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Newsletter #36: Organic Green Tea versus Location - Which Is More Important?
August 24, 2010


Solving Problems Every Tea Drinker Faces

24 August 2010 Issue #36:


>> Organic Green Tea versus Location - Which Is More Important?


In the July newsletter, we discussed five important things to know when buying authentic green tea. You can access the newsletter here:

Buy Green Tea - Five Important Things to Know

A newsletter reader asked: What about the so-called organic certified green tea?

This newsletter will explain organic certification mean, and why they often fall short of quality.

What does ORGANIC mean?

In the United States, any organic certified food must meet the National Organic Program (NOP) standards set by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Here is what they define as organic:

- The farm emphasizes the use of renewable resources.
- It does not use most conventional pesticides.
- It does not use fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients or sewage sludge.

A guarantee of quality?
Organic green tea does not always provide greater experience and health benefits. They can comply to the USDA rules and be low grade.

In the July newsletter, I noted that the quality of tea leaves depend on three factors:

- Location: (Higher mountain better)
- Timing of harvests (Early spring the best)
- Plant parts (tea buds rather than leaves)

The USDA rules do not cover any of the above. To quote from USDA themselves:

"A NOP certified tea is not necessarily higher quality or more nutritious. It simply differs from the conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled and processed."

Location is more important than certification?
Although organic certified farms do not use pesticides, they can contain contaminants. This is because the USDA doesn't include chemical testing of environmental pollutants.

This is an important issue to consider. Personally, I regard the risk of heavy metals contaminations to be far more significant than pesticides.

I wouldn't want to drink from tea plants growing in the roadside. They may be polluted by leads spewed out by cars and trucks.

As you see later, if I have to choose between an organic certified tea leaves and another uncertified tea buds grown in the high altitude, I will happily go for the latter.

Three ways tea buds offer automatic protections.
When you buy green tea buds harvested early spring, plucked from prime locations in high mountain, you are protected in three ways:

1. The highest grade tea buds (especially AAA grades) are harvested the first 5 days of the season. Mother nature is still waking up to spring. Pesticides are not needed because few pests exist in the first crack of spring.

2. These tea buds are so fresh and young. Only a few days old, they have little time to absorb contaminants from the environments.

(Also, it is well established that these young tea buds contain the greatest concentrations of goodness. The rich cocktails of compounds (such as theanine, antioxidants and caffeine) translate to maximum health benefits and taste.)

3. In the foggy high mountain, tea plants grow slowly. In China, they are only harvested once a year. The combination of rich soil and low yield means that fertilizers are often not needed.

Pre-industrial magic
When you buy an organic green tea, you are buying a peace of mind, and a minimum standard of farming. This is fine, and I will probably do the same in the absence of anything better.

However, what many people miss is that the highest grade tea from China is the culmination of 1,200 years of imperial luxury. Tea is a special beverage. You can't really cut corners without ruining the taste and experience.

In the best tea gardens. tea plants are harvested for only 6 weeks a year. Hands are still preferable to machines for harvesting and roasting. We thought the organic label gives us a superior product, but forget that the traditional ways are still alive and breathing. Natural, and better than organic.

Taste and nutrition
The only way to understand this is to taste a cup of real tea - one that looks good, tastes good and feels good. Take time to learn to appreciate it.

Tea nutrition such as theanine, antioxidants and caffeine not only contain health benefits, they also contribute to the tastes and flavors. Theanine is sweet and fresh. Antioxidants are astringent. Caffeine is bitter. This is why rich-tasting teas contain the most health benefits.

In the last newsletter, I recommend beginners starting out "at the bottom of the ladder" with the Maofeng green tea (at $6) or Silver Needle white tea (at $14). Coincidently, these two teas have been certified organic.

I hope this helps? Any thoughts on this matter? Reply to this email!

Until next time.

Julian Tai

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