Plant Principles 101: The Value of Choosing Pure, Botanical Teas, and Thinking Twice about Sprayed-on “Natural Flavors”

Plant Principles 101: The Value of Choosing Pure, Botanical Teas, and Thinking Twice about Sprayed-on “Natural Flavors”

The Value of Choosing Pure, Botanical Teas, and Thinking Twice about Sprayed-on “Natural Flavors”

Meaningful Connection & Wellness

One of the most important qualities Artemis Tea & Botanical brings to your cup is our careful attention to the well-being of both humans and the earth. While humans have understood for millennia that a balanced relationship with the natural world is vital for our survival and wellbeing, it’s nevertheless helpful to know that modern research confirms that our experiences of meaningful connection with the natural world are indeed fundamental to our health, wellbeing, spirituality, and survival (Louv, Richard. The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder ).

The proof of this basic principle is evident everywhere around us: how many of us struggle with chronic burn-out, anxiety, nervousness, and depression—in large part because we are forced to dart from one thing to the next, hardly without pause, and to do our best to meet or exceed the countless expectations that our children, spouses, friends, co-workers, employers, and friends have of us? There rarely seems to be enough time to stop and notice the special nuances of seasonal change happening each day all around us. We may struggle to find time, for instance, to plant a garden, play with our kids at a park, or walk barefoot on grass. How often do we allow ourselves the simple pleasure of simply lying down on the ground to gaze up at passing clouds, or to listen to the sound of wind blowing through grasses and leaves?

In other words, the frantic pace of our lives can often make the possibility of connecting with the natural world in any meaningful way feel tricky. Yet, the remedy for so many common ailments and imbalances can be found either by more exposure to the natural world, and/or by the regular use of simple plant medicines. My own experiences have proven to me, time and again, that a cup of soulfully-crafted botanical tea can seriously help ground and re-balance me.

Richard Louv, author of the bestselling The Nature Principle says that we require “patches of nature for our mental health and our spiritual resilience”; this is indeed what tea can be in our daily routine: a small patch or space in which we experience nature. The colors, textures, scents, and tastes of the plants have a special ability to remind us of essential parts of our selves—some parts that may feel distant, or even lost to us. In a small but very meaningful way, tea can bring the natural world into our homeplaces, workplaces, playspaces, and community-spaces.

The Importance of Taste

Recently, I introduced a few new teas that are finely-tuned to the tastes, scents, and experiences we commonly associate with spring and summertime (Chelidon and Kalliste). If you taste Chelidon, for example, with some care, you may taste light, savory notes of almond, toasted oat, and marscapone; vegetal notes of fresh snap pea or tender sweet grass; floral notes of early violets, fresh orchid, jasmine buds, and raw honey; or maybe fruity notes of strawberry, orange sherbert, and mulberry. These flavor notes come from the actual plants in Artemis blends, and are not artificially applied to the plant materials. I choose not to spray our tea leaves or botanicals with processed flavorings because these flavors seriously distort and disguise the natural flavors of the plants.

Taste is a critical sensory tool: it provides us with a vast spectrum of critical information about the safety and value of a substance; and, it can also be a specific trigger for healing or disease in the body (bitter tastes stimulate healthy bile release; sour flavors reduce systemic heat in the body; sweet tastes stimulate healthy tissue growth, however too much sweet can lead to obesity . . . )

So, it matters that sprayed on flavors are, in truth, an inexpensive sleight-of-hand. They are manufactured in a chemistry lab, deliberately designed to override our logic by forcing our brains to draw connections between these chemicals and certain fruits, flowers, and even times of the year. 

Let’s look at one of the most prevalent “natural flavors” used in the American food and beverage industry: strawberry. “Natural strawberry flavor” is not at all like real strawberry flavor. The chemical flavoring is more like a super-abundance of strawberry sweetness that vastly exceeds the sweetness nature provides in an actual strawberry. The flavor of real strawberry is delicate and suggestive to the nose, and it seems to blossom and expand on the tongue when warm, and freshly picked—at once tart, tangy, and sweet. It happens to be a very difficult flavor to capture and replicate in concentrated form. You might be surprised to discover that most typical strawberry flavorings are comprised of nearly 50 different chemically derived and processed ingredients!

However, if we go back several decades, we’d find that a majority of “natural” strawberry, raspberry, and vanilla flavorings were made from a brown, slimy substance made by the castor gland of beavers—a gland that is found adjacent to a beaver’s anal gland. Not joking. Castoreum was used for at least 80 years as a natural food flavoring, though now it is too costly (and ethically troubling) to use in the food industry. It is still used in the fragrance industry, however.

Pomegranate flavoring provides another useful example. A professional flavor chemist explains that in order “to build a pomegranate flavor, [she must] bring out items like davana oil, maltol, cognac oil, l-linalool, alpha-ionone, rose oil, bitter orange oil, ethyl acetate, iso-amyl acetate, tannic acid and benzaldehyde” in order to evoke a taste that most mimics the “dry, astringent, sour, fruity and woody” flavors of a real pomegranate (Susie Bautista, “Pomegranate Flavor.” Oct. 18, 2016).


Added flavors are an easy way to add powerful flavors that mimic nature, without the need to add the real thing.

Among the many problems with processed flavoring is that they encourage us to associate these flavors with the real fruits or flowers they are meant to replicate—which makes the real flavors and scents of these plants seem weaker and less appealing to our tastebuds. Or, simply unnecessary to go out and experience in their actual form. For example, Susie Bautista, a flavor chemist, describes real pommegranates as “too messy” to eat, which is what spurred her to design a pommegranate flavor that could be enjoyed without the hassle of eating the actual fruit.

Authenticity Matters

The complex layers of flavor that mingle in each cup of Artemis tea are simply the tastes and aromas of pure botanicals and carefully-crafted tea leaves—tastes that have everything to do with where a tea plant (or an herb) is grown, under what conditions, how the plants are harvested, prepared, and dried, and what their medicinal functions are.

As with wine and coffee, the tastes of certain regions, elevations, soils, and microclimates; and, of specific oxidation, withering, and roasting processes, are all on display in a fine tea—even in a fine botanical.

Thus, a soulfully hand-crafted botanic tea, free of sprayed-on flavors, can indeed be rich with the nuances of a time, place, and season. It can provide a small, reconnecting experience of nature; and, it can help us to learn the actual scents, tastes, and healing properties of the plants around us. Ultimately, drinking pure teas and botanicals can be as grounding, refreshing, and calming as pressing one’s bare feet upon a lush patch of green grass, or the soft, brown earth.

I hope you will allow Artemis Tea & Botanical to be a meaningful part of each day, for you and for your customers. Enjoy a freshly brewed Artemis tea over ice, relax, and enjoy drinking real tea with purpose.

Text and Photography Copyright © 2024, Andrea Lawse. All Rights Reserved.

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