Food: The Best Herbal Teas You Can Buy Right Now

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cup of black tea with mint leaves on a wooden table. FabrikaCr/Getty Images

Technically, “herbal teas” aren’t teas at all. Tea is a specific type of plant — the Camellia sinensis species, to be exact — and true tea comes from the leaves of the tea plant, which is more like a shrub than a tree. But “herbal tea” is shorthand for what we’ve all come to know as plant-based teas not from the actual tea plant, such as edible herbs, spices, flowers, and bark. Even tree fruits, berries, roots, and tubers are fair game for potential herbal tea ingredients.

Herbal teas are actually “tisanes” because they contain no leaves from the tea plant. Some companies use the word “tisane” on their websites, but most use the vernacular “herbal teas.”  Herbal teas come in many varieties and are almost always free of caffeine, but there are a few notable exceptions, such as yerba mate and guarana. When an herbal tea contains any caffeine, it must by law be labeled on the package. This is helpful in preventing children and other sensitive people from accidentally consuming caffeine. Popular herbal teas include mint, chamomile, ginger, and rooibos, but there are innumerable brands and formulations, both single-ingredient and blends, on the market today, making it difficult to choose what to buy.

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So, to narrow the field for you, here are our picks for the 10 best herbal teas you can buy right now, from affordable blends to fancy gift packages and even subscription services. We aren’t qualified to make or verify any health claims regarding herbal teas, but there is a growing body of research to support the notion that certain herbs provide health benefits, while other claims about benefits the benefits of herbal teas are supported by the lived experience of traditional communities over hundreds, even thousands, of years.

This guide is about flavor, sustainability, aesthetics, creativity, packaging, and, most of all, quality. Here are our favorite herbal teas on the market now.

Our Top Picks

  • Best Herbal Tea Overall: Tea Pigs
  • Best Value Herbal Teas: Celestial Seasonings
  • Best Herbal Tea Blends: Rishi Caffeine-Free Botanicals
  • Best Loose-Leaf Herbal Teas: Leaves & Flowers
  • Best Organic Herbal Teas: Numi
  • Best Herbal Tea Sleep Aid: Swallowtail Slumber Party (or Best Relaxing?)
  • Best Medicinal Herbal Teas: Traditional Medicinals
  • Best Herbal Tea Subscription: Tea Runners
  • Best After-Dinner Herbal Teas: Tazo
  • Best Splurge Herbal Teas: Mariage Frères

Best Herbal Tea Overall: Tea Pigs

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Jamu Is the Traditional Indonesian Drink—and Daily Ritual—Tied To Long-Term Wellness

  Jamu Is the Traditional Indonesian Drink—and Daily Ritual—Tied To Long-Term Wellness Locally sourced turmeric and ginger are at the root of this herbal tradition.Now, in the midst of pandemic life, that word-of-mouth process is rapidly expanding beyond the borders of Indonesia, with sales among the country's top herbal-medicine producers jumping up and exports of jamu beverages increasing, too. But to Murdaya—who split her childhood between Jakarta, where she was born, and San Francisco—that trend isn't surprising. "There's this almost intuitive approach [to health and immunity] when an unknown virus enters the picture," she says. "It's that natural desire to strengthen our bodies so they're able to fight whatever might be coming.

Brand: Tea Pigs | Package Information: biodegradable | Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy | Item Form: bags/loose-leaf |

Pros

  • Wide range of herbal teas in both bags and loos-leaf
  • Commercially compostable tea bags
  • Great customer service
  • Certified B Corp
  • Fun, minimalist packaging

Cons

  • Strings sometimes come off bags during brewing
  • Lack of information on sourcing
  • Teabags are not individually sealed

Why we chose it: Tea Pigs offers a wide range of herbal teas, including classic standalone herbs, blends, medicinal herbal teas, and cold brew, and is a Certified B-Corp company with excellent customer service.

Tea Pigs, founded in the UK and now with a headquarters in Brooklyn, has best-in-class herbal teas for freshness, flavor, variety, availability, and sustainability. Our favorites include sweet ginger, pink grapefruit cold brew, honeybush and rooibos, and Super Fruit.

A certified B Corp, Tea Pigs is rooted in sustainability, from sourcing to packaging. Packaging is plant-based, and tea bags are commercially compostable. And we love the playful brand name, which takes the pretension out of enjoying and learning about tea.

