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Black Tea of 14 brands, 1 failed the pesticides test

Tea is said to be the most consumed aromatic beverage in the world. Drinking tea is a habit like no other. Many of us need it first thing in the morning and revere it for what it does to our levels of energy and alertness. Sure enough, there is a range of amazing health benefits associated with drinking tea. For every study that raises the red flag about potential risks of drinking too much tea or low-quality tea, there are ten or more studies that tout the good things. For example, there are the antioxidant properties of tea, its ability to lower one’s risk for some types of cancer, and so on. Despite health scare, drinking moderate amounts of tea is generally safe for most people. Drinking large amounts of black tea, or more than four or five cups a day, may cause health problems. That’s mostly because of caffeine-related side effects.

So far as quality and safety aspects are concerned, adulteration is admittedly a serious issue. Also, are we drinking tea that has pesticides levels exceeding the standards prescribed by national regulations? What are the major quality parameters that one should look for in tea? These aspects are at the centre of the latest Consumer Voice report, which compares the performances of 14 leading brands of black tea. Read on to find out which brand had pesticide residues beyond the acceptable safety limit.

We tested the 14 brands of black tea on quality and safety parameters at an NABL- accredited laboratory. The test programme was mainly based on Food Safety & Standards Regulations and relevant Indian Standard IS: 3633:2003, as well as other related standards applicable to this product.

The key parameters for which the 14 brands were tested included total flavonoids, theaflavins, crude fibre, pesticide residues (the tests covered seven pesticides), heavy metals (lead and copper), iron filings, water-soluble ash, total ash, water extract and added colouring matter.


Black, green and white tea all originate from the Camellia sinensis plant. Their differences come from the methods by which they are processed. The buds and young leaves are steamed and dried to produce white tea. Green tea is made from mature leaves that go through the same process as white tea. When the leaves are rolled or broken and allowed to oxidise or ferment, the result is black tea.

Broadly, tea is classified as orthodox or CTC (crush-tear-curl). Orthodox teas are whole-leaf teas manufactured using the traditional process of making tea, which involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation and drying. CTC teas produce a granular leaf particle. It produces a very strong flavour, quickly infusing tea that is often boiled or used in tea bags.

Difference between Green Tea and Black Tea

  • As stated earlier, both green and black teas are made from the leaves of the same tea bush. Whether these tea leaves end up green or black depends on how they are processed.
  • Green tea is made from tea leaves that are ‘fixed’ (via steam or pan-firing at a hot temperature) immediately after being plucked. This process prevents the leaves from oxidizing (turning brown), ensuring they remain closest to their pre-plucked state
  • Black tea, on the other hand, is made from leaves that are heavily oxidized. Because the enzymes within the leaves are allowed to fully oxidize the finished leaves appear dark and brownish in color. A high level of oxidation also converts the polyphenols in the tea (catechins) into oxidase compounds, most notably theaflavins and thearubigins. Theaflavins provide black tea with its briskness and sharp taste while thearubigins give body and impart a dark reddish-brown color typically associated with black teas.

Key Findings

  • Based on the overall test findings, Brooke Bond Red Label is the top performer. Next in ranking are Brooke Bond Taj Mahal, Trusted Value Premium CTC Leaf, Tata Premium and Reliance Aarambh.
  • The value-for-money brand is Trusted Value Premium CTC Leaf.
  • Total flavonoids were found highest in Brooke Bond Red Label, while theaflavins were found highest in Marvel. Flavonoids and theaflavins are known for their antioxidant properties.
  • All brands except Rungta’s were found to meet the requirements of FSS Regulations and Indian Standard. Pesticides, namely quinalphos, were found to be above the prescribed limits in Rungta’s –this means it is not safe for consumption.
  • Heavy metals – specifically lead and copper – were within the acceptable limit in all the brands.
  • Acid-insoluble ash and total ash were within the permissible limit.
  • Iron filings, aflatoxins and colouring matter were not detected in any of the brands.

 

Top Performers - Brooke Bond Red Label

Value for Money - Trusted Value Premium CTC Leaf



 

You can see list of our CV Comparative Test Black Tea below, perform Side-by-Side comparison. If you need further help, do have a look at Conzumr Guides and Tips. Alternatively you can view all Black tea to choose your own favourites.


