I'm a mother, environmental scientist, and Covid contact tracer who does research on a variety of health-related topics. Copyright 2020
Many studies recommend consuming a large quantity of tea daily to see health benefits. However, the quality of the tea may be the most important factor to consider since higher quality, loose leaf tea corresponds to minimizing toxins such as fluoride. Green, black, white and oolong teas naturally have different levels of fluoride in their leaves.
Fluoride in Tea
As the controversy swells regarding fluoride in drinking water, it's important to look at our diet to minimize other sources of fluoride.
For some tea leaves, the fluoride content is high. The type of tea and quality of tea, however, determine the level of fluoride present. Making a healthier choice in tea will both minimize fluoride intake and maximize overall health benefits.
There are varying levels of fluoride in some popular teas: black tea, white tea, green tea, and oolong tea. First, you will want to understand the potential dangers of fluoride.
Less Fluoride in Young Tea Leaves
The Camellia sinensis plant is what produces the tea leaves for white, green, black and oolong teas. When this tea plant grows, the roots absorb fluoride from the soil and deposit the majority of it in the leaves.
The tea plant in particular is much more efficient at this process than other plants.
Since older, more mature leaves have had more time for this deposition, they contain up to 20 times more fluoride than younger tea leaves.
Anit-Oxidant EGCG Level in Tea Leaves
The powerful anti-oxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) present in tea is responsible for health benefits such as lowering LDL and has anti-cancer properties.
The level of EGCG decreases in more mature tea leaves, giving us further reason to prefer younger tea leaves.
Fluoride Content in Different Types of Tea
|Type of Tea||Age of Tea Leaves||Fluoride Content||Notes|
not allowed to oxidize, preserves flavonoids, catechins and polyphenols associated with health benefits
leaves oxidize after harvest to create unique flavors
oxidation time between green and black tea to create smooth flavors
buds and young leaves
3x more antioxidants than green or black tea
herbal tea is not made from a true tea plant
made from flowers, roots, herbs, etc.
See Linus Pauling Institute website for more detailed fluoride content of teas.
Quality of Tea and Fluoride Content
Younger tea leaves are used in higher quality teas and contain lower fluoride levels.
See the list from the highest quality to lowest quality.
- Loose leaf tea ~ Best Quality
- Tea dust (tea bags)
- Bottled tea (fluoride in water plus fluoride in tea)
- Brick tea (oldest leaves formed into brick shape) ~ Lowest Quality
Fluoride Content in Chinese Green Tea vs Japanese Green Tea
The soil in Japan is naturally lower in fluoride compared to China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Therefore, Japanese green tea will naturally have lower fluoride levels than Chinese green tea.
WHO lists several areas of the world where high naturally occurring fluoride concentrations affect tea crops and drinking water: India, Sri Lanka, parts of Africa and the Middle East.
How to Brew Loose Leaf Tea
In case the idea of loose leaf tea is new to you, here's how you can incorporate this type of tea into your routine.
- Use a traditional teapot.
Heat water with a tea kettle. Use the strainer basket or infuser on your teapot for the tea leaves. If you don't have a teapot with a strainer, place tea leaves directly in the pot. Add the hot water from the tea kettle to the teapot. After the recommended steep time, remove the strainer basket or infuser or use a hand-held strainer to filter out the tea leaves while pouring into your cup.
- Use a tea maker.
After heating water in a tea kettle, pour into the tea maker. Some tea makers have filters set into the pot for the leaves and others filter as you pour the tea out.
- Use individual tea filters or tea ball.
Use water heated in a tea kettle to pour into your teacup containing a tea filter (is basically a tea bag that you have filled yourself) or tea ball that you filled with loose leaf tea. Some brands sell loose leaf tea already in sachets.
Loose Leaf Tea Poll
Tea Company Honorable Mention
Based in London, Jing Tea has a wonderful selection of loose leaf teas including organic and fair trade.
Charleston Tea Plantation
They provide a selection of premium black loose leaf teas. The tea is grown in South Carolina at the only tea plantation in the United States.
This company has a large selection of loose leaf teas and ships within the United States.
So... What Is the Healthiest Type of Tea?
We should be limiting our total exposure to fluoride from tea, based on the potential dangers associated with fluoride exposure and the high levels present in many types of tea. At the same time, incorporating benefits from different types of teas provides a wide variety of benefits.
- White tea is a true tea that contains high antioxidant power and has low fluoride levels, especially in loose-leaf form.
- Green tea health benefits are well-studied. To incorporate the benefits of green tea in the diet, finding a loose leaf option from Japan or a loose leaf option with younger leaves will limit fluoride while providing benefits.
- Loose-leaf black tea and oolong tea from areas with lower environmental fluoride are best if you prefer black or oolong tea.
- The fluoride-free options are herbal teas, but then the health benefits from true tea are not felt.
If you are really more of a coffee drinker, find out about toxins and the health benefits of different types of coffee.
© 2012 Melis Ann
J.D. on April 15, 2020:
I use a gaiwan to make tea, specifically when it is Chinese tea, which keeps the whole tea leaves intact through a pan frying method. Japanese tea is steamed, breaking up tea leaves, thus making it necessary to use a strainer of some sort when making that tea.
Kass on May 15, 2019:
I use a tea infuser.
RTalloni on May 08, 2019:
Feeling quite good about sipping my cup of white tea as I've read through this post. :)
Michele on February 14, 2019:
I use a french press to steep my loose leaf tea. Love the entire process of making a cup or french press of tea!
Bugslinger on December 17, 2018:
Make tea in coffee pot
Alex on October 13, 2018:
Paula, fluoride isn't required by the body in any amount. The body doesn't use fluoride for any processes. Look it up and tell me what bodily processes require fluoride. It is toxic to living creatures. Do some research. If a "scientist" told you to jump off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge?