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Best Value Herbal Teas: Celestial Seasonings

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Package Information: compostable/recyclable | Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy | Item Form: bags |

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Classic, longstanding varieties in a wide range
  • Available almost anywhere you shop
  • Potential allergens (like gluten) clearly labeled
  • Tea bags don’t have strings, which reduces waste

Cons

  • Tea bags not individually sealed
  • Lack of information on sourcing

Why we chose it: Celestial Seasonings, founded in Boulder, Colorado in 1969, is the oldest U.S. herbal tea company, and the price-to-quality ratio of its offerings — including the flagship Red Zinger that’s now more than 50 years old — can’t be beaten.

Celestial Seasonings herbal teas have a nostalgic air about them. Classic Red Zinger, Sleepytime, Rooibos, and Mandarin Spice all carry the Proustian, sense memory flag as longstanding products that have been embraced by generations. While the company has expanded into caffeinated teas of all kinds, and even pods, its herbal line has remained true to its roots, and these are still the most affordable quality teas on the market.

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Our only gripe is that you need to re-seal the individual bags in a zip-lock to maintain freshness; the original packaging isn’t a very secure oxygen barrier.

Best Herbal Tea Blends: Rishi Caffeine-Free Botanicals

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Package Information: bags, loose-leaf | Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy | Item Form: loose-leaf

Pros

  • Wide range of creative, harmonious blends
  • Certified organic
  • Loose-leaf format reduces packaging waste

Cons

  • Expensive

Why we chose it: Rishi pays as much attention to its herbal blend collection as to its rare tea offerings, thoughtfully blending unusual ingredients in surprising harmony.

While blends are an afterthought for some companies, Rishi beautifully presents its herbal blend collection, highlighting seasonal ingredients in surprising combinations like Blueberry Hibiscus and Blackberry Shiso, and our favorite, Butterfly Peaberry Lime Lemongrass, whose main ingredient is the seasonal butterfly peaflower grown in Thailand and Malaysia. Rishi also offers “botanical powders,” including turmeric, that you can add to your favorite teas. And the website offers a few nicely curated tea accessories, including artful teaware and storage tins.

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Best Loose-Leaf Herbal Teas: Leaves & Flowers

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Brand: Leaves & Flowers | Package Information: biodegradeable/recyclable| Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy  | Item Form: loose-leaf |

Pros

  • Minimalist packaging
  • Loose-leaf format reduces packaging waste
  • Thoughtfully curated blends

Cons

  • Small selection
  • Sells out quickly

Why we chose it: Leaves & Flowers speaks to the urge toward simplicity in all of us with its small selection of meticulously curated loose-leaf teas in a beautiful, minimalist package presentation.

Ikebana — with wild bergamot, anise hyssop, lavender, lemon verbena, calendula, and rose — is our favorite of Leaves & Flowers’ several herbal loose-leaf teas that offer nuance, complexity, and depth. Shiso Daydream — with purple shiso, peppermint, fennel seed, and licorice root — is a rich umami counterpoint. Though the selection is small, it’s carefully curated and will please the most discerning of loose-leaf tea brewers. (The company does offer a few teas in sachet format, but loose-leaf is the bulk of the focus, pun intended.)

Best Organic Herbal Teas: Numi

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Brand: Numi | Package Information: recyclable | Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy | Item Form: loose-leaf |

Pros

  • Transparently sourced, certified organic
  • Flavor is consistently good
  • Affordable
  • Sustainable packaging

Cons

  • Minimalist packaging sometimes gets damaged in transit

Why we chose it: Numi was founded on sustainability principles, one of which is organic ingredients, and this brand is our favorite for certified organic, transparently sourced herbal teas.

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Founded in 1999 by a brother and sister from Iraq, Ahmed Rahim and Reem Hassani, Numi was born out of a desire to share the transformative power of tea. Organic certification was an early priority, as both founders (activists in climate, human rights, and diversity) are committed to the most healthful, sustainable teas available. It all began with Desert Dry Lime, a version of a tea that the pair used to drink in childhood. Numi’s all-organic herbal tea expanded from there and now includes nine selections.

Beyond the organic certification that ensures the purity of each product, Numi offers sustainable packaging and transparency about sourcing.

