Tea and Pesticides part 3: how to avoid heavily sprayed tea

  1. The relationship between wild grown tea plants and pests
  2. How modern tea farming amplify the pest and disease problems,
  3. What pesticides they use to treat the problems,
  4. As a consumer how to avoid heavily sprayed tea
There are several ways you can easily reduce your pesticide exposure
  1. Buy spring tea – Spring teas are generally less contaminated because colder winter and early spring seasons have less pest activity and disease occurrence.  Many farmers manage with no spray at all.  Major tea pests for spring tips are aphids.
  2. Taste the difference – Heavy fertilizer application tends to allow plants to grow out of proportion and can attract more pests and disease.  Learn to taste the fertilizer.  Any professionally trained tea educator should know this.
  3. Growing environment – Learn about farm environment.  Higher altitude has different pests and disease.  Tea typically prefers cool, moist environment.  If tea is grown in dry hot area, they tend to experience more scales, mites and beetles.  If too wet with not enough air circulation, fungal disease may be more prevalent.
  4. Know your farmer – Learn where your tea comes from and how it is treated.  If you can directly talk to them, it is easier to get an idea if the farmer cares about their crops.
  5. Visit the farm – If tea farmers don’t mind, and many organic farmers are actually proud to show off their extensive care for their crops, visit the farm and observe the plants.  Especially pay close attention to minor occurrence of pests and disease, which never go out of proportion, beneficial insects and many other wildlife present in the field.
  6. Buy organic tea – Organic doesn’t mean no pesticides, but instead of using toxic chemicals, pesticides derived from natural sources, ex. garlic or chili oil, may be used.
Because farmers are people, there are some not so honest farmers out there too.  Be careful when talking about sensitive issues like pesticides and organic.  Many farmers who want to sell their tea conveniently forget to mention what they use, or outright lie.  If you want to hear the truth, don’t put words into their mouths and don’t tell them what you want to hear.  If you tell them that you are looking for organic tea without pesticides, dishonest farmers and merchants will tell you just that.
Look for proof.  Organic certification, or any 3rd party certification.  Better yet, learn about what it takes to grow tea without pesticides.
If you want to be absolutely certain, be more knowledgeable than the farmers about pesticides and share alternative approaches.  Organize cooperative buying programs to help farmers get their share, and attend pesticide workshops.  You may see your farmer friends there and learn a thing or two.

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