Where a plant comes from and how it is grown has a huge effect on its character. We seek out certified organic plants or plants organically growing in the wild to ensure sustainable growing practices, healthier soil and environments, and to avoid synthetic chemicals, pollutants, and pesticides. In 2018, we sourced over 2.25 million pounds of organic herbs and continue to require more organic plant material to support our growing business. This demand helps contribute to positive land stewardship in over 35 countries and six continents for our over 100 botanical ingredients.
We look for suppliers who can either sustainably collect or cultivate herbs that meet the quality standards we need. This can often take years of development. By fostering long-term relationships and paying a fair wage (through programs like Fair Trade, FairWild, and supporting the Traditional Medicinals Foundation efforts), we incent our farmers and collectors to create high quality products. These relationships have been so successful that we’ve been working with some of our suppliers for more than 30 years.
Not only do our herbs need to be organic and ethically sourced, but importantly they are high quality and often medicinal grade to deliver therapeutic effects. After being harvested or wild collected and then cut, cleaned and carefully dried, our herbs make their way to our solar-powered facility in Sebastopol, California. Here, they are tested for quality markers.
Each herb has its own quality standard to ensure optimal activity. That can mean high essential oil content, the right amount of bitterness, or a minimum level of an active compound. But the result for each is the same: a tea that has power. This commitment to quality is one of the things that sets us apart from other tea brands.
The wisdom of Traditional Herbal Medicine has been helping people for centuries. For us, it’s very important to pass that ancient knowledge along. Our formulations are an important way we do this. Our teas are created according to various traditional systems of herbal medicine (which one depends on what kind of tea we’re looking to blend) with complex rules of compatibility and combination theory. Whenever we develop a new herbal tea, we consider what traditional formulas are presently being used within the various systems of Traditional Herbal Medicine. Each system has its own rationale for herb formulations, but there are similar general principles among all systems.
For example, our best-selling Smooth Move® tea is formulated according to the principles of Traditional European Herbal Medicine. It uses rules of compatibility and organizing principles for teas to define a hierarchy of ingredients. The hierarchies include:
Senna leaf, a laxative, is the Basic Remedy in Smooth Move with licorice, fennel, cinnamon, coriander and ginger added as supporting herbs to alleviate cramping. Sweet orange peel and its essential oil added for taste.
Our herbal experts are some of the most highly trained and respected professionals in their field. Among them are folk herbalists, chemists, an ethnobotanist, a naturopath, a sustainability expert, teachers and practitioners, to name a few. They take great pride in creating original formulas to highlight quality, efficacy and purity.
Our herbs are tested from field to cup to ensure quality. The tests we conduct ensure identity, purity, strength, composition, efficacy and safety.
Our first job is to make sure that the herbs we’re using are what they claim to be. We call it identity testing. You might think that would be pretty obvious – doesn’t chamomile always look like chamomile? – but there are a lot of herbal doppelgangers out there. And even if it actually is chamomile, not all chamomile is created equal. We’re looking for specific characteristics of each batch of herbs that determine quality. One of the first steps our herbalists go through, after examining a new batch, is to put a sample from each shipment under the microscope. There we see each individual flourish, whirl, and spiral that indicates the herb’s identity.
These organizations are doing important work around herbs. We support and associate with these prestigious organizations and encourage you to learn more.