Best Herbal Tea Sleep Aid: Swallowtail Slumber Party

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Brand: Swallowtail Tea | Package Information: TK | Flavor: TK   | Item Form: loose-leaf |

Pros

  • Original blend concept
  • Affordable
  • Aesthetically pleasing packaging in a reusable tin
  • Loose-leaf format reduces packaging waste
  • Hand-blended

Cons

  • Would be nice to have larger size formats

Why we chose it: Swallowtail Tea’s Slumber Party is not your typical valerian-derived sleep-inducing tea but rather a creative blend of hand-blended, locally sourced (in Virginia) ingredients.

Slumber Party is a hand-blended combination of nettle, skullcap, catnip, red clover, tulsi, chamomile, rose petals, and passionflower, sourced when possible in rural Virginia where Swallowtail Tea is based. It’s delicious and relaxing, and the packaging is both sustainable and artful.

Best Medicinal Herbal Teas: Traditional Medicinals

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Brand: Traditional Medicinals | Package Information: compostable/recyclable | Flavor: medicinal, sweet, savory, spicy | Item Form: bags |

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Pros

  • Well-researched product sourcing
  • Zero-waste offsets
  • 4 important sustainability certifications
  • Strong philanthropy programs

Cons

  • Some medicinal teas have unappealing flavor

Why we chose it: Founded in 1974, Traditional Medicinals was a pioneer in the tea-as-medicine space, and the company has deepened this focus in the intervening years, employing clinical, medical, and research herbalists to ensure that the science behind each medicinal tea offering is sound.

While Traditional Medicinals herbal teas don’t always taste like a garden party (though some do), they provide documented relief from such ailments as sore throats with Throat Coat tea and inflammation with Turmeric Tea. And there are also many daily drinkers such as Organic Spearmint and Organic Rose Hips and Hibiscus. We like the simplicity of product names, which are largely direct and tied to ingredients, as well as the overt commitment to organic certification, as well as fair trade, B-Corp, and green business.

Best Herbal Tea Subscription: Tea Runners

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Brand: Tea Runners | Package Information: compostable/recyclable | Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy  | Item Form: loose-leaf |

Pros

  • Great selection
  • Easy to customize
  • Excellent customer service
  • Good storytelling around each product

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Refills are sometimes out of stock

Why we chose it: Tea Runners is a dedicated subscription service that is highly customizable and includes lots of herbal options.

You can buy one-off orders from Tea Runners, but its main focus is subscriptions, so you don’t have to think about re-stocking each time you go to the grocery store. And you can re-order favorites, though supply is sometimes challenging. Product quality is high, and the loose-leaf model eliminates a great deal of packaging. Each shipment comes with detailed narratives about each tea.

Best After-Dinner Herbal Teas: Tazo

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Brand: Tazo | Package Information: compostable/recyclable | Flavor: sweet | Item Form: bags |

Pros

  • Wide range of dessert teas
  • Majority certified organic
  • Sustainable packaging

Cons

  • Minimalist packaging sometimes gets damaged in transit

Why we chose it: Tazo offers a wide range of high-quality, organic herbal teas, and the website has an entire section devoted to dessert teas, largely sweet, fruit-driven blends, all with no added sugar.

Lemon Loaf, Organic Baked Cinnamon Apple, Vanilla Bean Macaron — these are Tazo teas designed for after-dinner dessert accompaniments, or as dessert themselves. (Kids also seem to like them a lot.) There’s no added sugar, so the sweetness all comes from natural ingredients.

In addition to sustainable packaging, Tazo is contributing to the fight against climate change, in particular to combat its disproportionate effects on people of color.

Best Splurge Herbal Teas: Mariage Frères

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Brand: Mariage Frères | Package Information: reusable tins | Flavor: sweet, savory, spicy | Item Form: bags/loose-leaf |

Pros

  • Beautiful presentation/packaging
  • Reusable tins
  • Top-quality sourcing

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Can take a while to ship, depending on retail source

Why we chose it: Mariage Frères is  a Paris-based tea company (and shop and restaurant) that is a destination for tea lovers worldwide, and deservedly so — the company offers top-quality herbal teas in exquisite packaging that are perfect for gifts and splurges to celebrate any occasion.

