The tea industry has been pulling the wool over consumers’ eyes. Unbeknownst to most drinkers, many of whom are choosing to drink tea for healing and soothing benefits, teas can be packed with pesticides, toxins, added flavors, and GMO ingredients. My best friend emailed me this tea exposé by the Food Babe, shocked by its contents. A few points from her article of note:
- 91% of Celestial Seasonings tea tested had pesticide residues exceeding the U.S. limits
- 100% of Teavana loose leaf tea tested was found to contain pesticides (77 percent of the teas would be banned from import into the EU)
- Fancy mesh tea bags like those used in Mighty Leaf and Tea Forte are made of (likely GMO) corn-based material or plastics which may break down and leach in boiling water
- Many paper tea bags are treated with epichlorohydrin, a potential carcinogen shown to cause cancer in animals
So, what to do amongst all these tea dangers? You can start by doing your research. The Food Babe provides a quick reference chart to compare brand-by-brand. You can glean a good amount from ingredient labels however they won’t necessarily tell you what the bags are made of or treated with, and what sort of glue they might be using to close them.
Luckily, I don’t have to invest the time researching because I have a favorite tea brand I trust entirely. Flying Bird Botanicals is a Bellingham, Washington-based, family-run, organic and wild-harvested tea producer. Full disclosure: Its founder, Scout Urling, is my husband’s step-sister (my step-sister-in-law?) but I’m guessing I’d be pretty obsessed with the company even if I didn’t know her. I’m especially excited because Flying Bird recently reached the point where it’s ready to scale. Until now I was hesitant to promote the business so as to not over-burden Scout. Now she’s ready so here I go. Here’s why I’m obsessed with Flying Bird Botanicals (or hear it from Scout directly via this video interview):
They choose their ingredients carefully: Most of their ingredients are organic, with a few exceptions that are intentionally sourced wild because, “sometimes the wild version is just better.” They source ingredients as locally as possible, with 80%+ coming from local farms. What they can’t get locally they source from fair trade and organically-certified farms around the world. Scout has apprenticed for herbalists, taken courses in herbal studies, attended many an herbal conference, and graduated from a midwifery program. She knows her stuff and won’t settle for less-than-the-best in terms of freshness, quality, and sustainability.
They’re on the forefront of technology: In 2013, Flying Bird began bagging their teas via a partnership with Seattle-based Motovotano. To preserve the integrity of its blends while employing the tea bag format, Flying Bird worked with Motovotano to produce the first ever “synchronized real-time blended tea bag,” which means each ingredient in a blend is individually dosed by weight so the blend is consistent from cup-to-cup (as opposed to manufacturers parsing out tea bags from a massive mixture where the bag-to-bag ratios may vary). As Scout puts it, “you’re getting exactly what we intended the cup to taste like in each bag.”
The packaging is beautiful and sustainable: The labels are lovingly designed by Carly James of Bison Bookbinding & Letterpress and printed on unbleached recycled-backed paper. They’re adhered to tins of recycled steel made in the USA. The bags are made of fully biodegradable low-GMO biomesh (the best that’s available right now), sealed ultrasonically without glue. Flying Bird is currently working with a company in Japan to source a completely non-GMO plant fiber to use in their tea bags which at this point does not exist. Luckily other like-minded tea companies are also looking to source certified non-GMO biomesh (including Rishi and Two Leave and a Bud), raising overall demand and the likelihood a product will be released.
The products are awesome: A story and strong ethics can only take a business so far if the product doesn’t deliver. Her blends are like nothing else. I’ve been drinking the Bluebird Morning for the past month and loving it. It’s delicious and I love that it promotes circulation and gives me energy without any caffeine.
Scout and her team pour their hearts and souls into the business: I love this quote from the video, “Thought and intention goes into everything we create…Even if tomorrow Flying Bird Botanicals as a business didn’t exist it would always exist for us because this is just what we do.”
To find Flying Bird Botanicals teas along with their fair trade drinking chocolates and personal care products (I love the rosewater toner), visit their Etsy shop, browse a collection of products on Rodale’s, or ask your local natural foods store to get in touch with Scout and start carrying her products.