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Tea and Mulberry: Which is a More Natural Beverage?

In May and June, I had the opportunity to visit tea farms in Taiwan and Japan including some of the most famous tea growing regions that produce Chinese Oolong and Japanese matcha. Some of the tea fields look like gardens with the tea trees shaped into perfect hedges row after row.

Tea fields in Wazuka, Kyoto prefecture

The immaculate tea trees and complete absence of any weeds would not be possible without the frequent application of pesticides, fertilizers, and herbicides. In Taiwan, fields growing tea for Oolong are treated with herbicides and insecticides about once a month. In Japan, after the teas are processed, wholesalers receive a list of all of the agrochemicals used to grow the tea, and these are strictly regulated. Yet, in all of the tea factories I visited in Taiwan and Japan never once did I see the tea leaves washed before they were processed. I suppose any chemical residue is removed during production, but it made me wonder.

Mulberry leaves

In contrast to tea, one of the great advantages of mulberry leaves is that agrochemicals are not required to grow healthy leaves. The leaves themselves repel most insects, and mulberry trees are so hearty they can grow almost anywhere to the point that some might call them weeds. Without having to use agrochemicals mulberry cultivation is not dependent on fossil fuels needed for the production, shipment, and application of fertilizers and herbacides. That makes me wonder why we seek out crops grown half way around the world that require massive inputs of chemicals, energy, and intense labor to grow, when there are already plants growing naturally in our own backyards that we can use instead. Perhaps Mother Nature is trying to tell us something?