When you think of tea, you probably picture a standard tea bag filled with black or green leaves. This image is changing as herbal tea continues to increase in popularity. Herbal teas are made from a wide variety of natural ingredients that extend beyond your average tea. Today we dive into the world of herbal tea, getting you up to speed on everything you need to know about this growing market.

What is herbal tea?

Herbal tea is a broad category. It covers the leaves, fruits, flowers, seeds, roots or bark of hundreds of different plants from all over the world. The difference between herbal teas and ‘normal’ teas is that ‘normal’ tea is made from the leaves of the evergreen shrub, camellia sinensis while herbal teas are not. Some of the most popular and well-known herbal teas are chamomile, hibiscus, lemongrass, peppermint, rosehip and wild apple. Herbal teas can be cultivated, as in the case of chamomile, or collected from wild sources, like rosehip or linden.

Herbal tea world map

Origins of herbal tea

Herbal teas (dating back to Ancient China and Egypt) have been used for centuries for their health benefits and unique tastes. In many cases, herbal teas are combined with other herbs and spices to create well appreciated traditional remedies. For example, mint tea infusions are often used to help with headaches, stress, hay fever and other ailments. Besides their pleasant taste, most herbal teas are naturally caffeine free as well, making them a good alternative for people who can’t or prefer not to drink caffeine.

Chamomile tea infusion

Issues facing the herbal tea industry

Herbal tea sourcing is largely fragmented. There are more than 300 different ingredients used in herbal teas, originating in more than 100 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. This makes regulating the industry and ensuring quality a challenge. Throughout the herbal tea supply chain, there are many unsustainable practices such as poor working conditions, endangerment of biodiversity, loss of cultural knowledge, misuse of agrochemicals, a lack of quality control and over-harvesting of wild collected crops. Most herbal teas are a blend of different ingredients, typically from small-scale producers. Educating and training all of these different stakeholders in sustainable practices takes time and resources.

What UTZ is doing

UTZ partnered with the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT) to address these issues and together launched the herbal program in 2015. UEBT has years of experience in this sector at a global level and an assurance approach that can handle the large number of different herbs sourced through fragmented supply chains at low volumes. Their approach covers both cultivated and wild collected crops.

UTZ brings its traceability system, assurance downstream the supply chain, the UTZ label, and connections from its existing tea and rooibos program. The partnership aims to help create a more sustainable herbal tea industry by promoting biodiversity conservation practices, a more traceable supply chain and long-term relationships between producers and buyers. Practices which will ultimately lead to better wages and a better life for herbal tea farmers, collectors and workers around the world.

For more information, download our two pager on the herbal program and watch the video below:

Are you convinced that sourcing sustainable herbal tea is the way forward for your company? Join our program today!