Black, green and white tea all originate from the Camellia sinensis plant. Their differences come from the methods by which they are processed. The buds and young leaves are steamed and dried to produce white tea. Green tea is made from mature leaves that go through the same process as white tea. When the leaves are rolled or broken and allowed to oxidise or ferment, the result is black tea. Broadly, tea is classified as orthodox or CTC (crush-tear-curl). Orthodox teas are whole-leaf teas manufactured using the traditional process of making tea, which involves plucking, withering, rolling, oxidation/fermentation and drying. CTC teas produce a granular leaf particle. It produces a very strong flavour, quickly infusing tea that is often boiled or used in tea bags.

Side by Side comparison

Red Label
Taj Mahal
Premium
Premium Leaf Tea
Real Gold
Premium Leaf Tea
Buy Now Red Label
Pack of 250 Per Unit
Brooke Bond ₹ 90 ₹ 0.36
Pack of 500 Per Unit
Amazon.in ₹ 0.41
Refreshed 4 days ago
Buy Now Taj Mahal
Pack of 250 Per Unit
Brooke Bond ₹ 133 ₹ 0.53
Pack of 500 Per Unit
Amazon.in ₹ 0.56
Refreshed 1 month ago
Buy Now Premium
Pack of 250 Per Unit
Tata ₹ 85 ₹ 0.34
Pack of 1000 Per Unit
Tata ₹ 350 ₹ 0.35
Amazon.in ₹ 0.38
Refreshed 1 week ago
Buy Now Premium Leaf Tea
Pack of 1000 Per Unit
Double Diamond ₹ 352 ₹ 0.35
Amazon.in ₹ 0.39
Refreshed 2 weeks ago
Buy Now Real Gold
Pack of 1 Per Unit
Rungta ₹ 190 ₹ 190
Pack of 2 Per Unit
Amazon.in ₹ 188
Refreshed 3 months ago
Buy Now Premium Leaf Tea
Pack of 250 Per Unit
Wagh Bakri ₹ 100 ₹ 0.40
Big Basket ₹ 105 ₹ 0.42
Pack of 500 Per Unit
Amazon.in ₹ 0.38
Big Basket ₹ 205 ₹ 0.41
Pack of 1000 Per Unit
Amazon.in ₹ 0.36
Wagh Bakri ₹ 380 ₹ 0.38
Refreshed 1 month ago
Highlights
Rank
Red Label : 1
Taj Mahal : 2
Premium : 2
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 2
Colvin Premium : 3
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Utsav : 4
Real Gold : 5
Premium Leaf Tea : 5
Haryali CTC Tea : 5
Nova : 6
Total Score out of 100
Red Label : 84
Taj Mahal : 83
Premium : 83
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 83
Colvin Premium : 82
Premium Leaf Tea : 81
Utsav : 81
Real Gold : 80
Premium Leaf Tea : 80
Haryali CTC Tea : 80
Nova : 79
MRP (Rs)
Red Label : 90
Taj Mahal : 133
Premium : 85
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 97
Colvin Premium : 60
Premium Leaf Tea : 352
Utsav : 398
Real Gold : 190
Premium Leaf Tea : 100
Haryali CTC Tea : 85
Nova : 70
Net Weight (Grams)
Red Label : 250
Taj Mahal : 250
Premium : 250
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 250
Colvin Premium : 250
Premium Leaf Tea : 1000
Utsav : 250
Real Gold : 500
Premium Leaf Tea : 250
Haryali CTC Tea : 250
Nova : 50
Unit Price (Rs) of 250 grams
Red Label : 90
Taj Mahal : 113
Premium : 85
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 97
Colvin Premium : 60
Premium Leaf Tea : 88
Utsav : 99.5
Real Gold : 95
Premium Leaf Tea : 100
Haryali CTC Tea : 85
Nova : 79
Best before (Months)
Red Label : 12
Taj Mahal : 12
Premium : 12
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 12
Colvin Premium : 12
Premium Leaf Tea : 18
Utsav : 12
Real Gold : 12
Premium Leaf Tea : 12
Haryali CTC Tea : 12
Nova : 12
Manufactured/ Marketed by
Red Label : Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Mumbai
Taj Mahal : Hindustan Unilever Ltd, Mumbai
Premium : Tata Global Beverages, Bengaluru
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : Reliance Retail Ltd, Thane
Colvin Premium : Marvel Ltd, Uklana, Haryana
Premium Leaf Tea : Duncan’s Tea Ltd, Faridabad
Utsav : Godfey Philips India Ltd (GPI), Mumbai
Real Gold : Rungta Tea Pvt. Ltd, Delhi
Premium Leaf Tea : Gujarat Tea Processors & Packers Ltd, Ahmedabad
Haryali CTC Tea : Today Tea Ltd, New Delhi
Nova : Surya Marketing Co., New Delhi
For Physicochemical Parameters
Red Label : 9.48
Taj Mahal : 6.53
Premium : 8.61
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 5.25
