Herbal teas have experienced a huge surge in popularity as their health benefits become more widely known. You can find a tea for just about anything: sleep, stress, digestion, immune support, weight loss, pregnancy support, and so on.
Of course, since herbal tea has become so popular, more and more options have become available. Unfortunately, not all of these options are good quality or good for you. Buying a poor quality tea is a waste of money and won't give you any of the health benefits you're hoping for.
So how can you tell whether an herbal tea is good quality?
With a little investigating, you can get a good idea of whether an herbal tea is as advertised before you even buy. There are also other tests to apply once you open your first bag. Here's what you should look for and how to get the most out of your tea.
Check for Freshness
The freshness of the herbs in your tea is a huge factor for how many nutrients they've retained and how much flavor has been preserved.
Herbs need to be dried correctly to keep their flavor and beneficial compounds intact. Once dried, they do have a shelf life and will start losing their aroma, color, and health benefits if left sitting for too long. Cut and whole herbs will also stay fresh longer than powdered herbs, which have more surface area exposed to the air and environment.
So how can you tell whether your tea is fresh or not?
First, pay attention to the description of the herbal tea when buying. Loose leaf teas are usually a better choice than tea bags because the herbs are less processed. Tea bags often contain finely ground and lower grade herbs and tea.
Then, take a look at your herbal tea when it arrives. Have the herbs kept most of their color, or do they look brown? When you open the bag, do you get a strong fragrance of herbs or do you not smell much of anything? Are the herbs cut, whole, or in tiny pieces?
Good quality herbal tea should keep the color and fragrance of the herb intact and be made of whole or cut herbs. Your senses will tell you if it's fresh before you even drink any. (Do keep in mind that some herbs, especially roots, are meant to be brown. If you don't know what the herb should look like, Google it!)
A lot of evidence has come out about how harmful the use of pesticides can be for humans. They can be deadly for the workers who mix and spray them, and pesticide residue on conventional produce is proving to be harmful to our health. (1)
To get the most benefit from your herbal tea, you don't want to be drinking any chemicals. There are a few different types of certifications for growers who don't use harmful chemicals, but USDA certified organic is the most familiar.
When possible, choose to buy herbal tea made with organic herbs. You can also take a minute to look through the website of the herbal company to see what their values and quality standards are.
Where do they source their herbs from? Do they care about chemical-free and environmentally friendly growing methods? Are their teas USDA Organic?
Purity testing is not something you likely think of when it comes to herbal tea, but it's very important. Herbs are grown and sourced from all over the world, and it's possible for them to become contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins.
This is different from whether an herb is certified organic or not. The contaminants can come from the soil the herbs are grown in, enter during the packaging process, or get picked up anywhere in between. Herbal products from India and China have especially come under scrutiny because of detected heavy metals (including lead, mercury, and arsenic). (2)(3)
Purity testing should be documented by the company you're buying tea from, and this should be mentioned somewhere on their website (probably in a 'quality assurance' section).
Consider Small Batch Tea
There are quite a few large manufacturers who offer a wide selection of herbal teas. Some of them do offer quality tea, but you might want to consider looking for a smaller business to buy from.
Quality is often easier to control with small batches. It's a more hands-on process with less machinery involved, and products usually aren't sitting on shelves or in storage for long periods. Handcrafted teas are also a sign of passion, which means that the business owner cares about quality just like you do.
There are also many more benefits of small batch products in general, including being more eco-friendly.
Look for Herbalist Formulated
Making a quality herbal tea isn't just a matter of throwing a few herbs together. To have real health benefits, the right herbs need to be chosen and combined with other herbs that will blend synergistically.
This means you'll get the best herbal teas from someone who knows what they're doing, not a company that just wants to make money. Look for herbal tea that is made or formulated by an herbalist. You can usually find this information by looking in the 'About Us' section and reading about who is actually making your tea.
Choose Blends That Meet Your Needs
Herbal tea can be enjoyed just for flavor alone, but most people who drink it are looking for more. As mentioned before, herbal teas have a wide range of health benefits. This is why most of us try going herbal in the first place.
Finding a quality herbal tea is not just about the quality of the herbs themselves (although that's obviously important). It's also about what the tea will do for you. Most companies make it pretty easy to tell what benefit a specific tea has. All you need to do is read the name or description of the tea to find out.
However, you can also approach it a different way by looking up specific herbs you think will benefit you, then looking for tea blends with that herb in them. Or you can consult with a professional herbalist or naturopath to get recommendations for your unique needs.
Get to Know Your Herbal Tea!
Now that you know what to look for in a quality herbal tea, don't be afraid to get to know your herbs better! You don't have to be an herbalist to learn more about how herbal tea works and which herbs do what.
You'll truly get the most out of herbal tea when you can choose the right ones to support your health!
To learn more about specific herbs, check out the herbal profiles on our blog. You can also look through our selection of quality, handcrafted herbal teas for pregnancy, sleep, immune support, and more.