Like many I have spoken to, I was guilty of initially entering the tea business and thinking, “I am all about the tea – not the herbals, not the blends – just tea. Whilst nodding profusely to Charles Cain’s last post, I feel the same could be said for herbal infusions. Many prospective customers in the early MayKingTea days would ask me for herbals because they were sensitive to caffeine and, despite the education I offered about the varying effects of caffeine in tea versus other beverages, they were still insistent on caffeine free. So what was I to do? As a business owner, I have to listen to what my customers want, offer the products they request, and still remain true to the mission and values of my business.
Herbal infusions play a big role in the tea community, as customers demand caffeine-free beverages. Tea drinkers often look to a particular herb to treat a given condition – chamomile to aid sleeping and peppermint to help digestion. Rooibos, of course, has gained a lot of press as it is a wonderful herb that stands up well to milk and sugar and is full of antioxidants.
I recently came across another wonderful herbal infusion called “Ashitaba.” Grown on the Hajicho Island near Japan, it is affectionately known as the “longevity herb” by local residents. What is said to be unique about this herb is that it mimics many of the health properties associated with tea. It is a super food that contains many vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and a special class of antioxidants.
My customers have found that this herbal has a calming effect on them. From those who suffer from stress-related conditions to those who want a caffeine-free beverage just before bedtime, this particular beverage is proving extremely popular.
So the next time we get snobby about herbals, teabags, or anything other than loose-leaf tea, think about the customer base we might be losing out on. My mission is to bring the teapot back, to educate people to take time with tea, and to encourage people to share tea with others. So let’s all come together as tea enthusiasts, whether it is herbal or otherwise, to ensure that the quality of the beverage is what counts – not whether it’s a proper “tea” or not.