Tea Quality and Standards
What does “organic” mean?
Who certifies your teas as organic?
What further steps do you take to ensure the purity of your organic teas?
We go beyond those requirements with a robust quality control program that begins in the field; our buyers spend months traveling to the tea farms each year to taste and evaluate quality during the peak crop seasons. This also allows us to experience our organic tea cultivation firsthand. Throughout the year, our Compliance team performs additional spot-testing on select teas to ensure our organic teas are indeed free of pesticides and other contaminants.
Are your teas free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms)?
What about your conventional (not organic certified) teas?
The good news is that many of the farms in those areas—including our suppliers there—practice a range of “Integrated Pest Management” techniques to minimize their use of pesticides. The install solar-powered insect zappers, pheromone sticky paper traps, and plant buffer zones to that effect. Since these are some of the most treasured and sought-after styles of tea in the world, we import these as specialty items for tea connoisseurs. These are some of the favorite teas enjoyed by our staff; we would never sell a tea we would not drink ourselves.
Are your teas gluten/dairy/allergen free?
What are ‘natural flavors’?
Are your teas gluten/dairy/allergen free?
Are you testing your Japanese teas for radiation?
Since then and to this day, Rishi Tea has maintained a stringent program to verify the safety of the teas we source from Japan by conducting radioactivity tests at an independent third-party laboratory in the USA. The lab uses a testing method called gamma ray spectrometry to measure radioactive isotopes Cesium-134, Cesium-137, and Iodine-131 in units of becquerel per kilogram. We continue to test samples of our Japanese teas for these isotopes prior to import.
Our test results continually confirm that Rishi’s Japanese teas are completely safe. Our latest test results are as follows:
|Isotope||Unit||Result||US FDA Maximum Allowable Limits for Tea|
Most of the teas we source in Japan are grown in the tea regions of Kagoshima and Miyazaki, located on the southern island of Kyushu at a distance of about 700 miles from Fukushima. Of all the Japanese tea regions, Kagoshima and Miyazaki are situated at the farthest distance from the Fukushima area, and so pose the lowest risk for radiation contamination.
What are your tea bags made of? Are they BPA free?
Rishi has two forms of PLA tea bags: standard knit and special knit. Both of these types of tea bags are made by forming PLA fibers into a mesh fabric. Rishi receives rolls of PLA mesh fabric, and transforms them into pyramid-shaped, whole leaf tea sachets in our tea factory. The difference between standard knit and special knit is the fineness of the PLA mesh. Our standard knit PLA tea bags are made of thin PLA strands with a tight knit pattern that create a super fine mesh filter. The mesh appears silky and translucent because each PLA strand is so thin. Conversely, our special knit PLA tea bags are made of thicker PLA strands that create a looser knit pattern. The looser knit pattern has more open area and a wider mesh that is similar to a teapot so the flavor and aroma of tea flows more thoroughly and rapidly into the cup. Our special knit PLA is not as translucent as the standard, finer mesh tea bags, because the thicker, stronger strands create a more opaque and dense appearance. Depending on the type of tea and the market application, we use standard knit PLA for some products, and special knit PLA for others.
PLA is used in a wide variety of food products because it is derived from renewable plant sources and is biodegradable in the long term. The conditions under which PLA biodegrades depend on the form that the PLA takes. Our PLA tea bags are designed to biodegrade in commercial quality composting systems, when conditions achieve at least 120°F, and 80% relative humidity. When these conditions are met and held constant, our PLA tea bags will biodegrade over a period of about two months.
Most Rishi tea bags have a cotton string and printed-paper tag, which is attached to the PLA mesh using ultrasonic vibrational energy. This process instantly fuses the string to the mesh. The same technique is used when the rolled PLA mesh is spun into a pyramid shape, filled with whole leaf tea, and sealed during production on our equipment at Rishi.
We are sometimes asked about the food safety concerns regarding our PLA tea bags: If they are biodegradable, does that mean that they break down when brewed in hot water? Furthermore, many organic food advocates, bloggers, rival tea companies, Dr. Oz and Foodbabe.com have made statements based on ideas and assumptions that silky tea bags contain plastic and are unsafe. None of these statements were made with any scientific test or analytical backing. We felt it was time to take responsibility and set the record straight for the tea industry with scientific data and authentic testing results for actual PLA mesh material used for silky tea bags.
We are confident that our PLA tea bags are safe when enjoyed according to our brewing recommendations. We worked with an independent lab in Houston, one of the leading labs that tests for plastics in food products, to test both our PLA standard knit and special knit tea bag materials. We tested for BPA and commonly found plasticizers and phthalates that contaminate the global food supply.
Our PLA mesh was tested using Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS), a technique that allowed the lab to analyze the chemical composition of PLA in its entirety. This testing method has a detectable limit of 2 ppm for most of the phthalates we looked for, and of 3 ppm for two of the phthalates.
Both PLA special knit and standard knit materials passed with flying colors. None of the phthalates we tested for were detected, even in trace amounts. This indicates that the PLA mesh used in our tea bags is completely BPA-free and phthalate-free. The United States Consumer Products Safety Commission (USCPSC) specifies that food products are deemed safe when they test below 1,000 ppm for the plasticizers we checked. With results of no detection, PLA goes well beyond the conditions required to comply with USCPSC standards.
Contact us if you would like a copy of our test report.
It should be noted that there are several data reports showing that the common petroleum-based nylon and polyester silky tea bags on the market leach plastics, but our PLA material for tea bags is a different material and is not plastic, nor petroleum based. PLA based tea bags should not be linked to reports or tests of unrelated materials.