Is Your Tea Ritual Killing You or Healing You?

IMG_8194After quitting caffeine for New Year’s two years ago and starting a course of herbal studies, I have become highly appreciative of tea. I love the ritual of choosing the proper tea for my moment whether it is to wake and energize my senses for the day or lull me calmly to sleep at night. I enjoy the various forms of making tea whether boiling water to the proper temperature to pour over a bag in my brown ceramic mug, creating a homemade medicinal decoction from garden grown lemongrass, astragalus or dandelion root; sipping green fresh-stirred matcha slowly from little Japanese cups alongside my Little Tokyo teapot; or going all out for a batch of customized masala chai in my tomato red Le Creuset French oven pot.

I also love the way herbs and spices affect and nurture the body naturally. I know that chicory, rosemary and ginger are the best bets for breakfast to electrify the brain for a hard day of work. I know that thyme is soothing yet stimulating midday for keeping the productivity and the bowels flowing. I know that rice genmaicha is perfectly fortifying before a long hike. And I know that nothing creates comfort and peace and that warm and fuzzy “blankets on a cold day” feeling like a warm nightcap of chamomile.

With all the beautiful health benefits and mental well being that tea brings, it’s a shame to see it counteracted grossly when it comes to the mass marketing department. Earlier this year, Food Babe came out with a post on all of the tea companies in the markets that were selling teas stuffed with artificial and unnatural flavors as well as poisonous plastic and paper tea bags. Basically her findings say that only Numi, Rishi and Traditional Medicinals are pure. Another source at Clean Plates goes further to confirm that EDEN Organic, Organic Stash, Choice, Two Leaves, Organic Yogi Tea, and Tetley Black and Green Tea get a passing grade as well.

This was so disheartening to me. I know I am prone to living with Pollyanna glasses on in general but if a company is going to go so far as to state they are trying to make something that is healthy and good for you, why not do their homework and integrate some integrity into their choices in consideration of the overall product? I mean, don’t just throw good tea leaves into a bag that’s going to eventually kill me and call it holistic because the leaves came from the ground. This really bothers me and continues to feed my disillusion in the capitalist model of moneymaking in general.

What disappointed me most was the realization that I would have to give up all of my favorite teas. No more Celestial Seasons Sleepytime or Roasted Chicory. No more stepping into Teavana to buy a bag filled to the brim with vanilla cream Earl Grey. But then I got excited realizing that I could actually practice what I preach and support the businesses that are doing it right.

I went about on an escapade to find new favorites. So far Choice is doing a good job at keeping my tea palate titillated. Their flavors are strong especially the lovely and sprightly ginger, and the prices are reasonable. I can find them in places like Mother’s, Trader Joe’s and some common grocery stores.

IMG_8199The verdict on Good Earth is still out. While their Sweet and Spicy tea was my all time favorite tea ever with its blend of rooibos, cinnamon, chamomile, lemongrass, peppermint, papaya, jasmine tea, anise seed, ginger root, orange peel and orange oil; this article has me scratching my head in confusion as to whether it is bad or not. I guess I will have to finish my current box and then look elsewhere for a replacement.

Lastly, I am on the hunt for valid information on a tea that I find often in Chinese markets in pharmacies called Alvita. The boxes are a botanical illustrator’s dream and they come in hardcore medicinal flavors like burdock root and stinging nettle with descriptions and instructions for healing anything from stomach pains to liver pain and overconsumption. I love the concepts and the tea tastes really good but I can’t find critical information on whether they are pure or not. If anyone knows anything about these guys, I would love some more information.

Until then, here’s to righteous sipping!

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