Mariage Frères is a tea-lover’s dream, and now, its world-class herbal teas are available via an online shop for shipment anywhere in the world. Our favorites are Thymus Citriodorus (lemon thyme), Chamomilla (wild chamomile), and Rouge Provence (rooibos with rose and lavender) — all available in muslin sachets or loose-leaf. The company also offers some of the most compelling tea paraphernalia out there.

How We Chose These Products

We tasted all of the teas recommended in this guide. Kim Westerman is a sensory analyst for coffee who is also trained in tea tasting and has written tea reviews and tea origin reports. Each tea was tasted as brewed by the manufacturer’s instructions and evaluated in terms of aroma, flavor, balance, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. All products were also vetted in terms of packaging, sustainability, and customer service (as researched online).

Features to Keep in Mind When Shopping for Herbal Teas

Health Benefits

Herbal teas have various health benefits, both scientifically documented and anecdotal. USDA studies have found that chamomile, for example, has anti-microbial properties and anti-platelet-clumping activity. Peppermint has been demonstrated to have anti-viral properties, strong antioxidant and anti-tumor actions, and some anti-allergenic potential. In another study, hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults.

Ingredients

Herbal teas are technically “tisanes” because they contain no leaves from the Camellia sinensis species of shrub, AKA the tea plant, which come in many varieties and contain caffeine. Tisanes, or herbal teas as they are commonly known, can be comprised of any herb, spice, flower, or bark from edible non-tea plants. Popular herbal teas include mint, chamomile, ginger and rooibos.

Flavor

There is a wide range of herbal teas on the market, from fruit-driven sweeter teas to spice-toned savory teas — and then there are the medicinal teas that might taste more like medicine than a tea you’d choose to drink for pleasure. But you can bet that any flavor you’re interested in can be found in the herbal tea offerings available today.

Organic & Other Certifications

Even if a tea is grown without any chemicals — pesticides, herbicides, fungicides — in order for it to be legally labeled as organic in the U.S., it must meet rigorous testing and documentation requirements overseen by the USDA. The same is true of Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance certifications, which are overseen by their respective non-profit organizations.

Tea Blends

The sky’s the limit in terms of what can be blended and sold as an herbal tea blend. Any edible plant is fair game, including fruit, spices, and flowers. There’s a great deal of exploration to be done!

Recipes

Click on these links to explore tried and true herbal tea recipes vetted by Saveur editors.

Ask the Experts

Q: Which is better for you: tea or coffee?

This is a longstanding debate that will never be resolved except by those passionate about either beverage. Both tea and coffee have documented health benefits, and you should choose based on your own health goals — or simply your taste buds! Of course, many people drink both tea and coffee daily.

Q: How much tea is safe to drink in a day?

Herbal tea is generally safe to consume to your heart’s content. Teas that contain caffeine should be drunk in moderation, according to your own tolerance.

Q: Which is better for you, herbal tea or green tea?

The health benefits of any beverage depend on your goals. Studies of green tea have shown it to reduce one’s risk of heart disease and contributes to supporting the immune system. But it contains caffeine, which may be contraindicated for some people. Herbal tea has various health benefits, depending on the plant. (See health benefits of herbal tea above.)

Q: What is the healthiest tea to drink daily?

The healthiest tea for you depends on your goals. If you need help relaxing, then peppermint or chamomile tea are good choices, while ginger tea might support your digestive system, and mushroom tea might help with concentration. If you want to make your own herbal tea, check out these these tips.

Q: Is it OK to drink herbal tea everyday?

Generally speaking, yes, herbal teas are safe and healthy for daily consumption, as long as you have no contraindications.

Q: Does herbal tea have caffeine?

Almost all herbal teas are caffeine-free, but yerba mate and guarana, which are sometimes marketed as herbal teas and/or added to herbal tea blends, contain caffeine. Read labels carefully if you’re looking to avoid all caffeine. It’s important to note that manufacturers are not required by law to include caffeine content on packaging.

Our Take

For its variety, flavor, and quality, our favorite purveyor of herbal teas is Tea Pigs. Add to this the company’s unpretentious whimsy, its sustainable packaging, great customer service, and philanthropic initiatives, and we have a full-spectrum winner in the best herbal teas department.

Every product is independently selected and vetted by editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.

The post The Best Herbal Teas You Can Buy Right Now appeared first on Saveur.

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