Paula Marshall on May 14, 2018:
The proper amount of iron is necessary for the body. Too much is harmful.
The proper amount of salt (admittedly tiny!) is necessary for the body. Too much is harmful.
The proper amount of fluoride is necessary for the body. Too much is harmful.
As long as SCIENTISTS tell me to ingest it, I'll ingest it.
Jesse on March 14, 2018:
Thanks for this article! Happy to hear that I can switch to white tea and still enjoy the benefits...because I love brewing tea in the Chinese gong fu cha style. It uses relatively large amounts of leaves, short steep times (1-6 seconds), and is an intuitive and improvisational act, unlike the more formal Japanese tea ceremony. I'm blessed to have a wonderful tea house, Guan Yin, close to me in Austin, TX where they teach and pour in this style, and where they sell very high quality farm-direct Chinese tea. Cheers!
Hermine on January 20, 2018:
Do you have any info on the flouride in the tea grown in the Azores?
Zaton-Taran from California on October 21, 2015:
I've even heard that drinking too much green tea is bad for you. There was a teenage girl in the UK, I think, who recently got jaundice and liver problems from too much matcha tea intake.
Melis Ann (author) from Mom On A Health Hunt on August 31, 2012:
Thanks for that information Jonathan. Fluoride also binds to calcium in the diet.
Jonathan Swaringen on August 31, 2012:
Good amounts of Iodine might help with Fluoride issues. So eating plenty of seafood that has a good Selenium to Mercury ratio would be good.
Selenium matters because if you have enough Selenium it binds to the Mercury thus making it benign. What makes Mercury such a problem is that it can muck up the works by binding to receptors. It can't do that if its already bound to Selenium.
Things like Shark, Swordfish, some types of Tuna have more Mercury than Selenium.
Melis Ann (author) from Mom On A Health Hunt on July 09, 2012:
I'm not surprised you found relief from asthma symptoms by eliminating toxins freda. I'm wondering if you would still be able to drink white tea or herbal tea as the levels of fluoride are reported to be significantly lower for white and none for herbal except what you would get from your water source.
freda on July 09, 2012:
im sorry to say that in my personal quest to improve asthma, by removing as much fluoride as i can from my body, i have given up tea. but i love the effects of tea so now i buy L-Theanine.
I actually find a dose of Theanine to be better than tea in term of the mental facilitation, but i do miss the warm stimulating beverage. Hopefully one day we have growers who actively control the level of toxic elements.
Melis Ann (author) from Mom On A Health Hunt on May 02, 2012:
That is exactly the problem Brett. Quality leaves provide such a great benefit. Unfortunately, the convenience in tea has lead to less quality and thus less benefits.
Brett C from Asia on April 26, 2012:
Green tea is actually very nice. It is extremely popular in Thailand and the older generation still brew from fresh leaves. However, unfortunately the presence of convenience stores now has lead to more and more buying instant versions ... which I doubt have the benefits and probably get loaded with chemicals.
SHARED, up and interesting.
Melis Ann (author) from Mom On A Health Hunt on April 25, 2012:
Glad you found the fluoride and tea information useful tirelesstraveler! Thanks for the follow.
Judy Specht from California on April 24, 2012:
I had no idea that tea contained fluoride. Very useful information.
Melis Ann (author) from Mom On A Health Hunt on March 21, 2012:
Thanks Arnold for your comment.
The UK Department of Health commissioned a study in 2004 from which they concluded there is no difference in the bioavailability of fluoride from 'natural sources' versus artificial fluoride compounds. The Australian Dental Association references this study http://www.ada.org.au/oralhealth/fln/flfaqs.aspx#F...
One of my other hubs titled 'Drinking Water Fluoridation and Dental Fluorosis' (link above) touches on the different fluoride compounds that are by-products of the fertilizer industry. These compounds, when added to the drinking water, dissolve in water, separating the element of fluoride from the other contaminants to act within the body once ingested (these by-products are contaminated with other chemicals as you mentioned).
Also discussed in my other hub ~ different ways that fluoride is used to help teeth. Ingesting fluoride, no matter which form, can be toxic. However, topically applying fluoride has been shown to help prevent cavities.
Although other minerals such as calcium can bind to fluoride compounds so they are not used by the body, there needs to be enough calcium ingested along with the fluoride during the same meal. In the case of tea, calcium may also bind to some of the beneficial components of tea.
I appreciate the points you brought up Arnold ~ all good topics to explore.
Arnold Gore on March 21, 2012:
The chemical properties of the fluoride naturally absorbed in through the root structure are much different and safer than the added fluoride, usually hydrofuslic acid obtained from the industrial wastes of phosphate fertilizer and aluminum plants.Where fluoride trace elements occur in nature thet usually are counterbalanced with healthy trace minerals such as magnesium and calcium.
Melis Ann (author) from Mom On A Health Hunt on March 21, 2012:
Mekenzie ~ I'm glad you brought up the issue of organic since, like you said, it has nothing to do with the fluoride that the tea plant absorbs from the soil. In a general sense, India does have high levels of fluroide in the soil according to WHO (see link in text to see more specifics and other countries listed). For herbal tea and white tea, the fluoride is low to absent anyway so the country of origin doesn't matter as much as green, black or oolong for example.
Cheers ~ Melis Ann
Susan Ream from Michigan on March 21, 2012:
Once again you have taught me something I did not know. I have always bought organic teas (and coffee) such as Organic India teas because I have a concern about the chemicals used on tea leaves. I never thought about fluoride in tea. What do you know about tea grown in India?