Thursday, September 28, 2017
Which Puerh Vendors Are Testing for Agrochemicals? They Actually Do This Now!
Another big change that occurred while I was away from puerh is that almost all the bigger vendors are testing for agrochemicals in their products.
This was always the elephant in the room with avid puerh drinkers/bloggers in the early/ mid- 2000s. We knew that some of the stuff that we were consuming was sprayed (the plantation/factory stuff was most suspect) but no one really talked about it too much. We just lived with it because, really, what were we to do about it? The only real option back then was if you were concerned about it, then stop drinking puerh. Todays puerh buying climate, especially from the most popular Western puerh vendors, is almost the opposite with buyers now expecting agrochemical testing done on the teas they are buying. This is great news for someone who tends to be more sensitive to them than the average puerh drinker. How did it change so quickly?
I think just before my absence from the tea world David from Essence of Tea was kind of pushing this agenda of the use of agrochemical through to the front of puerh drinkers consciousness. I am so glad he was a part of this initial push.
When investigating why this happened I thought it was likely due to buyer pressure on all to follow suite. Actually this seems to be driven by the vendors themselves to protect and defend their love and their livelihoods after a series of bad press in the mainstream media about the agrochemicals found in teas about 5 years ago. This was really what everyone was talking about back then. Interesting links can be seen here and here where many puerh vendors discuss this issue and desire to change. You can kind of get a sense where they all stand on the issue as well. One of the things they discuss is what they feel is the acceptable limit of pesticide residues in puerh.
There was a lot of discussion back then and I wondered to myself what has changed since that initial surge in interest. So I looked into the agrochemical policies of some popular Western puerh vendors for their 2017 productions and this is what I found…
Essence of Tea has a zero tolerance policy for pesticides and, I believe, they only accept a very small trace of the EU MRL agrochemicals. In 2015 they posted the testing of 225 chemicals of all of the puerh they pressed on the product page. Although they don’t explicitly state that the 2016 & 2017 have been tested, it is my understanding that they are all fully tested and the lab results can be obtained by contacting them.
Yunnan Sourcing started EU MRL testing its own YunnanSourcing brand label in 2013 and has increased the amount of chemicals tested to 191 and has even lowered the minimal acceptable limit of some chemicals to a zero tolerance as well over the years.
white2tea just started to test their teas this year. They started with testing one of their lowerprice offerings from each category. Theyalso mention that more and more teas will be tested each year. I think the fact they seem to seek out some of the best leaf from year to year and rely less on the same sources and gardens suggests to me that it might be a lot trickier to ensure that agrochemicals are not used. The fact that many of their cakes are blends can also complicate things. For instance, if even one batch of leaves out of the blend is contaminated it will contaminate the whole blend. I would like to see white2tea test a few of their blends next year.
I couldn’t find anything on Crimson Lotus, Bitter Leaf, Puerh.sk, Chawangshop, testing for agrochemicals. Many of them take some kind of precautions to avoid agrochemicals but they don’t actively test their product. I think it must be hard for vendors just starting out or for smaller puerh vendors to shell out the money for testing so, feel these vendors shouldn’t be held to the same scrutiny until they are more established but on the other hand, for them to grow consumer confidence they kind of need to test for these sorts of things. So for them, it really puts them in a hard spot, I think.
The Tea Urchin has written a great article about the use of pesticides in puerh but I couldn’t find anything on their site that has anything on testing their puerh. I get from their article that they assess the tea gardens by other means to reduce the likelihood of pesticide residues in their puerh.
Puerhshop does its own lab work to test its teas and I think might have been one of the first to start testing its puerh. It doesn’t really go into detail about what kind of tests are preformed and for what type of chemicals. The interesting thing is that they tested some of their semi aged puerh as well- the only vendor to do this.
It seems at the height of this discussion about 5 years ago even our dearest tea blogger, Hobbes of the Half-Dipper, covered this topic in a post with some nice commentary to follow.
To me I think it’s really interesting that there are still so many smaller puerh vendors that are not testing for agrochemicals. I guess it must be quite expensive to do so. But overall, I am excited about all the options of pesticide free puerh out there these days. My wish is that vendors would have links to these reports right on the product pages just like Essencce of Tea did for their 2015 teas. This would take transparency to the next level.
Thank you vendors for going in this direction!