Colvin Premium : 4.9
Premium Leaf Tea : 3.91
Utsav : 4.5
Real Gold : 7.98
Premium Leaf Tea : 3.66
Haryali CTC Tea : 5.96
Nova : 3.71
  • Indian Standard has not specified any requirement for total flavonoids.
  • Black tea develops different types of flavonoids. These flavonoids have antioxidant abilities and may help prevent heart disease and some types of cancer.
  • Total flavonoids were found in the range of 6.25 percent–55.69 per cent w/w (mass/mass). Red Label had the highest amount and Goodricke the lowest.
Red Label : 6.7
Taj Mahal : 5.14
Premium : 5.38
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 6.46
Colvin Premium : 9.25
Premium Leaf Tea : 8.08
Utsav : 8.05
Real Gold : 5.26
Premium Leaf Tea : 5.83
Haryali CTC Tea : 5.35
Nova : 5.89
  • There is no standard requirement for theaflavins either.
  • Theaflavins were found in the range of 0.78 percent–2.15 per cent w/w mass/mass). Marvel had the highest amount and Taj Mahal the lowest.
  • Theaflavins are primarily responsible for the darker colour and stronger flavour of black tea. These have been proved to be effective as antioxidants and have many uses – from treating headaches and staving off allergies to protecting the heart and reducing cancer risk.
Red Label : 5.47
Taj Mahal : 5.81
Premium : 5.81
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 7.69
Colvin Premium : 6.95
Premium Leaf Tea : 6.89
Utsav : 7
Real Gold : 5.48
Premium Leaf Tea : 8.12
Haryali CTC Tea : 6.32
Nova : 7.48
  • Crude fibre is a measure of the quantity ofindigestible components present in foods. These components have little food value but because of their effect on the digestive system, they are thought to help with such problems as diabetes and high levels of blood cholesterol. Crude fibre is an important parameter in the quality evaluation of tea and influences its sensory properties.
  • As per FSS Regulations and Indian Standard, crude fibre in tea shall not be more than 16.5 per cent.
  • Crude fibre was found within the specified limit of 16.5 per cent.
Red Label : 8
Taj Mahal : 8
Premium : 8
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 8
Colvin Premium : 8
Premium Leaf Tea : 8
Utsav : 8
Real Gold : 5.95
Premium Leaf Tea : 8
Haryali CTC Tea : 8
Nova : 8
  • Pesticide is a chemical or biological agent (such as a virus, bacterium, antimicrobial, or disinfectant) that deters, incapacitates, kills, or otherwise discourages pests. Pesticides may cause acute and delayed health effects in people who are exposed. Such adverse health effects range from simple irritation of the skin and eyes to more severe effects like affecting the nervous system, mimicking hormones causing reproductive problems, and causing cancer.
  • We have conducted tests for following pesticides residues as per requirements of FSSAI.
  • Dicofol: Maximum permissible limit is 5.0 mg/kg.
  • It was not detected in any of the samples.
  • Ethion: Maximum permissible limit is 5.0 mg/kg.
  • It was not at all detected in 12 brands. Traces of ethion were found in Rungta’s and Goodricke but these were well below the specified limit. Thus, all the brands passed this test.
  • Fenazaquin: Maximum permissible limit is 3 mg/kg.
  • It was not detected in any of the samples.
  • Glufosinate ammonium: Maximum permissible limit is 0.01 mg/kg.
  • It was not detected in any of the samples.
  • Glyphosate: Maximum permissible limit is 1.0mg/kg.
  • It was not detected in any of the samples.
  • Propargite: Maximum permissible limit is 10.0mg/kg.
  • It was not detected in any of the samples.
  • Quinalphos: Maximum permissible limit is 0.01mg/kg.
  • Traces of this pesticide were found in Rungta’s– at 0.04 mg/kg, these went above the specified limit. Hence, this brand is not recommended for consumption.
Red Label : 6.94
Taj Mahal : 7.3
Premium : 6.56
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 6.85
Colvin Premium : 6.4
