The results are in: the latest, official, tests by Japan’s leading food and drink scientists reveal that OCHA & Co’s sells LEAD FREE Matcha. It always has been, of course, but can other Matcha producers say the same?
Aside from its great taste, Matcha is often cited as one of the healthiest teas you can consume.
Almost everything you read about the frothy green wonder will highlight how the tea is:
...high in antioxidants...
...helpful in flushing out toxins from the liver. help protect the liver by flushing out toxins...
...packed with L-theanine which helps brain function and well-being...
...and how, in science facilities across the world, there’s serious and ongoing research looking at the positive impact it has on heart health and certain cancers.
This unique compound of health benefits in green teas is known as Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). When you drink green tea as Matcha powder, you’re getting between five to seven times the amount of ECGC you would from a normal cup of Sencha. Matcha has more caffeine, too, but the benefit here is that it’s tempered by the EGCG elements; the caffeine delivery is slower and more even. Rather than the quick coffee ‘buzz’, Matcha eases you into a state of alert/calm.
What some tea producers and online shops won’t add to their sales blurb, though is the research that shows how some - largely unregulated and of Chinese origin - Matcha’s can be worryingly high in a substance that instantly negates all of the above: Lead.
Yes, you read that correctly. If you’re not careful about from whom you purchase your matcha, you could be safer breathing in the fumes on the side of a busy freeway for an hour.
Really? Well, we don’t recommend it, of course, but the point is that unlike the hypothetical traffic now running on lead-free petrol, there’s still an awful lot of tea growing in soil that’s contaminated by lead.
There are minute traces of lead everywhere and in everything, of course. Hardly surprising. It was once the go-to metal for pipes and the base additives for paints and, of course, petrol. Lead has largely been replaced in all of those and the quantity of the element that we come into contact with on a normal basis is safe. Yet, lead from historical use is still the most widespread contamination of soil and widespread research reveals it showing up in sometimes concerning amounts where we least want it; our tea leaves.
Tea plants suck in heavy metals produced by industrial and vehicle emissions from the air and lead from the ground at a higher rate than other plants.
According to Consumer Labs, one serving of Matcha could contain 2.5 to 7.5 mcg of lead, exceeding the limit of 2 mcg of lead per gram when brewed set by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Research into the lead content of Chinese-produced tea found that 32% of the tea leaves exceeded the limits for lead. That could be down to the proximity of tea plantations to industrial complexes and highways, there’s also an issue with lapse food safety regulations in the country. In comparison, 0% of the tea leaves from Japan came near to exceeding the limits. Here, tea plantations are rural - often in the foothills and plates of remote mountainous regions - and are huge safety regulated, too.
While it’s not that pleasant to learn that some Chinese green tea leaves that you brew for tea might have a lead (and other pollutants) content, tests show that at least 90% of that lead remains in the leaf - and not you - after it’s been steeped.
That’s a more worrying story.
To make Matcha whole tea leaves are ground into the finest powder. Part of the magic of the tea, then, is that all the healthy elements hidden in the leaf are extracted by being powdered ( and consumed in a single serving).
Unfortunately, if there’s any lead, and/or other harmful heavy metals, in the leaves in the first place, you’re going to consume those, too. In some instances as much as 30 times more lead than a cup of green tea.
Judging by the sheer number of queries we get on the subject, we can tell that one of the biggest concerns for our family of customers is about the lead content of our tea - especially our Organic Matcha.
We take those concerns about lead content in tea very seriously. Who on earth would want to take time out of their busy days for a relaxing slurp of invisible toxins? Not us, for sure.
Our latest test for lead in ourOrganic Matcha was on May 31st, 2022, and was carried out by the food and drink safety experts and the highly prestigious Seikan Kensa Centre in Shizuoka. In the “parts per million” test they carried out the result was pretty conclusive: “Undetected”, i.e there isn’t any lead in our Matcha tea.