There is no need to fear contagion from tea, a beverage proven to boost your immune system with beneficial phytochemicals that combat inflammation.
No one is going to contract the COVID-19 coronavirus from drinking tea. Here are the reasons why:
- All tea for sale whether from China, India or Africa is nearly a year old. It was harvested long before the December outbreak in Wuhan. The entire stock of tea on offer by Metropolitan Tea Company was grown and processed before June 2019, according to the Canadian company. Cindi Bigelow, CEO at Bigelow Tea, said her company has a 10-month supply of tea in its warehouses, all of which were landed before the outbreak. “We are in an excellent position to ensure our customers have the ability to enjoy our green tea,” she said.
- The coronavirus spreads through human contact, most often via respiratory droplets due to coughing and sneezing. The virus must remain moist and survives only a short time on dry surfaces and no more than three days under moist, temperate conditions.
- During processing Chinese black, oolong and green teas are heated to temperatures above 200oF (95oC). Sun-dried teas undergo a kill-stop at temperatures far above what a virus can tolerate.
- Tea is then dried to approximately 5% moisture content ― well below the moisture levels essential to the survival of COVID-19. Dry leaves are then sealed to keep out moisture and stored at room temperature for long periods.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the virus has an incubation period of 5-14 days in a live host. It takes at least 60 days for tea to transit the Pacific Ocean, and it is often warehoused for several months before it reaches grocery shelves.
- Even the lowest temperatures at which teas are brewed are fatal to viruses. Bottled tea is processed at very high temperatures, and instant tea is spray dried. Liquid concentrates are either pasteurized or treated at ultra-high temperatures.
Caution is warranted. In a typical year, 1 billion people come down with the flu. The coronavirus had infected 250,000 people by March and will certainly top one million. While there is no vaccine at this time, vaccinations last year reduced by 36% the number of doctor visits so get vaccinated and practice good hygiene. Common flu already has infected 26 million Americans this season and caused 14,000 deaths. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detected an uptick of Influenza A in late January. The coronavirus was discovered to be spreading within communities after CDC began testing those with flulike symptoms in several cities. The number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise exponentially. But rest assured, as the Tea Association of the USA asserts: “there is no need to be concerned about the risk of coronavirus infection from imported tea products.”
Tea is Safe, but Tea Retailers are Hurting
Imports and sales of Chinese tea were already down in 2019 due to unnecessary and putative tariffs. Since the outbreak, those that were not closed by government order experienced a sharp downturn in foot traffic. Retailers are counting fewer orders as buyers switch to non-Chinese tea, and blenders substitute tea from other origins.
America is one of the most popular destinations for vacationing Chinese who spend $258 billion annually, according to the World Tourism Organization.
Eater’s Jenny G. Zhang writes, “the outbreak has had a decidedly dehumanizing effect, reigniting old strains of racism and xenophobia that frame Chinese people as uncivilized, barbaric ‘others’ who bring with them dangerous, contagious diseases.”
The crisis presents an opportunity for tea lovers globally to set a good example by explaining why tea is safe. Begin with family and friends. Cite the above and share a photo on Facebook of yourself enjoying a Chinese origin tea.
Regardless of origin, drinking tea is a safe practice, and right now, China, the birthplace and home to the world’s finest teas, needs our support.