The head of the British tea company Newby Teas Nirmal Kumar Sethiya - about the quality of tea, varieties worth millions of dollars and the relationship between tea and osteoporosis.
Poor quality teas can contain an increased amount of various microelements, such as fluoride, which, if they exceed the daily norm, lead to bone destruction and problems with internal organs, according to a study conducted by the independent international laboratory Eurofins in 2018. As the amount of high-quality tea on the market declines, the problem becomes more urgent, warned by Newby Teas, which not only produces premium teas, but also works to preserve and revive the culture of the ancient drink. How to choose the right tea, whether to fear products with aromatic additives, and how tea looks like a person, the founder and owner of the company Nirmal Kumar Sethia told Izvestia.
- Tea has always been associated with a healthy lifestyle, it has never been said that it can cause serious harm. So let's start with the main thing - what are fluorides and how, in fact, did it turn out that their concentration in the products of some manufacturers was exceeded?
- Even 5 thousand years ago, tea began to be valued not only for its taste, but also for its medicinal properties, for its antioxidants. Fluoride is also an antioxidant, and it is important for the body, but in limited quantities. As in the case of sugar. Sugar is energy, but what do you get if you eat it too much? Problems with the kidneys, overweight and much more. The same with fluorides. When used above the norm, they cease to be removed from the body and accumulate in the bone tissue, taking calcium. As a result, this leads to a gradual destruction of the bones.
- If I understand correctly, one way or another, we all encounter fluoride during the day, including when we brush our teeth.
- Yes, they are usually found in toothpaste, but we do not eat it or swallow it. True, fluorides are also found in water, fruits, vegetables, milk: we are talking about very small amounts, in which these trace elements do not harm, but help the body. But with a combination of several sources, a person can exceed the daily dose without even knowing it.
- Where did the idea to bind fluoride and drinking tea come from?
- In the last 10–15 years, when it became obvious that children develop dental problems, and people more often suffer from osteoporosis, scientists began to seriously study this problem and found out that the maximum daily dose is about 7 mg of fluoride per day, if talking about an adult man. If you constantly exceed this dose, this trace element will begin to accumulate, and by the 40-50 years of age, the bones and teeth will become fragile. Research that we have seen suggests that these problems are faced by those who drink a lot of cheap low-quality tea.
"Once it was the drink of kings"
- Why is this happening?
- Then I have to go back a little and tell how the production of tea is generally arranged. Tea is one of the best gifts of nature, but it is very sensitive to the state of the environment and easily absorbs harmful substances.
Or, in other words, tea is like a beautiful woman. And a woman becomes beautiful not because of her appearance, but because of her character. The nature of tea, as well as the presence of useful substances in it, depends on how attentive and responsible is the approach of producers to the collection and storage of tea leaves.
It is recommended to grow it only in certain geographical areas, where the soil and climate have all the necessary characteristics. Once upon a time, tea was a very expensive drink, available only to a select few. In the collection of tea antiques Chitra Collection, which we collect around the world for many years to revive and preserve the world's tea heritage, more than 2 thousand items of tea culture have been collected since the IX century. The collection presents works of the best jewelry houses of different eras, made of precious metals and stones, which indicates that tea has always been the drink of kings and aristocrats, which means that its quality should have been very high.
But later, tea began to be produced almost everywhere, even where it has not historically grown, without paying attention to the particular climate and soil properties - it became available to everyone, and therefore its quality dropped dramatically.
The problem is that people far from aristocracy did not understand this, and even the worst teas were sold successfully.
- Did people really not feel the difference?
- To some extent felt, of course. For example, there appeared a fashion for various additives and flavors: they help to mask the unpleasant taste of low-quality tea.
- What is the ratio of elite and mass teas today?
- Today, the production of quality tea is about 2-3% of the total world market.
- And how much can elite varieties cost?
- The price of the best of them can reach $ 15-20 million per 1 kg. In addition, there are many teas, a kilogram of which will cost you $ 1 million, $ 5 million or even $ 10 million.
