Is Japanese Tea Safe?

In this issue:

  • New website
  • Is Japanese Tea Safe?

New Website Up and Running

New items and features have been added to  Best sellers like Passionfruit Paradise and Hawaiian Wellness Tea are now available in more affordable bulk quantities.  The shopping cart has been re-designed to offer a better shopping experience.  Purchases of $50 will receive a complimentary Swiss Gold infuser  valued at $21.95

Is Japanese Tea safe?

The world watched on March 11 as a 9.0 earthquake rocked Japan followed by a tsunami that inundated Fukushima prefecture.  Then in a disaster trifecta, the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant began leaking radioactive particles into the air and ocean.

A recent shopping trip to a Japanese store here in Hawaii found shelves, usually abundantly stocked with Japanese goods, eerily empty.  The export of Japanese food products to international markets has been hampered, delayed and in some cases restricted due to concerns about radiation contamination.  Even the transport of goods that are not contaminated is stressed due to infrastructure challenges caused by the natural disaster, testing requirements and fear of contamination abroad.

Springtime tea production is winding down in Japan.  Fresh tea leaves and retail packages of tea are routinely being inspected for radiation as a precaution.  There have been reports of fresh tea leaves testing positive for trace amounts of cesium.  The reported levels are low but differing opinions by the country’s Health Ministry and Agriculture Ministry have lead to public confusion.  According to international guidelines, the annual acceptable dose of cesium from food is 5 millisieverts.  If a person were to consume one liter or tea containing 200 becquerels of cesium everyday for one year, the person would consume about one millisievert of radiation.

The majority of Japan’s tea grows 230 to 300 miles south of the radiation source.  Airborne radiation could travel that distance but the prevailing northwesterly wind is blowing atmospheric particles east and offshore away from populated areas and farmlands.  Recent posts to the US Energy Dept Blog indicate radiation levels in the Fukushima region continue to decrease.

Japanese Sencha has an unmistakable grassy sweetness and cleansing astringency that pairs well with Asian and raw foods.  One way to know your tea is “clean” is to purchase it from a trustworthy chaiwalla or tea merchant.  Ask when the tea was picked, where is it from and how it is stored.  A knowledgeable tea purveyor should know.  As a precaution, we decided to bring in more tea from last year’s crop knowing that is was picked and processed before March 11.  We store our Japanese tea in airtight foil bags under constant controled temprature.  Theoretically, tea could last indefinitely in this state.

We will continue to monitor the situation and report new developments via this blog.