I’m considering making Friday a day to discuss my favorite foods, products, or activities that I feel help me live the “paleo skater lifestyle”. This is the first “Friday Favorites” post, and I hope I can keep up this posting schedule to discuss more favorites! 😉
Most of my friends know one of my favorite things is Tea. I have loved tea since I was a child, and despite my on-again, off-again love affair with coffee (right now I don’t have it AT ALL, for reasons mentioned in a previous post), I find tea to be the most fulfilling and healthy hot beverage.
But while I say ‘tea’ and think of my chosen variety of tea, many think of different iterations of it. Some think of Starbucks, or Teavana’s candy-like tea blends or tea lattes. Some think of tea bags. Others think of earl grey tea in a English tea service. To me, the most important thing is not the variety but the quality of the tea.
Over the years, I have learned much about tea, from why you should always choose organic varieties, to what has the most and least caffeine, (and how that happens), to the health benefits of different types of tea. I also learned what type of tea works for me.
Here are my tips for finding the best tea for you.
- Is it organic and non-GMO?
It is REALLY important to get organic and non-genetically modified tea. Tea plants are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, so you definitely don’t want to steep chemical-covered tea in hot water to drink! The tea estates from which many big brands purchase from also practice unsafe working conditions for their workers, including child labor and horrible living and working conditions. Organic tea also doesn’t use sewage slush as fertilizer, which is understandably reassuring, since this practice often occurs in conventional crops.
Here’s the best summary of why it is important to get organic tea, from Divinitea, a tea shop and supplier in the Albany area and specialist in organic tea:
Certified organic tea is free of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. Organic tea agriculture sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects. Organic tea agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
2. Is it “loose” or in a bag?
Another thing that might sound trivial, but it’s still important. As Food Babe explains in her extensive post about organic tea vs. conventional tea, the tea bags that you buy are often composed of a “food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET)” or “PLA (polylactic acid)”, or paper treated with potential carcinogens. So the plastic bag’s molecules break down in hot water, the PLA bags are most likely derived from GMO corn, and the paper is coated with epichlorohydrin. Even the “high quality mesh bags” are made of the nylon type material, so despite marketing and packaging assurances that it’s the “best type of tea bag”, even that is not entirely safe.
That’s why I prefer to use loose tea and either a glass or stainless steel strainer for my tea.
3. Are there artificial colors/flavors in the tea?
Unfortunately, despite tea’s renaissance with brands like Starbucks bringing in Teavana teas to make tea drinks and loose tea, most popular brands have artificial colors/flavors, hence the sweet/artificial taste and aroma.
Years ago, I used to love Teavana tea, when the stores first started appearing in malls. I applauded the founders’ visions to bring teas of the world to America on a large scale. However, I started noticing that much of the teas available had artificial colorings/flavorings which effected me, and weren’t organic besides. I started getting sores in my mouth (an indicator for me when something has artificial colorings/flavorings) and the tea started to taste…artificial. That’s when I stopped.
But other brands use artificial colors and flavors, as Food Babe’s article will tell you. Steer clear of those and choose the purest tea with JUST TEA/HERBS as an ingredient.
4. How do you feel when you drink it?
Many people overlook this important part of the tea (and food) experience, and focus just on taste or an idea of what they should be eating/drinking and not how it effects them personally.
For me, I feel better if I drink pure tea (tea without additives, including any type of sweetener or milk) that is organic and non-GMO. I also feel better if I don’t consume a lot of caffeine. One cup (or half of a small pot) is fine, but if I have too much black tea I feel anxious and irritable. So you have to know what works for you, and stick to it!
If all else fails, you can refer to Food Babe’s handy chart (below) to see how your favorite brands stack up.
As you will see, I recommend the following two companies because of the high quality of their products.
My favorite teas
Now that I’ve just shared what NOT to get when purchasing tea, I will share the brands I love!
My personal favorite “every day tea” is Makabari Silver Tips. Sourced from the Makabari Tea Estate in India, which is the oldest tea garden in Darjeeling and was established in 1859, the tea is Certified Organic, Biodynamic and Fair Trade. This white tea is light and relatively light in caffeine, which is perfect for me. They also have many other types of tea, not just white, and I encourage you check them out!
I also love the tea from Light of Day Organics. They also have a wonderful white tea, but many other varieties as well. Based in Michigan, they are Michigan’s only certified biodynamic farm. According to the Biodynamics farming website, Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Their tea is also Certified Organic, Biodynamic and Fair Trade, and of course non-GMO. My personal favorite teas are their oolong, heartwarming cinnamon, kukicha, creamy earl grey (I do have caffeinated tea, rarely), and relaxation blend.
Hope this helps! Have any other favorite teas or tea companies that you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments! 🙂