Have You Heard of Functional Teas?
The beverage industry uses the term “functional tea” to indicate a tea blend that is customized for a certain intended wellness benefit. Could be for stress, to help you sleep, boost immunity, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, support female health, the list goes on.
Is it truly “tea”? Sometimes. The ingredient combinations for a functional tea are endless. Both true tea (made from camellia sinensis leaves) and herbal tisanes (made from non-tea plant parts including roots, leaves, flowers, bark, etc.) infuse a brew with phytonutrients that help the body. Functional teas may be purely made from tea (i.e., matcha is sought for its high levels of anti-oxidant polyphenols), not include any actual tea at all, or be a blend of tea and herbals.
Functional Teas on the Rise
I was quoted recently in a World Tea News article — “Tea Trends 2021: Thought-Leaders Talk Tea Boxes, Online Sales, Wellness & More” — in which two of the seven commenters stressed the growing demand for functional teas during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people around the world seek to strengthen their immune systems.
Of course, this isn’t exactly breaking news. From the beginning of tea drinking time, tea has been taken medicinally. In fact, centuries before discovering how to prepare tea in delicious ways, our ancestors tolerated bitter brews for their touted medicinal and digestive benefits.
Health Claims of Functional Teas
The FDA has oversight when it comes to claiming the functional benefits of a tea blend. Over the years, the agency has issued warnings to tea companies, such as Rishi, Lipton and Snapple, for marketing their products with health claims that didn’t adhere to the FDA Food Labeling Guide.
As in the chart below, functional tea sellers may petition the FDA to use a “Qualified Health Claim” to market their tea’s health benefits, but they must accurately tell consumers about the level of scientific evidence supporting the claim. The FDA may issue a Letter of Enforcement Discretion detailing for the tea seller the kind of health claim language they will not object to. As in all food and drink, it’s best to go straight to the Nutrition Facts Label and Ingredients List for the whole story.
Taste Testing: The Wellness Tea
What: A blend of 10 organic herbals developed by Marlyse Tchamko to “naturally boost your daily balance” in one cup, The Wellness Tea is sold in 3 oz. packages of 30 pyramid tea bags.
The Taste: If you are a fan of chamomile or cinnamon, this tisane is for you! In my first sips, I tasted pure chamomile, but after allowing the tea to cool, and later icing, it was the cinnamon that came forward. The kids gave The Wellness Tea their nod of approval, and I preferred it iced.
To Brew: My first tearoom owner I ever met taught me that, unlike teas, which can be oversteeped if left in the water over 3 to 5 minutes, herbals only become more saturated with flavor the longer you let them steep. I poured boiling water over two sachets in my mini teapot at first. Next I steeped one sachet in a half-filled mug, and after 10 minutes, added ice. [See below for my choice preparation.]
To Purchase: The Wellness Tea offers bulk order discounts, as well as free shipping to U.S. customers. For $29, you receive 30 pyramid tea bags.
Notes: It must first be said, I am not one to reach for an herbal tea. I do keep a supply of tisanes for my no-caffeine-please family and friends, for the kids and for late-night brews that won’t keep you up all night.
In our house we usually have a mint or ginger option for the stomach, a throat comfort tea, a licorice or rose tisane for fighting colds. The idea of steeping a functional tea in the evening for a health boost before bed is also appealing.
At any afternoon tea, it is a thoughtful courtesy to offer an herbal blend, in the event that some guests need a caffeine-free option. I doctored my mug of The Wellness Tea with a small dollop of honey and iced it, which I found refreshing. I like the idea of making a pitcher of this tea and chilling it to serve at a Garden Tea or Summer Tea. Handily, The Wellness Tea website offers suggested tips for cold brewing:
[Note: This is a sponsored blog post, including my honest opinion.]