Premium Leaf Tea : 7.04
Utsav : 6.4
Real Gold : 7.65
Premium Leaf Tea : 7.17
Haryali CTC Tea : 6.11
Nova : 6.97
  • Acid-insoluble ash indicates the presence of impurities like sand, dirt and dust in food. As per Indian Standard and FSS Regulations, acid-insoluble ash in tea should not be more than 1.0 per cent by mass.
  • Acid-insoluble ash was found within the specified limits. It was lowest in Rungta’s (0.11 per cent) and highest in Fresh & Pure (0.64 per cent).
Red Label : 5.3
Taj Mahal : 5.33
Premium : 5.33
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 5.31
Colvin Premium : 4.9
Premium Leaf Tea : 4.97
Utsav : 5.07
Real Gold : 5.42
Premium Leaf Tea : 5.07
Haryali CTC Tea : 4.94
Nova : 5.42
  • As per Indian Standard and FSS Regulations, total ash in tea shall be between 4.0 per cent and 8.0 per cent.
  • Total ash in all brands was within the permissible range.
Red Label : 6.95
Taj Mahal : 6.84
Premium : 6.57
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 6.88
Colvin Premium : 6.48
Premium Leaf Tea : 6.87
Utsav : 6.59
Real Gold : 7.5
Premium Leaf Tea : 6.91
Haryali CTC Tea : 6.3
Nova : 6.61
  • Water-soluble ash is part of the total ash dissolved by water under the conditions specified in Indian Standard. As per both FSS Regulations and Indian Standard, the water-soluble ash component of total ash shall be a minimum 45 per cent by mass.
  • The water-soluble ash component of total ash was found to be above the minimum requirement of 45 percent. Thus, all brands passed in this test.
Red Label : 6.54
Taj Mahal : 6.51
Premium : 5.76
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 4.75
Colvin Premium : 4.36
Premium Leaf Tea : 4.55
Utsav : 4.58
Real Gold : 4.39
Premium Leaf Tea : 4.73
Haryali CTC Tea : 5.96
Nova : 4.28
  • It refers to the soluble matter extracted from a test portion by boiling water under the conditions specified in Indian Standard, expressed as a percentage by mass on a dry basis. As per both Indian Standard and FSS Regulations, water extract shall not be less than 32 per cent.
  • All samples met the requirement set by the standards. Water extract was highest in Red Label (63.52 percent) and lowest in Nova (32.81 per cent).
Red Label : 3.76
Taj Mahal : 5.9
Premium : 5.9
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 6
Colvin Premium : 5.76
Premium Leaf Tea : 5.64
Utsav : 5.78
Real Gold : 5.74
Premium Leaf Tea : 5.52
Haryali CTC Tea : 5.93
Nova : 5.64
  • Alkalinity of the water-soluble ash is either the amount of acid required to neutralise the aqueous extract of the total ash or the amount of alkali equivalent to this acid. As per FSS Regulations, it should be between 1.0 per cent and 3.0 per cent of total ash; as per Indian Standard, it should be in the range of 1.19 percent–2.62 per cent.
  • All the tea samples were found within the specified limit.
Red Label : 4
Taj Mahal : 4
Premium : 4
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 4
Colvin Premium : 4
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Utsav : 4
Real Gold : 4
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Haryali CTC Tea : 4
Nova : 4
  • Colour adulteration is not acceptable from the point of view of consumers’ health. As per FSS Regulations and Indian Standard, colouring matter shall be negative/absent in tea.
  • Colouring matter was absent in all the samples.
Red Label : 4
Taj Mahal : 4
Premium : 4
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 4
Colvin Premium : 4
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Utsav : 4
Real Gold : 4
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Haryali CTC Tea : 4
Nova : 4
  • The national standards have capped the maximum limit for iron particles in tea powder at 250 mg per kilogram.
  • Iron filings were not found in any of the brands tested.
Red Label : 3.18
Taj Mahal : 3.18
Premium : 3.3
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 4
Colvin Premium : 3.3
