Medicinal Herbal Teas: Adding a Healthy Option to Your Business
Tea. Camellia sinensis. The leaves and buds from this simple plant have literally transformed the world as people around the globe have overwhelmingly made tea their beverage of choice. From its beginnings in ancient China to the tiny tea shop down the street, tea has gone from a ritualistic experience reserved for royalty and clergy to a ubiquitous affair that nearly everyone enjoys today. People have been drinking tea for centuries, not only for the ritual, but also for its healing properties.
Over the centuries and amongst innumerable cultures, herbs, flowers, and other organic material have been steeped in hot water as well. These are not technically teas, but are tisanes, commonly called herbal teas, a category that includes chamomile, rooibos, and fruit teas.
With countless people looking for more natural alternatives to synthetic medications, it’s no wonder so many are turning to the medicinal properties in tea. About 65 percent of the population of the world uses the natural medicines found in teas on a regular basis. Medicinal tea is everywhere, and it’s relatively simple to incorporate them into an existing beverage program. With the addition of a tea press or two, a few varieties of loose tea, and some cups, you’re on your way to creating one of the newest trends in tea—shops, spas, and other beverage stations with an emphasis on helping you feel better with a cup, some leaves, and a few ounces of water.
Many people are reluctant to add tea service to their establishment, but it really takes very little equipment or start-up to get the program going. At the beginning, loose tea is the way to go, especially if you’re looking to market its health benefits. Pre-packaged tea is typically made of pulverized tea, which causes it to lose some flavors and health benefits. There are new, high quality brewing pots and presses on the market that will allow you to offer loose tea to your customers. Infusers are also a better option for crafting fine tea from loose leaves. 
Health Benefits of Tea
With the increasing costs of health care, many folks are turning to tea to stave off or ease the symptoms of many ailments and afflictions.
There are teas that are touted to help aid with relieving digestive issues such as gas, indigestion, and constipation. Tea has also been reported to help aid in childbirth, menstruation, and lactation. Still others are believed to slow the effects of aging, soothe skin problems, reduce blood pressure, and deter the likelihood of developing cancer.
One reason tea is so beneficial is that it has high quantities of polyphenols that destroy free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells and potentially cause disease. Therefore, antioxidants like polyphenols are needed to resist and repair cell damage.
These have also been shown to help fight cardiovascular diseases, cancers, osteoporosis, diabetes mellitus, and some neurodegenerative diseases. They may also enhance bone and dental health, and help increase feelings of overall well-being by boosting alpha wave activity in the brain.
Even though the amount of stimulants in tea is higher per pound than that of coffee, the stimulants are always less per cup for tea than for coffee because a pound of tea produces more cups. Some herbal teas, such as chamomile and peppermint, don’t have any caffeine at all which may be a benefit or a problem.
Caffeine has been shown to have both positive and negative health effects. Caffeine has been shown to lead to decreased bone density, increased blood sugar levels, increased likelihood of dehydration, and interrupted sleep patterns. On a positive note, it has also been shown to help lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease, reduce the risk of gallstones, alleviate headaches, and reduce inflammation. 
Tea itself also has no calories. Adding flowers and herbs, something that has been done since tea was first consumed in China, may add a few calories. Adding sweeteners and milk can add a bit to the calorie count, but there are teas on the market that are sweet enough on their own merits for most customers. Honey and agave are also nice, health-friendly alternatives to sugar. But even tea lightly sweetened with sugar will have fewer calories than sugary soft drinks. 
The market for herbal teas is only growing larger with time. While these concoctions aren’t technically teas, many of them have been shown to provide health benefits, too. The following is a preliminary list of some of the most popular herbals and the benefits associated with them:
- Peppermint: Helps ease abdominal discomfort, such as gas and nausea.
- Ginger: Helps alleviate the symptoms of motion sickness and helps reduce chills.
- Chamomile: When well-steeped, this tea fights insomnia and aids digestion.
- Rooibos: Chock-full of antioxidants, this tea helps stave off disease and signs of aging.
- Lemon Balm: Helps lift mood and improve concentration.
- Rose Hip: High in vitamin C, great for the skin and adrenal function.
- Milk Thistle and Dandelion: Gently cleanses the liver and helps aid digestion.
Once you’ve secured quality tea, the next step is to ensure your water quality is high. If your water doesn’t taste good, your tea won’t either. It may be necessary to install a reverse osmosis water filter to ensure you’re getting the best taste you can from your leaves.
The next step is to make sure your water is at the proper temperature. A thermometer will enable you to check the water for the ideal brewing temperature for that particular type of tea. Boiling water (212 degrees Fahrenheit) is best for brewing black, dark oolong, and herbal tea. Water that has reached 180 degrees Fahrenheit is better for green, green oolong, and white teas, as they are more delicate and may taste bitter and astringent if they steep at a temperature that is too high.
You’ll also need an infuser or brewing pot/press that will provide plenty of surface area. The tea leaves will expand upon brewing, so you’ll need to make sure they have room to move around in order to get optimal extraction. Using a timer to monitor steeping times will help provide precision and consistency from cup to cup.
The following equipment will help you brew the perfect cup of tea for your clientele: 
When adding herbal tea to your foodservice operation's menu, take care that your labels and menu descriptors meet all FDA regulations. Making erroneous or unproven health claims for products you sell can lead to trouble. In the Code of Federal Regulations, the FDA outlines what claims can be made in regards to a number of specific health issues, and the nutrients and elements associated with their improvement. Read these regulations, which cover nutrient labeling and health claims, to be sure your claims are supported by the FDA. Any health claims not covered in 21 CFR 101.10, subpart E1 will need to be worded carefully in order to avoid violating any labeling laws or misleading your customers.
Dault, Meredith. “7 Herbal Teas That Will Make You Healthier” Best Health Magazine. Retrieved 05 January 2015.
Stout, Marcus. “How Coffee Houses Can Earn an Additional $20,160 Per Year Using Loose Tea.” Coffee Talk. 10 June 2014. Retrieved 07 January 2015.
 “Drinking Health: Polyphenols & Flavonoids.” Agadio Teas. Retrieved 05 January 2015.
 Swartzendruber, Kris. “Health Benefits and Risks Associated with Caffeine.” Michigan State University. 13 March 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
 “Drinking Health: Amino Acids and Stimulants.” Adagio Teas. Retrieved 05 January 2015.
 “Goal: Perfect Cup.” Adagio Teas. Retrieved 06 January 2015.
"Code of Federal Regulations"U.S. Government Publishing Office. Retrieved 15 December 2015.