- This is impressive, but where does the price come from?
- If you think that they somehow look especially, you are mistaken. Outwardly, all the teas are similar, and many of the most expensive varieties look so ordinary at all that you would not give more than $ 10 for them. But when brewing, the properties of the tea leaf are revealed and the taste of tea is capable of striking the one who tastes it - this is the true value of tea.
"Tea is like a man"
- If you go back to the concentration of fluorides - what's the problem in the case of poor quality and cheap tea, where does their high content come from?
- Tea is like a man, and he has his own cycle. A quality drink is made only from fresh and young leaves, so you have to rip it for seven or a maximum of eight days. Then it will be a young tea, rich in antioxidants, which will be useful to the body, but nine days is too much, the leaf will be old.
But most manufacturers are concerned only with the amount of raw materials collected, not with its quality. I am sure that many people do not even know what quality tea is - they only know how many kilograms are produced daily or annually. At the same time, collectors are paid for the number of collected leaves, so using this approach, they also begin to collect old leaves, which contain a large amount of fluoride and other trace elements that the plant receives from the soil.
And that is not all. What happens when young and old leaves mix? Imagine a small child - well-mannered and very innocent. What happens if parents send him to the company of difficult teenagers, hooligans? He will learn from them bad. The same is with tea leaves: if you mix them, younger leaves will absorb some of the harmful substances.
- Apparently, the problem should have arisen for a long time - why has nobody spoken about it so far?
- Now people are very interested in money, and tea manufacturers, when they had their first research, simply did not report it in order not to lose profits. Our position is different, the priority of our company is not to obtain financial profit. We do not insist that people drink only Newby, we are happy if they drink it, because by doing so they take care of their health. I have the N.Sethia Foundation charity foundation, and most of Newby's revenue is directed towards helping those who need it: the elderly, sick people, orphans, and children with autism.
“For me, tea is a way to contribute to humanity.”
- Speaking of children, the elderly and those who suffer from various ailments ...
- The problem is that they are most at risk. After all, a small child does not drink coffee, he drinks tea. And if every day he drinks a few cups of poor-quality tea, it can lead to the fact that he begins to have problems with his teeth, and his bones become more fragile. The situation is similar with those who already have health problems, because a person who is hospitalized is not offered coffee, tea is brewed for him, and to our regret, this is most often the cheapest and low-quality tea in which, according to scientists contains an increased concentration of fluoride. In addition, many hotels, to increase revenue, offer guests tea, brewed from a bag worth at best 3-5 rubles at a price of 300 or 500 rubles. All this is a huge responsibility, and that is why we believe that we should talk about the problem.
- Fluorides today - the only problem that consumers and manufacturers may face?
“In such cases, I always remind you that it is easy to grow a tea plantation, and it’s extremely difficult to protect the tea leaf from insects, to avoid pollution of the soil with pesticides, which the tea then absorbs. Unfortunately, the world is becoming more and more polluted, and tea is a plant that grows outdoors. Of course, the plantations are far from large cities and there is less pollution, but many people today are treating the plantations with chemicals in order to get a bigger crop in a shorter time. I can not say for sure, but I was told, for example, that today they do this on most plantations in China. Therefore, we have to very carefully choose the plantations with which we work.
A separate issue is transportation. Tea is a fragile and vulnerable plant, it absorbs everything that is around, it is exposed to light, moisture and air. Moreover, different teas require, for example, a different temperature regime. Most companies today transport it in open transport. Imagine that it absorbs the tea leaf for several months of transportation, including over long distances, for example from India to Europe.
- What are you planning to do next?
- For me, tea is meditation, poetry, the meaning of life, a way to contribute to humanity, and I want to continue my work. This year we plan to publish a new study on the dangers associated with increased fluoride content in the tea leaf. But most importantly, I want people to understand that cheap tea cannot be good, and good tea cheap. If you are looking for a queen, you need to pay attention to her ancestry.