Sukret te gate: It’s the ‘Sugar Tea Gate’ Scandal

Most of you reading this can recall a scandal, even if vaguely.

In America, there was a president who said “I am not a crook” Another who said “I DID NOT have sex with that woman”. And another who said “mumble mumble recroootament mumble”. All scandalous. All untrue. Admittedly, I’m guessing about the last one.

In Britain there were spy scandals all over the place, usually involving politicians, Russian spies and women of negotiable affection. It seems that the way to a man’s heart is not through his stomach after all.

In Australia, we’ve had a few. An entire football team (Australian Rules) turned out to be drug cheats, a Nurse’s Union official turned out to be using thousands of dollars in union funds for one-on-one meetings with young ladies who weren’t even nurses (but were willing to dress up as one for a few bucks extra, no doubt)  and a horse that was basically painted to look like another horse won a few races.

But Norway? There’s a country that has been relatively free of scandal.

Sure, some of the alleged sons of Ragnar Lodbrok such as Ivar the BonelessBjörn IronsideHalfdan RagnarssonSigurd Snake-in-the-Eye, and Ubbe Ragnarsson may have done a lot of pillaging back in the day. And most of us would recall the scandal of 1824 when Bredo Henrik von Munthe af Morgenstierne had to resign as  a Parliamentary deputy after it was found out that he’d lied about whether the king of Sweden/Denmark had slipped him a wad of cash.

Nevertheless, dear readers, I bring you news today of a scandal that I believe will shake Norwegian society to its core. And even non-Norwegians reading this will suffer at least one shudder of distaste, probably more.

Thanks to a tip off from a regular reader who goes by the delightful name of @tea_choc on Twitter, I’ve been made aware of some research done on behalf of a TV station.

To quote:

TV 2 hjelper deg» har fått det anerkjente laboratoriet Eurofins til å analysere to typer te-poser: Twinings Green Tea & Lemon og Lipton Green Tea Indonesian Sencha Tradition

Or, as Mr Google would have it:

TV 2 help has gotten the recognized laboratory Eurofins to analyze two kinds of tea bags: Twinings Green Tea & Lemon and Lipton Green Tea Sencha Indonesian Tradition

So, why do we care? Because of the result:

I den ene typen te dere leverte til oss fant vi tjue prosent sukrose i teposene.
I den andre typen te fant vi fem prosent sukrose, altså vanlig rørsukker, sier Nina Dyrnes, salgssjef i Eurofins Norge.
Twinings Green Tea & Lemon inneholder mest sukker, hele tjue prosent. Liptons Green Tea Indonesian Sencha Tradition inneholder fem prosent sukker. Det står det ingenting om på pakkene.

Or:

In one type of tea you delivered to us, we found twenty percent sucrose in teabags.
In the second type of tea we found five percent sucrose, ie table sugar, says Nina Dyrnes, Sales Manager at Eurofins Norway.
Twinings Green Tea & Lemon contains the most sugar, (a) whole twenty percent. Lipton Green Tea Sencha Indonesian Tradition contains five percent sugar.

It says nothing about it on the packages.

WHAT? This tea has been ameliorated – at up to TWENTY PERCENT – with sugar – and it’s NOT MENTIONED ON THE PACKAGING!

This is basically substituting sugar for tea. It’s the most appalling substitution racket since sheep’s dung was used to make smuggled tea go further in 1700s England. Or is it? What do the manufacturers say?

Unilever (Lipton)  emailed TV2 to explain that they use maltodextrin as part of the flavouring, and that Maltodextrin contains sugar, but in such small quantities that it does not make the tea sweet”.

Whilst that’s pathetic, it’s mild compared to Twining’s reaction.

They refused a request for interview, and attempted to prevent the article being aired or promoted.

They argue – you’ll love this:

  • their own tests show only about ten percent sugar in teab*gs with Green Tea & Lemon.
  • the amount of sugar  becomes much smaller when you put the teab*g in water (I guess they mean in percentage terms) , and therefore is wrong to talk about how much sugar there is in the teab*g.
  • The reason they have added sugar is as a carrier for citric taste of the tea and that under European labeling rules they are not required to list such carriers  in the ingredient list on the product.

Good one, Twinings! Hope that works out for you.

Assuming that Twinings are right about the 10% thing, that means that .2 grams of sugar is present per cup. So yes, you would need to go through 25 cups to make  a teaspoon of sugar. And quite frankly, anyone who has ONE teab*g and then goes back for more deserves what they get to an extent.

Nevertheless, all joking aside there are some importunate questions here:

  • Are diabetics not worthy of consideration?
  • Is the tea that bad it needs sweetening?
  • What else might they be omitting from the label?

All companies need a measure of trust. Trying to close down a factual article about your product is not going to inspire that.

Both these companies are at least partly British. This could, and possibly should, be the biggest scandal in Anglo-Norse relations since Lindisfarne 793.

 

 

 

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Robert Godden

Certified Tea Nutter. Blender. Author of "The Infusiast" and Tea "Stories"
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9 thoughts on “Sukret te gate: It’s the ‘Sugar Tea Gate’ Scandal

  1. You can always count on the Norwegians to go where no man has gone before.
    No way, these words were made for others…

    These companies do not care for their customers and their answers really bring shame on them.

  2. As is written, if you add sugar tell people you’ve added sugar don’t “sugar coat” it with terms most people do not understand. When you hide the facts you give tea a bad name. That’s why “Sweet Tea” is called “Sweet Tea” and macarons have sugar 🙂
    Thanks Robert

  3. I knew about Lipton but Twinnings does surprise me a bit.

    There was a tv-item on the subject a while back on Dutch Television. They tried to find out what that stuff was in some Lipton flavoured teas (they also discovered it was in the “pure” yellow label black “tea”).

    It took them a while to find out (okay it is tv, so edited…).

    Mostly in Dutch, but contains images of the strange stuff found:
    http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1392216

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