoa in styrofoam cups, I probably wouldn't decline it -- the same with plastic tea bags. It's not like I'm unaware they may pose a health risk, but I unconsciously file them under the heading of, "probably not so bad." But this may be at my own peril. There's just no comprehensive way of knowing.

In our discussion, Dr. Fernando departed from talking about the sexy topic of polymer toxicity potential for a moment and mentioned that paper manufacturing is also highly polluting, "[Regarding the paper tea bag] paper is a very chemically intensive process. But the thing is we've been using the [paper] bag for a long time, so we know it's okay." One would love to soothe the nerves agitated by this topic with a scintillating cup of White Tea with Island Mango and Peach, if only one knew for sure it was okay.

My polymers expert made mention-- and I agree, that to test the level of phthalates in tea made from plastic tea bags would be an easy one to conduct. So I contacted the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice to see if they had any such study in their databases. As helpful as they were digging up many peer reviews about plastic, tea, and toxicity, a study about the toxicity of plastic tea bags couldn't be found. I also contacted the Center for Disease Control -- the disease here being cancer which has been linked to phthalates, and asked the same thing, but as of this writing I've yet to hear back.

*This post was updated on June 4, 2013, to remove a reference to Mighty Leaf Tea. Mighty Leaf uses bags made of corn plastic, which do not contain phthalates and do not leach even at boiling temperatures.