Premium Leaf Tea : 3.5
Utsav : 3.34
Real Gold : 3.32
Premium Leaf Tea : 3.31
Haryali CTC Tea : 3.31
Nova : 4
  • Lead contamination of food poses a serious health issue. Consumption of even a small amount of lead can cause lifelong health problems and repeated exposure will have lasting and detrimental effects.
  • As per Indian Standard and FSS Regulations, lead in tea shall not be more than 10 mg/kg.
  • Lead was found within the specified limit in all the 14 brands.
Red Label : 2.64
Taj Mahal : 2.64
Premium : 2.74
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 2.74
Colvin Premium : 4.6
Premium Leaf Tea : 2.65
Utsav : 2.77
Real Gold : 2.6
Premium Leaf Tea : 2.62
Haryali CTC Tea : 2.64
Nova : 2.76
  • Copper is an essential mineral required by the body for bone and connective tissue production, and for coding specific enzymes that carry out a range of functions, from eliminating free radicals to producing melanin. However, overconsumption of copper may lead to cramps, diarrhoea and vomiting in the short term, and to depression, schizophrenia,hypertension, senility and insomnia in the long term. Copper in large amounts can even be poisonous.
  • As per Indian Standard and FSS Regulations,copper in tea shall not be more than 150 mg/kg.
  • Copper was found within the specified limit in all the brands.
Red Label : 3
Taj Mahal : 3
Premium : 3
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 3
Colvin Premium : 3
Premium Leaf Tea : 3
Utsav : 3
Real Gold : 3
Premium Leaf Tea : 3
Haryali CTC Tea : 3
Nova : 3
  • Aflatoxins are poisonous and cancer-causingchemicals that are produced by certain moulds(Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus) that grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay and grains. Aflatoxins are highly toxic compounds and can cause both acute and chronic toxicity in humans and many other animals. Four types of aflatoxins are naturally found in foods. These are aflatoxins B1, B2, G1 and G2. Aflatoxin B1 is the most commonly found in food and also the most toxic.
  • There is no standard requirement for aflatoxins.These are expected to be absent in tea.
  • Aflatoxins were not detected in any of the samples.
For General Qualities
Red Label : 4
Taj Mahal : 4
Premium : 4
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 4
Colvin Premium : 4
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Utsav : 4
Real Gold : 4
Premium Leaf Tea : 4
Haryali CTC Tea : 4
Nova : 4
    The following details shall be marked on each pack:
  • Name and address of manufacturer
  • Name of the product
  • Net weight
  • Month and year of manufacture
  • Batch number
  • The words ‘best before’ (month and year)
  • Tea Board registration number if flavour is added
  • Declaration if flavour and flavouring substance is added
  • Green dot denoting vegetarian status
  • Maximum retail price (MRP)
  • FSSAI license number
  • Customer care details
Red Label : 2
Taj Mahal : 2
Premium : 1.6
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 1.6
Colvin Premium : 1.6
Premium Leaf Tea : 1.6
Utsav : 1.6
Real Gold : 1.6
Premium Leaf Tea : 1.6
Haryali CTC Tea : 1.6
Nova : 1.6
  • Tea shall be packed in closed, clean and dry containers made of material that does not lead to any deterioration in the quality of the tea.
  • Red Label and Taj Mahal had double packing (flexible as well as hard paperboard). All other samples had flexible thermo plastic packing.
Red Label : 2
Taj Mahal : 2
Premium : 2
Reliance Aarambh CTC Tea* : 2
Colvin Premium : 2
Premium Leaf Tea : 2
Utsav : 2
Real Gold : 2
Premium Leaf Tea : 2
Haryali CTC Tea : 2
Nova : 2
  • The weight of the product is measured and compared with the declared values on the pack.The net weight should be within the tolerance limit permitted in Legal Metrology Rules.
  • Net weight of all the tested brands was found as claimed and they scored equally well on this parameter.